The Florida Panthers continue their road trip out west with a stop in Las Vegas on Saturday night. Joel Quenneville’s club has two more roadies before going home for a four-game homestand. However, following that things are going to get a bit tricky for the Panthers. 8 of their next 11 games will take place on the road, as the Panthers enter a difficult part of the schedule in the most important month of the season.
That’s going to be the make or break portion of the year for the Panthers. They’ve handled this current road trip reasonably well thus far, with wins against the Sharks and Ducks, though faltered at the Staples Center against the Kings. That was a winnable game that they might look back on at the end of the season.
The Panthers are 2 points behind the Maple Leaf for 3rd in the Atlantic Division. As far as a wildcard is concerned, the Panthers are a point behind the Blue Jackets and 2 points behind the Canadiens. For those new to the NHL, the top-3 teams from each division go to the playoffs along with two wildcards to make up eight teams.
Florida is on the bubble at the moment, and can’t afford to be losing to non-playoff teams like the Kings down the stretch. They’re also going to have to steal some games against good teams, especially on the road where they’ll be playing a lot of games in March. A win tonight would make it three out of four games on this road trip, which they would certainly be content with.
For the Panthers to get to the playoffs and go deep, it’s going to require Sergei Bobrovsky to rise up and start earning his pay. He signed with the Panthers for a hefty pay rise from his days with the Blue jackets, but the results haven’t been there. Yes, he had a better defence to work with in Columbus. That said, Bobrovsky is making elite goaltending money, so better than average to bad numbers are supposed to come with that.
For any goaltender, regardless of pay cheque size, the numbers have not been desirable. There is still time for Bobrovsky to be a saviour, though. Bobrovsky has a difficult chore ahead of him in Las Vegas. The Golden Knights just torched the Lightning, and could easily do the same against a worse defence than the Bolts. Head below for our free Panthers vs. Golden Knights pick.
Florida Panthers vs. Vegas Golden Knights Betting Odds:
Panthers vs. Golden Knights Prediction:
Bobrovsky has posted a 3.29 GAA and 0.898 save percentage in 47 games this season. For a minute there it looked like he was turning a corner, but he’s been struggling again recently. For every good start he’s had, there’s three or four bad outings. That’s not going to get it done for the Panthers, and as a result, they’re 29th in the NHL with 3.34 goals against per game. The only teams who have been worse defensively are the New Jersey Devils and Red Wings.
Neither the Devils or Red Wings are anywhere close to the playoffs. The Toronto Maple Leafs at 26th with 3.23 goals against per game is the only other team playing that poorly defensively and still threatening for a playoff appearance. In their previous ten games, the Panthers have allowed 3.7 goals per contest, so it’s been more of the same. I think a lot of people, myself included, expected Bovrovsky to get his head together in the second-half and get hot.
That hasn’t been the case. It’s almost March and he’s still in search of his game that he must have left in Columbus. He may just have to hit the reset button in the summer and get things worked out for next season. His offence might be able to carry him into the playoffs, though. Bobrovsky won’t have much time to get things figured out if that’s the case. Florida is 5th in the league with 3.46 goals scored per game. That’s what has been holding the Panthers up this season, but at some point Bobrovsky must get it together.
The Panthers have to deal with a Golden Knights team who have to be feeling confident after the display they put on against the Lightning. Alec Martinez, the brand new acquisition from the Kings, scored a goal to get the party started for the Golden Knights. The Knights have scored at least 3 goals with an average of 3.7 per game in their previous ten outings.
They’ve performed better at home offensively, having scored 3.38 goals per game. However, Marc-Andre Fleury and the defence has regressed at T-Mobile Arena. Fleury owns a 2.96 GAA and 0.899 save percentage in Las Vegas, and as a team, they’ve allowed a total of 3.16 goals per game at home. This has the makings of an entertaining 4-3 game with the total going OVER.