WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Florida Panthers are on the cusp of winning their first playoff series since 1996 and this year’s team has something very much in common with the one that made it to the Stanley Cup Final.
As was the case 22 years ago, the Panthers are riding the back of their goaltender.
While Sergei Bobrovsky’s surface-level numbers in this first round against the Capitals — a .902 save percentage and a 2.78 goals-against-average — they also do not tell the full story.
Even his minus-1.25 goals saved above expected does not paint the whole picture.
He has outright won the Panthers games at points, and his numbers when the team is leading show that.
Bobrovsky allowed just three goals on 55 shots when Florida held the lead, with just two of those goals coming from the 15 high-danger opportunities Florida gave up with the lead.
He holds a .945 save percentage and a 1.17 goals saved above expected while holding off the opposition.
“Bob has been unreal all series,” Game 4 and 5 hero Carter Verhaeghe said. “He is a hell of a goalie. It is nice to see him make those huge saves at critical times.”
Bobrovsky’s performance has been night and day from what it was last postseason.
During Florida’s 2021 first-round loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, he played in just three of Florida’s six games, going 1-2-0 with a .841 save percentage and 5.33 GAA.
Boborvsky also had a minus-4.88 goals-saved above expected, with only Tristan Jarry (minus-5.72) having a worse total.
For Bobrovsky, it has been a total shift in confidence.
“I feel good,” Bobrovsky said. “I had a good couple of games before heading into the playoffs, so it felt good. I see the puck well, I track the puck well, and I tried to do my best to give the guys the chance to win.”
If you asked anyone on this Panthers roster, a good amount of them would say he does a good job of that.
“Every night that we have played so far in the playoffs, he is giving us a chance to win and that is what you want from your goaltender,” Claude Giroux said.
“He has made some big saves for us on breakaways and 2-on-1s and saves like that get the guys going.”
It has shown multiple times throughout the series.
In Game 4, he made a big save on a Marcus Johansson breakaway with 3:24 to go just before the Panthers tied the game up and sent it to overtime.
Had Bobrovsky not made that save or had Andrew Brunette opted to pull him 30 seconds earlier (as he mentioned postgame) this would be a completely different series.
Coupling that with his Game 4 effort where he stopped the last 20 shots he faced, including 11 in the third period, his fingerprint is all over Florida’s 3-2 series lead.
“I think he puts a lot of pressure on himself to be great,” Brunette said.
“I’m sure it feels good to play as well as he has right now. He is focused, he is really quiet, he is dialed in, so I’m sure it feels great for him.”
With the Panthers on the cusp of winning its first playoff series since before six current members of the team were even born, Bobrovsky will approach Game 6 as he always does — cool, calm and collected.
“My focus is on one shot at a time,” Bobrovsky said. “I don’t think too much about what is going on or what is happening, I’m focusing on one shot, one moment, and one day at a time.”
NHL STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
PANTHERS V. CAPITALS (FLA leads 3-2)
- Game 6: Friday, 7:30
- Where: Capital One Arena, Washington D.C.
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, TBS
- Radio: WQAM 560 (Miami/Fort Lauderdale); WMEN 640 (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3 (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
PANTHERS V. CAPITALS
- Regular season series — Florida won 2-1: @Florida 5, Washington 4 OT (Nov. 4); @Washington 4, Panthers 3 (Nov. 26); @Florida 5, Washington 4 (Nov. 30)
- All-time regular season series: Capitals lead 67-44-11, 9 ties
- Playoff history: First meeting
- First-round schedule — Game 1: Washington 4, @Florida 2; Game 2: @Florida 5, Washington 1; Game 3: @Washington 6, Florida 1; Game 4: Florida 3, @Washington 2 (OT); Game 5: @Florida 5, Washington 3; Game 6: Florida at Washington, Friday 7:30 (BSF, TBS); Game 7*: Washington at Florida, Sunday. *If necessary