Whether you put a lot or very little of the blame on Sergei Bobrovsky, the Panthers are in big trouble, as the Islanders won Game 2, 4-2 to take a commanding 2-0 series lead.
Should the Panthers bench Bobrovsky for another option, such as lightly-used backup Chris Driedger? That isn’t the easiest question to answer, and coach Joel Quenneville doesn’t have much time to mull it over. The Islanders have a chance to sweep the Panthers swiftly, as Game 3 takes place on Wednesday.
Islanders take advantage of sloppy Panthers play, goaltending to take 2-0 series lead
Early on, the Panthers won the special teams battle.
Florida killed a high-sticking double-minor by Michael Matheson, then Mike Hoffman scored the 1-0 goal just as their power play began. Unfortunately for the Panthers, that lead — and those special teams victories — would not last.
Things fell apart for the Panthers during the second period, as the Islanders scored three of the four goals in a busy, sloppy middle frame. The Islanders exploited the Panthers’ mistakes (and maybe Bobrovsky’s fading confidence?) to score plenty of goals, including going 2-for-7 on the power play.
Should Panthers consider changes, including benching Bobrovsky?
To some extent, the Panthers hands (paws?) are tied. When you spend $10 million per year on a goalie, you kind of have to cross your fingers and hope things work out. At least long-term.
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But, right now, the Panthers are on the brink of elimination. This team isn’t perfect defensively by any stretch, yet with every goal at a premium against a structurally stingy Islanders squad, the Panthers really cannot afford to wait until Bobrovsky hopefully finds his game.
Yes, this was a laser by Ryan Pulock. Sometimes you need your goalie to stop these, though:
Ryan Pulock with a LASER beam.
The Isles and Panthers are all square at 2-2! #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/YGCiss1kjZ
— #StanleyCup Qualifiers on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) August 4, 2020
Joel Quenneville should at least explore the idea of giving Chris Driedger a shot.
While it wasn’t a large sample size, Driedger managed a strong .938 save percentage over 12 games in 2019-20. When given opportunities, Driedger produced solid stats at other levels recently, whether he was in the ECHL or AHL.
None of that means Driedger would be able to clean up all of the Panthers’ messes. Again, it’s not necessarily all Bobrovsky’s fault.
Yet, at this pace, can the Panthers really afford to just hope that the results change while they do the same things? Maybe this is a matter that’s too big for a one-day turnaround, but this current setup doesn’t seem to be working.
As a side note, the Islanders received a scare when Mathew Barzal crashed hard into the boards late in Game 2. Remarkably, Barzal stayed in the game, so it seems like he’s OK. Still, it was such a violent crash that it’s worth keeping an eye out for updates.
(7) New York Islanders vs. (10) Florida Panthers (NYI leads series 2-0)
Saturday, Aug. 1: Islanders 2, Panthers 1 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Islanders 4, Panthers 2
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Islanders vs. Panthers, 12 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Friday, Aug. 7: Islanders vs. Panthers*
Sunday, Aug. 9: Panthers vs. Islanders*
* If necessary
• 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.