It was a highly anticipated rematch between the Florida Panthers and the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night. The last time these two teams met, it was a high-scoring game with both teams going on goal-scoring runs before things finally ended with an 8-4 Panthers win. Colorado had used both their goalies while the Cats held strong by keeping Bobrosky in the net. This time around, it would be Bob back in the net and Georgiev for the Avs; both goal tenders were at the All-Star Game. Colorado was coming in off a loss to Carolina, while the Panthers had just defeated Washington. It was a match of the highest-scoring offense vs one of the best defensive teams in the league. Sergei Bobrovsky was stellar in the net, the shaken up lines worked extremely well, and Florida’s defense simply suffocated the Avs offense.
Sergei Bobrovsky’s First Shutout Against Colorado
Finishing out the 3-game home stretch, Bob got his second consecutive start after the win over the Capitals. He was locked in from the start, with the Avalanche getting an early powerplay opportunity. Bob stopped all 35 shots from the potent Colorado offense, including several chances right in front of the net. With the shutout, Bobrovsky’s stats improve to a .913 save percentage, 2.43 goals against, 25 wins, and his 3rd shutout of the season. His goals against puts him 7th amongst all goaltenders. Four of the top 10 goalies have faced over 1,000 shots, and Bob is one of them; he’s saved 949 out of the 1,039 shots he’s seen. Bob is now in solo 3rd place for goaltender wins; he’s two wins behind Georgiev and Demko. Saturday’s game was easily one of Bob’s best showings of the season, and he was very quick to give credit to his teammates’ defensive plays, making his job easier in the post-game interview. His great game also earned him the One Star Honors.
Switched Up Line Success
Head Coach Paul Maurice opted to keep his shaken-up lines from the 3rd period of the Capitals game. So Rodrigues played with Lundell & Luostarinen, Cousins with Bennett & Tkachuk, and Verhaeghe was with Barkov & Reinhart. This change put the team’s leading scorers, Verhaeghe & Reinhart, on the same line while adding more grit to Tkachuk’s line and boosting the level of play from Lundell & Luostarinen. The change paid off for the second night in a row as Florida got one goal from Luostarinen and the other three from the top line. Verhaeghe & Reinhart’s goals came from the powerplay, and Barkov scored on an almost completely open net after Georgiev committed to a shot from another Cat. The powerplay went 2/2 in the first period; Georgiev had committed to a shot from Barkov, which allowed him to pass the puck to Verhaeghe, who scored. It was Verhaeghe’s 26th goal of the season and a career-high 8th powerplay goal. Mr. Powerplay himself, Sam Reinhart, scored his 22nd PP goal of the year off a one-timer shot that went top shelf right under the crossbar. Barkov was down at the goal line and passed to Tkachuk, who was at the faceoff circle and then made a no-look pass to Reinhart, who was set in the slot. Tkachuk and Barkov are tied for a team-leading 39 assists, and Reinhart is now up to 39 goals on the season. Reinhart currently sits at 7th in most powerplay goals in a season. He’s two goals behind being tied for 4th, three goals from tying 3rd, and four goals from tying 2nd place. The All-Time record is currently held by Leon Draisaitl from 2022-2023 with 32 goals. Reinhart is only ten goals away from that record, and there are plenty of games left, so it may very well be his record come the season’s end.
It’s no secret that Colorado has an extremely dangerous offense, so this game would be a huge test to see if Florida’s defense would be up to the task. And up to the task it was, the stout defense made it extremely hard for the Avs to generate any type of significant offensive pressure. Florida didn’t allow a single shot from the slot; most of the shots came from around the faceoff circles or close to the blue line. There were a few Avs chances from right in front of the net, but Bobrovsky was there to make sure none of them converted into a goal. The Panthers only allowed nine shots from the Avs in the second period while having 28 shots themselves. The forechecking pressure allowed the Panthers to keep offensive zone time away from the Avs; they won the faceoff battle 34 to 21 the advantage and were the more physical team with 27 hits to Colorado’s 20. Florida had ten takeaways while only giving up three and had nine giveaways to the Avalanche’s 12. It was the most complete game Florida’s played all season, with a total team effort for the full 60 minutes. The Panthers have made the gap to the Boston Bruins smaller. It’s only 3 points now, and they’re tied with the New York Rangers for second most regulation wins at 33. Most impressively, the Florida Panthers are currently tied for 3rd in the NHL with Dallas; both teams have 70 points. Florida heads on the road this week, starting off with a rematch against the Pittsburg Penguins on Wednesday.