The Pittsburgh Penguins have been in Florida the past few days, with a stop in Tampa Bay on the docket first. That effort didn’t go well, as the Lightning edged out the Penguins by a score of 4-2. The Penguins had a 5-on-3 advantage for more than a minute, but failed to get a goal to tie the game up a three goals apiece. Andrei Vasilevskiy stood tall in the crease, while the Penguins continued to get frustrated by him.
The Lightning have really started to come around recently and the rest of the league should be taking note. They aren’t the only team in Florida that should be taken seriously, though. Further south in the state, you’ll find the Panthers in Sunrise who have been playing well under Joel Quenneville’s watch. Having said that, they’re in a fight right now, and are going to continue to be
Florida did not look like a team playing well Thursday night against the Golden Knights, though. They were chased off the ice in a blowout, as the Golden Knights poured the goals on for a 7-2 win. Maybe that’s the turning point for the Golden Knights that they’ve been looking for. For the Panthers, they can’t allow a bad effort to snowball into something worse. There isn’t much time left for them to go cold, or they’ll be warming up on a beach in the spring.
If Bob Boughner was still behind the bench and not Quenneville, I might be tempted to say that the Panthers are going to regress into the abyss. Quenneville likely doesn’t let that happen, but it still doesn’t mean that they’re going to the playoffs. The Panthers are in a tight battle in the Eastern Conference for a wildcard or third in the Atlantic Division. With the Maple Leafs winning last night, they were able to move up into the No. 3 spot, while the Panthers slipped back out of playoff positioning.
The Maple Leafs and Panthers have had similar seasons. Similar in their records and how they managed to get to that point. Neither team has been particularly sharp defensively. It’s been pretty awful at times, as we’ve seen in both of their recent games. The Maple Leafs were forced into overtime last night because of sloppy play on defence. Meanwhile, the Panthers got blasted for seven goals in a 7-2 loss. After a standout performance for the Panthers in a game they couldn’t even score a goal in, a 1-0 loss against the Blue Jackets, their blueline and Sergei Bobrovsky were non-existent again. Any confidence that Bobrovsky gathered was diminished quickly. Head below for our free Penguins vs. Panthers pick.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Florida Panthers Betting Odds:
Penguins vs. Panthers Prediction:
The way this season has played out for the Panthers was not expected. Signing Sergei Bobrovsky, who was the most coveted free agent goalie in the offseason, was supposed to be a major step forward in the defensive zone for the Panthers. However, plans can go astray, and there are several teams out there happy that they didn’t pull the trigger on Bobrovsky. That goes for the Blue Jackets who have gotten excellent production out of Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins. While they’ve thrived in Columbus, Bobrovsky is struggling to put things together in Sunrise.
Bobrovsky will take the crease tonight with a 3.28 GAA and 0.898 save percentage. He was stellar against the Blue Jackets, with 44 saves on 45 shots. If the Panthers score at anytime in that game, then Bobrovsky is rewarded with a shutout. When the offence has needed Bobrovsky to make a save this season, he has failed to be there, though.
He was pulled out of the Vegas game following six goals allowed on just 29 shots for a 0.793 save percentage. This is only a year after he posted a 2.58 GAA and 0.913 save percentage in a contract season for him. Bovrovsky was able to parlay that into a big payday, but the results haven’t been there, nor has the ROI for the Panthers.
As a result of his issues in net, the Panthers have been suffering in their own zone. They’re 29th in the NHL with 3.3 goals against per game. Even if they do manage to reach the playoffs, the Panthers aren’t going to go too far with Bobrovsky playing so poorly. They can score a lot of goals, which they’ve been doing this season, but it likely wouldn’t be enough in the playoffs.
Sunrise hasn’t helped out either, as they’ve allowed an equal amount of goals at home, with 3.3 goals against per contest. The only thing keeping the Panthers afloat is the hot hand of their playmakers. The top four of Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Mike Hoffman, and Evgenii Dadonov has been a force.
They’ve helped lead the Panthers to 3.53 goals per game for 5th in the league, and 3.89 goals scored per game at home. Will the defence be able to pushback enough against Sidney Crosby and company, though? The Penguins are close to the Panthers offensively, with 3.3 goals scored per game for 7th in the NHL. I’m not overly confident, though this should be an entertaining matchup that results in a 4-3 final on the scoreboard tonight.