The Panthers have one of the NHL’s best goalie tandems, but there are some unique things about how they work. Florida has a new head coach this season with Bob Boughner taking over for Gerard Gallant who was fired after last year’s disappointing campaign. The team also signed James Reimer to an extension just before training camp began.
The “north carolina panthers” are one of the NHL’s best goalie tandems. The two goalies, Scott Darling and James Reimer, share the workload equally.
Sergei Bobrovsky is pondering something.
The goalkeeper for the Florida Panthers is attempting to articulate what has made him and youngster Spencer Knight so threatening in the crease this season. But how can you describe a goalkeeper duo’s special bond?
Teams put together lineups and hope for the best. When you spend over a decade in the NHL, like Bobrovsky has, you go through a lot of partners. He’s discovered that the finest unions achieve a delicate mix between support and space.
“[Spencer and I] get along swimmingly. However, everyone of us has our own path to go “Bobrovsky recently told ESPN. “We are here to help the squad. We work hard, compete, and strive to provide the best goaltending for the team. After that, everyone of us has our own life and destiny. As a result, you incorporate it into your daily routine and strive to be your own brand of successful.”
Whatever works, right? And there’s no disputing the Panthers’ achievements.
Florida started the season with a 10-0-1 record, making them the last NHL club to go undefeated in regulation. During that time, Bobrovsky went 6-0-0 with a.948 save percentage and a 1.72 goals-against average. Knight was directly behind him, with a 4-0-1 record, a.918 winning percentage, and a 2.51 winning percentage, respectively.
Leaning so heavily — and equally — on two goaltenders hasn’t always been the norm. However, the league has begun to go in that direction in recent years, and the Panthers are an excellent illustration of why goalie tandems can be so successful.
A team’s No. 1 goaltender averaged 54 starts per season in 2010-11. That number has dropped to 50 by 2018-19.
23 goalies started 70 or more games 43 times between 2000-01 and 2015-16. In the four complete 82-game seasons since 2016-17, just one goaltender, Cam Talbot, has made 70 or more starts.
Regular-season start management may also be linked to postseason performance. The Stanley Cup winner’s best goalkeeper has averaged 51 starts in the past five 82-game seasons.
Bobrovsky was the uncontested No. 1 goalkeeper in Columbus for seven seasons before moving to Florida. From 2016-17 to 2018-19, he made 60 or more starts in three straight seasons, playing the second-most games in the league (behind Frederik Andersen) while winning the most games (115).
Bobrovsky’s dedication paid off when he was awarded the Vezina Trophy in 2012 (after making 58 regular-season starts) and again in 2017.
He’s now sharing time with Knight, a 20-year-old prodigy the Panthers selected 13th overall in 2019. While Knight is new to the NHL, he has instantly connected with Bobrovsky thanks to Florida’s good start.
Knight said, “The relationship between a goaltender and a goalie partner is crucial.” “We both bounce ideas off one other and chat about how the games went afterward. Isn’t it simply a matter of being in it together? I want him to be successful just as much as I want to be successful. The goalkeeper is the one who can put the team in the greatest position to win.”
For a long period, Bobrovsky was the only bearer of that task. The starters in Florida are now being divided. Bobrovsky can only shrug when it comes to the shift.
“It’s just the way it is. I have no influence over such things “he said “My playing time is determined by the club. [With Knight], I don’t sense the competitiveness]. I’m in charge of my own thoughts. I have a competition with myself. But when you’re up against the man on the other end of the practice field, who is also competing, it gives you an advantage. Coaches, on the other hand, decide who plays. My duty is to be ready when my name is called.”
Moving on from the past
Every partnership has difficulties. After that, only the strongest will live, if not flourish.
In Columbus, Bobrovsky’s career came to a halt. During the 2017-18 season, he started informing the Blue Jackets’ management that he didn’t intend to sign an extension. Bobrovsky’s relationship with then-head coach John Tortorella may have been strained, and his suspension by the club in January 2019 for leaving the bench to shower after being pulled didn’t help matters. As a result, Bobrovsky became a free agent and signed a seven-year, $70 million deal with the Panthers on July 1, 2019. It was supposed to be a new beginning, but Bobrovsky’s start in South Florida was everything but bright.
Expectations were high, considering Florida’s investment in a 30-year-old goaltender, but Bobrovsky disappointed with a 23-19-6 record,.900 save percentage, and 3.23 goals-against average when COVID-19 ended the regular season in March 2020.
In the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoff campaign that August, Bobrovsky started all four qualifying round games for the Panthers, who lost 3-1 to the New York Islanders.
When the NHL resumed in 2020-21 with a 56-game schedule due to the pandemic, Bobrovsky shared the season with Chris Driedger. Then there was Knight.
Knight made his NHL debut on April 20, 2020, after finishing his second season at Boston College. By May, he’d become the NHL’s youngest goaltender to open his career with a 4-0-0 record.
