The Cats return home after completing their Canadian swing where they racked up 5/6 points - improving their record to 14-7-2. They are now three points behind, nipping at the heels of the first place Atlantic Division Boston Bruins.
The fellas are on a hot streak right now and will try to continue their strong play when kicking off a three-game home stand this evening with the New York Islanders coming to town.
The Panthers struggled with Montreal’s speed throughout the first period of Florida’s 5-1 win over the Habs on Thursday night before settling things down and taking over. They will see most likely see some speed threats today against NYI when Mathew Barzal hits the ice.
The Islanders are hovering just above .500 at 9-7-6, good enough for fourth place in the Metropolitan Division. One of their weaknesses is something Florida fans can relate to (though not lately), and that’s their defense. The Islanders surrender an average of 3.14 goals per game, and find the back of the net about 2.73 times a game. With how Florida’s offense has been cooking, this could be an ideal matchup against a weaker defense.
A big reason for the Panthers recent success has been the improved defense. Allowing an average of 2.48 goals a game, the trickle down effect of strong has helped both Bob and Stolarz shine. The improved play of the blueliners takes a big weight off their shoulders and frees them up to play a bit looser - confident the guys in front of them can handle their job.
The proof is in the numbers, as we see Bob with an 11-6-1 in 18, a 2.41 GAA, and a .912 SV%. Aside from the improved defense, I think another reason for Bob’s success this far is the signing of Stolarz. I still think the goalie circus surrounding this team the past two seasons may have made focusing difficult for Bob. Now that the Knight situation is settled with him as the full-time AHL guy, and signing a legitimate backup in Stolarz, Bob is zoned in. The Panthers are doing an actual goaltending platoon where the starter is the starter and the backup is the backup. No more flip-flopping every game or two. They both have their established roles and things are going very well because of it.
With that being said, it looks like Stolarz gets the nod tonight.
Keep your eyes on the blue line, as Mahura might be back in the lineup, as Balinskis was sent to Charolette.
Let’s get it done…Go Panthers!