The Florida Panthers played back-to-back games against the Detroit Red Wings on Friday and Saturday night, splitting them with one win and one loss. The team looked very different between the two, as in game one, they tormented their weaker opponents, while in the second game, they got outplayed heavily for the majority of the time.
Duclair, Hornqvist Lead The Way in Game One
The first game of the back-to-back was everything that Panthers fans could ask for, as the team manhandled the Red Wings. They had a 2.55 expected goals (xG) to their opponents 1.21 and had 74% of MoneyPucks “Deserve-to-Win Meter.” The team went on to win 7-2, scoring four of those goals in the first period.
Anthony Duclair was a standout player in this one. He had some good plays and some bad ones but was one of the best Panthers in the game. He recorded a secondary assist on Aaron Ekblad’s blast from the point, along with a cross-crease finish goal, which had a 24.9% chance of going in. Duclair had an 89.73 xG%, with a 1.45 expected goals for (xGF) and 0.17 expected goals against (xGA). His defensive rating was the best on the team, and second-best of anybody in the game, trailing just Sam Gagner.
Patric Hornqvist is another player who had a great performance. The Swedish winger registered two goals, continuing his insane campaign and giving him the team lead in goals, at eight. He had a 61.82 xG% attributed mainly to his 1.06 xGF. He seemed very aggressive all game long but looked to go into another gear after a dirty hit from Adam Erne, which led to him scoring his second goal of the game shortly after. He also had a 52.6 Corsi-for percentage, with 10 CF and 9 CA.
Aleksander Barkov continued his reign of terror, as he had five goals and 10 assists through 14 games going into this game, and he didn’t stop there. He registered a goal and two assists and looked very comfortable out there, easily making his way through the Red Wings’ weak defense, almost scoring a highlight-reel goal until being slashed. He had an 85.14 xG% with a team-led 2.09 xGF and solid 0.36 xGA. He was easily the most dominant offensive threat in this game, and it really wasn’t even close.
Chris Driedger is insane, genuinely. He was huge in this game for the Panthers. It may not seem like he made an impact, especially since the team scored seven goals, but he easily saved a couple of big goals. He made a huge stick save and recorded 30 saves on 32 shots, good for a .938 save percentage and 0.93 goals saved above expected (GSAx). He is the team’s starting goaltender, for the time being, no doubt about it.
Few, But Some Disappointments
Radko Gudas had a bad first game. The brutish defender managed to have five hits and a block, but he also had a 1.08 xGA, the fourth-worst on the team, along with a 45.25 xG%. He seemed to be making many careless mistakes that were overlooked because of the huge win.
I like what Ryan Lomberg brings to the game; he’s a high-energy guy who bounces around all over the ice. Eventually, though, he is going to need to produce or help out defensively, right now of which he is doing neither. The effort is there, but we need the output. He had no points through 14:01. He registered a 35.12 xG%, with a 0.89 xGA.
MacKenzie Weegar had a goal and an assist, and while I can’t say it was a bad game for him, I was a little disappointed by his defensive work. He had just a 37.54 xG% due to his team-worst 1.43 xGA. For somebody who is known as a stable defensive presence on the blueline, he just wasn’t that. It isn’t the biggest disappointment in the world since it was a 7-2 win, but just something I observed.
Limited Standout Players in Bad Game Two Performance
After that absolute beating in game one, it was the regular consensus by most that the Panthers would come out as victors in this one as well, but that just was not the case, as they fell by a score of 2-1. They heavily outplayed the Red Wings in the first period. However, everything just seemed to slip away in the remaining two.
Alexander Wennberg scored the lone goal for the Panthers in this one, which was a nice one off a feed from Duclair right in front of the net that led to the Swede dancing around Jonathan Bernier and burying it. He had a 64.07 xG%, with a 1.05 xGF and 0.59 xGA. He didn’t really stand out much apart from the one goal, but the analytics show that he played a solid game.
Radko Gudas had a solid, sound defensive game. He wasn’t doing anything flashy or anything insane offensively, but he was reliable on the back end and did an effective job at shutting down the opposition. Along with his three hits and three blocks, he had a 0.14 xGA to go with his 81.98 xG%, third-best on the team.
Weegar, Bobrovsky Continue With Bad Games
Weegar had another bad game, but this one was just much worse. The defender had no points and ranked last on the team in xG% with 26.11% and in xGA with 0.76. I’m not sure what is up with his play this season, but I feel like there is an untapped part of his game we’re just waiting to see.
Sergei Bobrovsky continued his string of bad games with another one. He saved 25 of 27 shots, good for a .926 save percentage and a -0.69 GSAx. The goaltender did make some big saves, but both goals he allowed were just weak. The first one was a Patrik Nemeth wrist shot from the circle, and the second was a Mathias Brome goal off of a terrible allowed rebound. It’s hard to pin this loss on him, however, as the team, in general, was just not prepared that night.
What’s Next For The Cats?
The Florida Panthers are now 11-3-2 and hope to add to the win column in their next two games against the Dallas Stars on Monday and Wednesday. Their opponents are currently on a five-game losing streak but rank fifth in xG% among the NHL.
The Panthers will need to take advantage of the Stars’ weak goaltending this season, no matter which one of the two is in the net.
PIT Penguins Writer THW. Twitter & Instagram: puckempire. Formerly a Florida Panthers writer.