NHL.com is looking ahead to the Stanley Cup, the Qualifiers for the review of five of the biggest questions that arise with each of the 24 remaining teams. Today, we look at the Florida Panthers.
1. Can Sergei Bobrovsky return to form?
Bobrovsky has struggled in his first season with the Panthers after the goalkeeper signed a seven-year contract on July 1, 2019. His 3.23 goals-against average is the highest of his 10 seasons in the NHL, and his .900 percentage is his lowest since 2011-12 (.899). Bobrovsky has missed Florida’s last four games before the season was suspended on March 12, because of concerns about the coronavirus because of a lower-body injury, but be ready every time the resumption of the game. It is a two-time winner of the Vezina Trophy, voted as the best goalkeeper in NHL (2013, 2017), but 11-18 with a 3.14 GAA and .902 save percentage in 34 Stanley Cup Playoff games. However, Bobrovsky has helped the Columbus Blue Jackets to sweep the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2019 eastern Conference First Round, a potential boost to his confidence in the topic this title of the series.
Video: [email protected]: Bobrovsky earns first shutout with the Panthers
2. Does Joel Quenneville give them an advantage?
In most cases, Panthers, coach Joel Quenneville provides a distinct advantage behind the bench with three Stanley Cup championships won during his time with the Chicago Blackhawks (2010, 2013, 2015) and 118 series of victories in the NHL. But Quenneville, whose 925 victories are second in NHL history to Scotty Bowman (1,244), is going against the New York coach Barry Trotz, who is the fifth all-time (845), has guided the Washington Capitals to their first championship in 2018, and won the Jack Adams voted as the first coach in the NHL last season, his first with the Islanders. Florida went 0-2-1 against New York during the regular season and was held to four goals in three games.
3. The version of the Panthers is going to show?
They went 8-2-0 in January, winning their last six games and score at least four goals in each victory. But Florida has lost 11 of 16 and has been arrested twice in February (5-9-2); they went 10 days without playing before and after the All-Star break. Florida’s leading scorer, forward Jonathan Huberdeau (78 points; 23 goals, 55 assists), scored a goal and one assist in the last eight games before the season was interrupted, and the center Aleksander Barkov do not have a point in the last six. The Panthers top scorers needs to find ways to produce against the Islanders, which stops the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the playoffs last season.
Video: [email protected]: Barkov puts home wrist shot from the slot
4. Their special teams to play a positive role?
The Panthers power play has been solid and tied with the Minnesota Wild for 10th in the NHL (21.3 per cent), led by forwards Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonovwho has scored 11 power-play goals, and Huberdeau, who had 29 power-play points. It is quarterbacked by veteran defenseman Keith Yandlethat has obtained almost half of his points on the man-advantage (21 of 45). The Florida penalty kill, which was ranked 20th (78.5 per cent), will be put to the test against New York, more weapons, including defenseman Ryan Pulockthat was a dangerous slap shot from the point.
Video: [email protected]: Dadonov finishes tic-tac-toe play for the PPG
5. Will Noel Acciari contribute offensively?
The veteran forward has exceeded expectations after signing a three-year contract on July 1, 2019, doubling his former NHL career-high by scoring 20 goals in 66 matches. But, like Florida’s other scorers, Acciari had the difficulty to produce after the All-Star break, scoring two goals in his last 21 games before the break. Acciari, who helped the Boston Bruins reach the Stanley Cup Finals last season with four points (two goals, two assists) in 19 playoff games, will need to be closer to the player, the Panthers have seen in December, when he scored a hat trick in back-to-back games (Dec. 16 and 20).
Video: [email protected]: Acciari snaps puck past Andersen