Toronto Maple Leafs v Florida Panthers

Wojtek Wolski gives Panthers a slight shootout boost

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To some, the Florida Panthers’ acquisition of Wojtek Wolski seemed like nothing more than a low-risk Hail Mary for a decidedly up-and-down player. That’s mostly true, but the team also insisted that he would boost a problem area: shootout efficiency.

Harvey Fialkov points out that the team is a relatively successful 3-3 in the skills competition since adding Wolski, claiming that it’s “no coincidence.”

Wolski is 2-for-6 in shootouts with the Panthers, his first keeping the session alive until Dmitry Kulikov’s game winner in a 3-2 victory over the Sabres on March 17. Then on Tuesday, after a Wolski wrist shot gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead in the first period, he tallied the lone shootout goal in a 3-2 comeback victory over the Canadiens.

… So Wolski’s had a hand in getting the Panthers six points to help pad their Southeast Division lead to five points over the sinking Capitals.

It does seem like Wolski’s had his helpful moments, but claiming that he’s had a significant part in Florida acquiring those six points is a bit much. In fact, his role in that success has very much been a “coincidence” in many cases.

Instead, it’s probably more accurate to say he’s played a big role in adding two extra points to the ledger with the aforementioned shootout tying and winning tallies. After all, how can you really make a difference in your four missed opportunities? Making the other goalie tired? Perhaps giving your fellow shootout partners a hint?

Now, while that does downgrade his accomplishments a bit, keep in mind that two points aren’t anything to sneeze at. If the Panthers didn’t have those, their Southeast Division lead would be cut down to three points – and that’s assuming everything would turn out the same otherwise.

(Doc Brown would remind you that might not have been the case.)

Panarin impresses ‘Hawks with his preseason debut

Artemi Panarin
AP Photo

Will Artem Panarin‘s overwhelming success in the KHL translate to North America? The 23-year-old forward has a lot to prove, but his first big test was a success.

Playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin made his preseason debut in Chicago’s finale on Saturday. He registered two assists while giving his teammates reason to be optimistic about him.

“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Panarin as well and liked that line as a whole.

The fact that the trio seemed to hit it off quickly has to come as a relief after an upper-body injury prevented Panarin from getting the most out of this year’s training camp. At the end of the day though, the fact that he was able to at least get in one preseason contest is a big silver lining. How smoothly his adjustment goes from here is still a big X-factor, but at least now he’s going into the regular season with a better idea of what to expect.

Panarin is attempting to establish himself in the NHL after leading the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg to a championship last year. He was the team’s scoring leader, topping ex-NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.

Gustavsson secures one-year contract with Bruins

Jonas Gustavsson
AP Photo
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There was stiff competition for the backup goaltending job in Boston, but with a signing this afternoon, it seems likely that the matter has been resolved.

The Boston Bruins announced that Jonas Gustavsson has agreed to a one-year, $700,000 deal. It’s a one-way contract, according to the Boston Globe’s Amalie Benjamin.

That contract is still small enough that the Bruins could bury it in the minors if they so desire, but it does set him apart from his last competitor for the goalie position, Jeremy Smith, who has a two-way deal. The fact that Boston went this route seems to imply that Gustavsson will serve as Tuukka Rask‘s understudy, although both netminders attended Sunday’s practice.

In Smith, the Bruins would be getting a 26-year-old goaltender who was dominant with the AHL’s Providence Bruins last season, but has no NHL experience. By contrast Gustavsson, 30, has played in almost 150 NHL games.

Boston sent Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban to the minors last week, but an argument could be made that either one of them is worthy of the backup job. However, both of them have a lot of potential and it’s not surprising that the Bruins felt they were better served by staying in the minors where they can play regularly and focus on honing their game.