Panthers Need to Start Driedger to Lighten the Load

The Florida Panthers have gotten off to the hottest start in franchise history this season, holding a 3-0-1 record. In doing so, the team has captured seven of a possible eight points. After a halt to their season because of COVID-19 complications with the Dallas Stars and Carolina Hurricanes, the Panthers are tied for the fewest games played in the league at four.

A very encouraging sign is that the Panthers, who some may have thought would struggle to score goals with the loss of Mike Hoffman, are having no such trouble, averaging 3.75 goals per-game (GF/GP). The tandem of Sergei Bobrovsky and Chris Driedger has been pretty average so far, floating around 14th in the league in goals allowed. Bobrovsky is 2-0 with a 3.33 goals-against average (GAA) and a .879 save percentage (SV%), while Driedger has been on fire – in his two starts, he holds a 1-0-1 record with a 1.92 GAA and a .934 SV%.

What Is the 1A/1B Tandem?

The perfect example of this strategy is the Boston Bruins – in the past few seasons, the team has used Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak as their tandem in net. Over the past three seasons, Halak has served as the obvious 1B starter as future Hockey Hall of Famer Tuukka Rask has been the No. 1 starter in Boston for the past seven or so years. Halak has done an incredible job as the 1B – in his three seasons with the Bruins, he’s played some of the best hockey of his career with a 42-17-11 record, .922 SV% and a 2.32 GAA with eight shutouts.

Chris Driedger Florida Panthers
Chris Driedger, Florida Panthers (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

In those three seasons, Halak has started 40 games, 31 games, and this season, he has started three of the seven games the Bruins have played so far. The strategy is to keep a healthy goalie for the playoffs while having plenty of trust in your 1B to win you important games in the regular season.

Special Season

As many know, the NHL season is only 56 games this season compared to the normal 82 games. The season also will include plenty of back-to-backs to get the regular season games completed by the second week of May. The Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes are all teams that have proven the 1A/1B goaltending tandem works, the Panthers only problem is their 1A goalie makes $10 million. Although Bobrovsky should be the team’s starting goalie, the condensed season is too much for one goalie to handle.

Early on in the year, we want to make sure that both guys are going and into it. As we go along, things could be sorted out by performance.

Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said of the goaltending tandem

The Panthers have arguably the best backup goalie in the NHL, not to mention their incredible goaltending depth throughout the organization. Driedger has played 14 career games for the team – in those games, he is 8-2-2 with a .937 SV% and a 2.03 GAA including one shutout in his Panthers debut against the Nashville Predators in the 2019-20 season. Although Bobrovsky makes the money that he does, it doesn’t seem head coac hJoel Quenneville cares if the goalie making $850,000 this season starts ahead of Bobrovsky if it’ll get the team to the playoffs.

Why 1A/1B Is the Future

The NHL is continuously getting faster and more analytically advanced, with teams focusing a lot of time on analytics and statistics this strategy makes a lot of sense. The Panthers goaltending future is structured for exactly this – future No. 1 goalie Spencer Knight is likely going to be backed up by World Juniors star and 2020 seventh round pick Devon Levi.

2021 WJC Final Canada vs USA Devon Levi and Spencer Knight

This tandem will be perfect for this goaltending strategy as it seems like both goalies can be counted on in big situations so far – the future pair faced off in the 2021 World Juniors gold medal game – these two goalies will likely take over from Bobrovsky as his contract comes to a close in five seasons.

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