Panthers’ Spencer Knight Should Get Chance to Start in Playoffs

The Florida Panthers are having the best season in franchise history. With a 52-15-6 record and 110 points through 73 games, there’s still more for the Cats to scoop up before the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin now that they’ve clinched their berth. However, they may have a goalie controversy on their hands with the sudden lapses from starter Sergei Bobrovsky and the rise of their young gun, Spencer Knight. With the playoffs only weeks away, the Panthers need to figure out who to rely on in net come Game 1 of the first round.

Bobrovsky’s Recent Struggles

Although Bobrovsky is having a successful season overall, his numbers of late should be concerning to head coach Andrew Brunette. Since the start of April, he’s been pulled in two of his last four games. He also had a save percentage (SV%) under .900 and allowed three or more goals in three of his last four appearances to bring his stats to 35-6-3 with a .911 SV% and 2.70 goals-against average (GAA). This is stunning, considering Bobrovsky was just awarded Third Star of the Month last month.

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While his defense has left him out to dry on some nights, Bobrovsky has to find a way to settle down and find consistency in his game. In the postseason, he must return to his Vezina Trophy-winning form, or it could be a first-in-first-out scenario for the Panthers. He did have a great showing on Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks, stopping 22 of 24 shots to get the win, so he might have received his wake-up call.

Knight Acting like a Knight

The Panthers’ 13th-overall selection in 2019 has played lights out this season. In relief or starting this month, he’s won four straight games with an SV% of .905 or higher in three of his last four, including stopping every shot against the New Jersey Devils in a comeback victory on April 2. He now has a stat line of 17-8-3 with a .906 SV% and a 2.83 GAA. This is great, especially considering he was in the American Hockey League just a couple of months ago.

Spencer Knight Florida Panthers
Spencer Knight, Florida Panthers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

One of his victories also helped the Panthers clinch a playoff spot for the second season in a row. One reason to give him a shot in the postseason is that he has a history of playing in big pressure games, including at the World Junior Championship and at Boston College. He also played two playoff games last season against the Tampa Bay Lightning, so he’s already got his feet wet.

Iron Sharpens Iron

Healthy internal competition will push goaltenders to be better come playoff time. Bobrovsky and Knight are having a decent season; however, both have had their slip-ups at times, so perhaps they could use fire under their seat with the playoffs not too far away.

Who Will Start for the Panthers?

As of now, all signs are pointing toward Bobrovsky getting the nod for the first round of the postseason, but if Knight continues to play at his current pace, or as he did on Saturday against the Nashville Predators, it could put Brunette in a predicament on who to start.

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Ultimately, it’s a good problem to have for the Panthers. Not only do they have a starting-caliber goaltender, but they have a first-round pick that could get valuable playoff experience to further develop his game. The last few weeks of the season will likely determine the answer.

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