The Florida Panthers continue their four-game road trip with a stop in Ottawa on Thursday night. Their first destination was a flop, as they struggled in a 4-1 loss against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. The offence which was clicking and scoring at a rapid pace, was slowed down by Elvis Merzlikins in the crease. Merzlikins stepped up for 36 saves on 37 shots from the Panthers.
Craig Anderson will likely need a similar performance to hold the Panthers’ offence at bay on Thursday night. The veteran has been confirmed for the Senators between the pipes. Ottawa are coming off a 5-2 loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night. Tristan Jarry had another standout performance against the Senators to lead his team to a victory at home over the visiting Senators.
Those are the games that the Penguins should win and they were able to handle the Senators easily. Marcus Hogberg got the nod in that one, and he struggled with 5 goals against on 33 shots for a 0.848 save percentage. The Senators have been forced to go to Hogberg because of an injury to Anders Nilsson. Anderson has the best numbers on the team, but that isn’t saying much.
There aren’t many goaltenders in the league who could step into Ottawa and play well with this defence. The Senators have shown improvement from last season, but they’re still a couple of years off, especially the defence that needs a lot of attention in the offseason. It’s been the case since Erik Karlsson was traded to the San Jose Sharks. Karlsson has not been the impact player the Sharks were hoping for, but he was a high calibre option for the Senators.
With mediocre goaltending in net, it’s resulted in the Senators getting exploited in their defensive zone. Thomas Chabot can only do so much, and he’s been getting overworked recently. Chabot has been on the ice a lot this season, as the Senators have leaned on him defensively and as a facilitator offensively.
The 22-year-old isn’t going to mind the extra work, but the Senators have to be careful and not strain him too much. Ottawa are really going to need him in two or three years when the Senators should be looking at making a run. If we’re sitting here by then and the Senators aren’t competing for a spot in the playoffs, then the Brady Tkachuk and Chabot era in Ottawa will be seen as a bust. The Sens are going to need a much better effort than what we saw against Pittsburgh tonight. Florida were held down in Columbus, but it’s not going to be easy to keep them contained for two straight games. Head below for our free Panthers vs. Senators pick.
Florida Panthers vs. Ottawa Senators Betting Odds:
Panthers vs. Senators Prediction:
Joel Quenneville has the Panthers heading in the right direction under his watch behind the bench. It was clearly the right move to ditch Bob Boughner and hand Quenneville the reigns. Boughner was unable to get the most out of a team that should have gone to the playoffs last season. At least with the talent that was afforded to him, Boughner failed to get it done. With the Panthers at 20-14-5, there is room to be better than that, but a lot of that falls on Sergei Bobrovsky. If he was playing up to his full potential, and what the Panthers expected when they signed him to a wealthy contract, they’d have a much better record at the moment. They may very well be 2nd behind the Bruins in the Atlantic Division with an elite Bobrovsky.
An elite Bobrovsky has been a pipedream for Quenneville this season, though. Bobrovsky has been searching for a rhythm, but there hasn’t been any consistency for him. He heads into Ottawa with a leaky 3.29 GAA and 0.897 save percentage in 31 games. After allowing 4 goals against his former employer in Columbus, Bobrovsky has surrendered at least 4 goals in his last four games.
He owns a combined save percentage of 0.859 during that abysmal stretch. The road has been an absolute disaster for Bobrovsky. He holds a 3.78 GAA and 0.868 save percentage in 13 games on the road. His struggles continued against the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena, and there are no indications that it should get better in Kanata tonight. The Panthers have yielded a whopping 3.71 goals against per game on the road this season. That’s one of the worst efforts you’re going to find on the road from a defence in 2019-20. That said, the Senators have been the worst in the league at home defensively, allowing 3.77 goals per game in Kanata.
Overall, the Panthers are 28th in the NHL, with 3.36 goals allowed per game. I still like the Panthers as a sleeper in the playoffs, but that’s predicated around Bobrovsky getting on track. If he does, everything else should fall into place because their offence has proven to be deadly this year. The Panthers are 5th in the NHL, having notched 3.49 goals per game. Despite a poor showing against the Blue Jackets, the Panthers have recorded at least 4 goals in five of their previous seven outings. Look for them to return to form against a poor Senators’ defence on Thursday night. There should be enough goals from both sides to get the final score OVER the total.