With the first game of the series just over the horizon; the Tampa Bay Lightning vs. the Florida Panthers match-up is one of the most anticipated series this year. Dropping the puck on Sunday night, the Florida Panthers find themselves as the underdogs even with home-ice advantage. Now that Tampa Bay is entirely healthy for the first time all season, the Florida Panthers’ goaltending group must be better than ever before.
Florida Panthers Goaltending Coming in Hot
Despite a below-average end to last season, Sergei Bobrovsky has actually played pretty well this year. Especially these past few regular-season games. Rounding out ‘Bob’s previous 11 games played, he stood tall and played well. Coming in with a 6-3 record and a .911 save percentage, Bobrovsky played one of his best games of the season on May eighth against the Lightning. Well, his third-best according to save percentage. Only allowing one goal in on 29 shots, Bobrovsky made some extremely talented saves against the Bolts. While it is hard to justify Bobrovsky’s massive contract compared to how he has played.
The past is the past, and there is nothing anyone can do about it at the moment. Besides that, he is winning games and finishing the regular season with a 19-8-2 record, a .906 save percentage, and a 2.91 goals-against average. Fans everywhere should be beyond ecstatic with the way this season has gone. One of the best seasons in franchise history, and Bobrovsky was a big part of that.
Another monumental piece of the Florida Panthers goaltending group is breakout star Chris Driedger. Deemed a breakout candidate last November, Driedger lived up to all of it. Concluding the season with a respectable 14-6-3 record, many Panther fans hope Driedger gets the start in Sunday night’s showdown. With a .927 save percentage and only 2.07 goals-against average, one of the best in the league, he has risen to be a true “1B” type of netminder. Arguably the actual number one goalie in Sunrise, there are ten million pieces of green paper hiding him from the starting role.
Finishing the season 7-3-1, even Driedger’s advanced numbers are incredible. Thanks to Evolving Hockey, Driedger ranks ninth in Goals Above Replacement with 16.1 and ninth in Wins Above Replacement with 2.9. Regardless of who is in the net for Florida, anyone that the Panthers come across while in the playoffs will have a tough time getting the puck in the back of the net.
The Future of Panthers Goaltending
Officially signing his first National Hockey League contract back at the end of March, Spencer Knight has been as good as advertised, if not better. Playing in just four games this season, Knight looks like he has been in the league for years. He is extremely calm and collected when in the crease. So much so that sometimes when you’re watching him, you find yourself wondering if he will move when the puck is coming at him.
During those four games, Knight played very well too. Winning all four games with a .919 save percentage and 2.32 goals-against average. As Knight is the first goaltender born in the 2000s to make an NHL start; He did it in style. In his first NHL start ever, Knight held firm against a barrage of shots. Saving 33 of 34, Spencer would get the win in a 5-1 victory over Columbus. Throw in that cushiony million dollar bonus if he wins the Conn Smythe; Knight will want to succeed in the playoffs just as much as anyone else.
At the end of the day, the Florida Panthers goalie group is ready to make a deep playoff run. As one of the best and deepest Florida Panther teams in the history of the franchise. They have never had goaltending close to as good as this. As hard as it is to throw slight shade at Roberto Luongo, there is something about this remarkable group compared to those of the recent past.
A big reason why the Florida Panthers goaltending has been so successful has been the work done by their goaltending department. Give credit to general manager Bill Zito for being so innovative. No other team has a dedicated department to goaltending. And it has proven to be a success thus far. Having Francois Allaire teamed with Roberto Luongo has done wonders for the Panthers goalie trio. In addition, the pair is joined by goaltending coach Rob Tallas and AHL goalie coach Leo Luongo. These four men have put either of three goalies in a position to make a deep run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
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