Weekly Lost & Found: Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning & The Battle of Florida

This Weekly Lost & Found edition is going to be set within one series. It’s the lone series that is heading into an elimination game as the only potential sweep. We’ll be heading to the Sunshine State and taking a look at the Battle of Florida. Winless in the series, the Florida Panthers are absolutely “lost” in the swamps this week, while the Tampa Bay Lightning, are now on a five-game winning streak since they lost Game 5 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

Weekly Lost & Found What's Trending in the NHL
Weekly Lost & Found What’s Trending in the NHL (The Hockey Writers)

Elsewhere, the Battle of Alberta is raging. The St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche series has been pretty evenly fought despite the Avalanche’s lead, and the New York Rangers have taken a step towards clawing their way back against the Carolina Hurricanes. With that housekeeping taken care of, let’s break it down.

Lost: Florida Panthers Offense Nonexistent Through 3 Games

During the regular season, the Panthers led the NHL having scored 337 goals, 25 more than the next closest team. They also led the league with 4.11 goals-for per game (GF/GP), the only team above four, and were fifth with a 24.4% power play. They scored 20 goals in their six-game Round 1 series win against the Washington Capitals, but they couldn’t score on the power play. In three games against the Lightning, they’ve scored three goals, just one on the power play.

To go along with those three goals, they’ve allowed 11. That one power-play goal brings their postseason stat to a 3.6% power-play conversion rate. To make matters worse, they have a 68.6% penalty kill. 

Their star offensive players haven’t shown up the way they are expected to. Aleksander Barkov hasn’t scored a goal, nor has Jonathan Huberdeau, despite having two assists. Aaron Ekblad tallied a goal and five points against the Capitals but no points against the Lightning. Carter Verhaeghe has been the team’s leading scorer with six goals and 12 points this postseason, and Claude Giroux is making good on their investment with eight points in nine games. Anthony Duclair, who has one goal, and Sam Bennett need to become factors in the series if they have any shot of coming back. 

Carter Verhaeghe Florida Panthers
Carter Verhaeghe, Florida Panthers forward (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Sergei Bobrovsky has played every game for the Panthers this postseason, and his numbers aren’t up to par. He has a 2.88 goals-against average (GAA), which should be fine assuming the team’s offense gives him its usual support, but his .906 save percentage (SV%) will not get the job done. He needs to get back to his Round 1 form. 

Related: Panthers’ Bobrovsky Has Been Electric for Round One

For the Panthers, it’s not impossible to come back. Out of 190 teams to trail a series 3-0, four have done so successfully, or about 2.1%. As Han Solo once said, “Never tell me the odds.” However, if they’re going to come back, they need a few things to happen and happen fast. 

Bobrovsky needs to find consistency and return to the form that saw him win two Vezina Trophies. When his team can’t score, he needs to be the difference-maker. Additionally, the star players need to lead the way and someone needs to break through against Andrei Vasilevskiy. No matter how well Bobrovsky plays, it won’t matter if they only give him a goal per game of support.

Found: Tampa Bay Lightning Commitment on Display in 3-0 Series Lead

The Lightning have managed to achieve this stranglehold over the Panthers despite having lost Brayden Point to injury in Game 7 against the Maple Leafs on May 14. They’ve responded with a strong effort at both ends of the ice that firmly tilts it in their favor. Oh, and they have the opportunity to complete the sweep on May 23 on home ice.

Something rather remarkable is how dedicated the team is to their identity. No matter the situation nor the time on the clock, head coach Jon Cooper’s team sacrifices their bodies to block everything they can that’s headed Vasilevskiy’s way. They’ve blocked 166 shots, and their penalty kill is effective at 86.8% this postseason.

Related: Lightning’s Shot Blockers are the Unsung Heroes in Pursuit of a 3-Peat

They’ve seen 14 players score goals this postseason, with nine having multi-goal playoffs. 36-year-old Corey Perry is tied with Ross Colton for the team lead with five goals. Unsurprisingly, Nikita Kucherov leads the team with 15 points, while Victor Hedman is close behind with 10. Nick Paul and his six points further illustrate that the Lightning know the importance of depth and a strong bottom six. They are also great at finding the right pieces to add. 

Vasilevskiy has been his usual self with a 2.44 GAA and .922 SV%. In three games this series, he’s given up the three goals and holds a .971 SV%. If anyone was wondering how you shut down the NHL’s most proficient offense, ask him, because that’s how. The one concern that could come up regarding the Lightning is fatigue. The fatigue from sacrificing their bodies. They also have thrown over 400 hits, and fatigue from three deep playoff runs in a row could catch up to them, especially considering the circumstances surrounding the first two.

Anthony Duclair Florida Panthers Andrei Vasilevskiy Tampa Bay Lightning
Anthony Duclair of the Florida Panthers and Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

The Battle of Florida could be the first series to draw to a close. It’s about will versus identity. It’s like that irresistible force paradox; what happens when a (seemingly) unstoppable force meets an immovable object? The force being the Panthers and the object, the Lightning. Fun, thought-provoking stuff here with the Weekly Lost & Found!

When we find out, be sure to stick with The Hockey Writers for all your playoff coverage. Don’t forget, our great team also covers the rapidly approaching NHL Entry Draft and more!