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FHN Daily: Chris Driedger was the right call. Will Panthers use Spencer Knight?

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Florida Panthers
Florida Panthers goalie Chris Driedger congratulates rookie Spencer Knight after he won his NHL debut earlier this season at BB&T Center. // Photo by Roger Topalian, 21st Century Photography (561) 488-0000

Should Florida Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville have replaced goalie Sergei Bobrovsky with rookie phenom Spencer Knight for Game 2 against the Tampa Bay Lightning instead of Chris Driedger?

Will he do so if the Panthers lose on Thursday in Tampa and go down 3-0 in the best-of-7 series?

Quenneville started Driedger in Game 2 as the Florida Panthers tried to even their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Panthers lost 3-1 on Tuesday but it was hardly Driedger’s fault.

The two goals that went against him were kind of fluky; one went off teammate Anton Stralman, the other off a long rebound off the goal cage that Ondrej Palat corralled and hammered home.

“Driedgs always gives us a chance to win,” team captain Sasha Barkov said afterward. “We couldn’t win it for him.”

While it may have surprised some that Quenneville would be so quick to sit Bobrovsky, it didn’t surprise many at all that he went with the 27-year-old Driedger over the 20-year-old Knight to try and help his team tie the first-ever Sunshine State Stanley Cup Playoffs series. 

“I think all year long it was the same thing,” Quenneville told the media Tuesday morning. “Bob [Bobrovsky] was fine. Driedgs has been more than fine. In that regard, if we’re comparing the two of them, but it’s been back-and-forth all year … It’s a very competitive series. It’s a lot of action. He’s played extremely well in the Tampa games as well.

“All year long [Driedger] did everything you’d want,” Quenneville went on. “It’s an opportunity when you’re looking at goaltending to see how he’s going to play in the playoffs. We’re going to take it one game at a time. He hasn’t had this chance in two years here so we feel it’s the right time to give him an opportunity.”

In 23 regular-season games this year, Chris Driedger was 14-6-3 with a 2.07 GAA and .927 save percentage. He also posted three shutouts.

Meanwhile, Bobrovsky struggled at times going 19-8-2 with a 2.91 GAA and .906 save percentage, and after watching him allow five goals on 40 shots for a .875 save percentage,

Coach Q was clearly not taking any chances of letting this series go back to Tampa Bay with the Bolts up 2-0. Yet, that’s what happened.

So, what happens next?

We all expect Driedger to go in Game 3, but what if the Panthers lose?

Knight has demonstrated he can handle the spotlight and pressure of big games at every level he’s played. Knight is clearly the team’s goalie for the future.

So, should the veteran and three-time Stanley Cup-winning coach have turned to the rookie instead of Chris Driedger? 

Knight was 4-0-0 with a 2.32 GAA and .919 save percentage this season. NHL on NBC analyst Pierre Mcguire believes he’s ready for Stanley Cup Playoffs hockey. 

“Honestly, you wanna know what I’d do? Spencer Knight,” McGuire said on TSN 1200 in Ottawa on Monday prior to Quenneville’s decision

McGuire was then asked why and if the unknown of the rookie goalie was a factor in his opinion.

“Well, that’s part of it,” he replied. “The other part is I think he gives the team a surge. I just think they know this kid is going to be their guy long-term, and I’m not afraid of that. I know a lot of people are probably saying ‘what are you crazy?’ and I’ve been telling you all along. …

“What is he? 4-0? I mean, he hasn’t even scratched the surface. That’s what I’d do but they’ll probably go with Chris Driedger.”

McGuire imagined correctly. But if Driedger struggles in Game 3, could Quenneville use three different goalies in this opening round series?

We shall see soon enough.

Now onto the rest of your FHN Daily Links:

There was stuff thrown on the ice during Tuesday’s game, but there were no penalties called. (FHN)

Teams have come back from 0-2 deficits before. (FHN)

The Panthers not out against the Lightning, but they’re close. (FHN)

The Boston Bruins tied their series with the Washington Capitals in a thrilling 4-3 overtime win and once again it was their best player this season, Brad Marchand, leading the way. (Boston Hockey Now)

Bruins winger David Pastrnak looked like Dikembe Mutombo in Game 2 when he swatted down a puck sailing out of the zone, gained possession, and fed Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron for a goal. (Boston Hockey Now)

Pittsburgh star center Evgeni Malkin was not available for Game 2 against the New York Islanders. (Pittsburgh Hockey Now)

The Penguins were aggressive in their win over the Islanders (PHN)

The Islanders hoped to pounce on a shaky Tristan Jarry (NYI Hockey Now)

Oh Captain, my captain! Gabriel Landeskog led the way for the Colorado Avalanche in their 4-1 win in Game 1 of their first-round series with the St. Louis Blues. (Colorado Hockey Now)

Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury did his job in Game 1 against the Minnesota Wild. Will his teammates do the same in Game 2? Spoiler: They did. (Vegas Hockey Now)

Bo Byram cleared to play for Colorado (CHN)

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