Knight absorbed whatever he could from Bobrovsky along the way.
“Whether he’s playing well or not as well as he wants to, he’s constantly involved and at the same level of attention,” Knight said. “That’s something I nearly like in him. Everything he does is for a reason. And he’s always seeking for ways to improve.”
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Don’t even get me started on goaltending’s physical toll. There’s also a mental cost to consider.
Cam Talbot didn’t expect to play every game for the Edmonton Oilers in 2016-17. That’s how it occurred. And what he recalls most about the experience today has little to do with the physical effects.
“Goaltending is a lot of work,” Talbot added. “Mentally, you need to take a step back and simply sit on the bench [as a backup] for a night and joke with the boys. It’s not easy if you don’t have the appropriate mindset; it’s difficult, and it was certainly a grind. Everyone, on the other hand, wants to be the go-to person. I was that man in Edmonton for the better part of two seasons, and I enjoyed every minute of it.”
After a 72-game regular season, Talbot started all 13 playoff games for Edmonton, finishing 7-6-0 with a.924 save percentage and 2.48 goals-against average.
He made 67 starts the next season, going 31-31-3 with a.908 save percentage and 3.02 goals-against average. Talbot’s stats continued to decline in 2018-19, and he was 10-15-3 when he was sold to Philadelphia for Anthony Stolarz, a 25-year-old goaltender.
Talbot wasn’t surprised by the drop, nor by the league-wide trend of clubs paying greater attention to how they ride goaltenders.
“Every club that’s gone far in the playoffs in the previous four, five, six years has had that sort of 1A-1B or tandem scenario,” he added. “When it comes to playoff time, guys that play close to 70 games a season, it [all] weighs on the body, the mind, and you’re simply not as fresh. The gap between playing 55 and 70 is significant. It’s simply an additional day off a week when you can just sit back and relax. There’s no need to really wear out one person if you have two people you’re comfortable with every night.”
Management of the workload
Not everyone who has excelled as a player can also excel as a coach. One of them is Bill Ranford.
In 15 seasons as a goaltender, Ranford appeared in 647 games for Edmonton and won two Stanley Cups, as well as helping Canada win the Canada Cup and the World Championship. In addition, he is the first goalkeeper in history to be selected MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs, World Championships, and World Cup.
After his playing career ended, Ranford went into coaching, joining the Kings’ staff in 2006. Since then, he’s been their goaltender coach, playing a key part in helping Quick win two Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014.
Since Ranford’s time in the league, and even since the Kings’ previous championship, a lot has changed in goaltending. Guys “didn’t know any better” back then, he claimed, than to start as many games as possible. Those judgments now need greater refinement.
“Your first through fourth goaltender has grown so much stronger,” Ranford said of goaltending as a whole. “So you’re confident in your ability to play second base or first base. And analytics have entered the picture, with many clubs depending on data to determine whether a second goaltender should be used. Then there’s the realization of the emotional and physical toll it takes on the body for competitive teams year after year.”
Ranford views the goalkeeper duo as a way to relieve some of the strain on a team’s No. 1 goaltender early in the season. However, he is well aware that goalies may be fickle, clinging to a pattern and developing habits that need assistance.
“I believe the ratio of three [starts] to one [is good] if you look at the history,” Ranford said of balancing players. “However, if you have a goaltender that enjoys playing, he or she will not sit for lengthy periods of time. However, you must have your No. 2 player ready to play, and if they wait for too long, it will be difficult for them to feel comfortable in their own skin and confident when they enter the game. As a result, it’s something you should absolutely be aware of.”
Considering the long-term aim
In the spring, early success doesn’t signify much. The goal is to keep the momentum rolling. Florida feels it has a goalie pair capable of doing this.
For example, when Bobrovsky sustained an upper-body injury in early November, the Panthers were unconcerned about missing a beat. Knight would be present.
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When Quenneville resigned on Oct. 28 after his participation in the Chicago Blackhawks’ treatment of sexual assault charges by Kyle Beach against former video coach Brad Aldrich was uncovered, the club adopted the same one-for-all stance. Under new coach Andrew Brunette, the Panthers have stayed on track, if anything, their relationships have gotten stronger.
“You see men tugging the rope and no one gets down,” Knight said. “Nobody is shouting at each other; everything is good. There’s a lot going on in the world, but keep your attention on this team, these men in the room. That’s the most crucial point. On the rink, how your group and teammates regard one other is honestly what drives a lot of success.”
Bobrovsky has vowed to tackle this season game by game after the disappointment of last season’s finale. There’s no need to add to the stress. There’s no need to linger. There is a present moment to be focused on, and Bobrovsky is determined not to overlook it.
He remarked, “I’ve been here [in the NHL] for a long time.” “In the grand scheme of things, if you want to get the most out of a season, you have to take one moment after another. You won’t be able to take a break. You must put in the effort to better yourself, your body, and your mind, as well as your game. The game and the competition are both quite close. That’s the National Hockey League.”
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