The first question to Florida Panthers coach Joel Quenneville this morning was whether Spencer Knight would be the starting goalie against the host Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6.
No one was shocked by the answer.
After his performance in Florida’s 4-1 win over the Lightning on Monday night, of course he was.
”How patient and cool he was, how patient he was in the net,’’ Quenneville said when asked what impressed him most about Knight’s game. “His composure tracking pucks is exactly what you’re looking for.”
The Panthers’ news feed has been flooded by news about Knight’s performance in his NHL playoff debut. The 20-year-old had a number of historical firsts Monday including being the youngest goalie to ever win an elimination playoff game.
He was, simply, fantastic.
Knight will now be in the spotlight in an unfriendly environment tonight in Tampa. The Panthers think the kid’s cool demeanor suits him well for this challenge.
They certainly need it.
”The first thing that jumped out when I first met him was the way he handles things, assesses things and he does that on the ice,” Quenneville said. “The way he handles things, he reads very well. He is very mature for his age. Put on that stage, he acts like he has been there before. Commend him and here he is again.”
Patric Hornqvist has been though a lot of playoff battles in his career with Nashville and Pittsburgh. Count him in the impressed club when it comes to Knight.
“He let that first puck in and was dialed in after that,” Hornqvist said. “He couldn’t do anything on the goal but the calmness and the coolness he has on the ice … it’s fun to see and will be fun to see here tonight as well.”
As for the Panthers waiting to play Knight, well, had Florida had a better showing he would not have even been in this position. Quenneville admitted playing Knight had a “what do we have to lose?” feel to it — because that’s exactly the position they were in.
How much worse could it have gotten? Quenneville absolutely made the right call in starting his veteran Sergei Bobrovsky and then had to go to Chris Driedger.
They both had plenty of opportunities in this series.
“We were very comfortable with the decision at the time,” Quenneville said. “It was part of the deal.”
Quenneville added that Bobrovsky and Driedger have been very supportive of their young goalie.
“I commend them both in their ways,” Quenneville said. “Hey, they’re doing the best they can to be the best teammate, be supportive of a fellow goalie. The attitude has been good. Can’t ask for anything better.”
Now, on to today’s FHN Daily!
The Panthers will roll out the same lineup in Game 6 that they did on Monday — with one exception. Nothing is official, but it looks like Keith Yandle is out for the third time in the past four games. Check out today’s FHN Morning Skate. (Florida Hockey Now)
— All the lines, no waiting. What you need to know about tonight’s Game 6 in Tampa. (FHN)
— Speaking of Florida Hockey Now, give us a follow on Facebook. It’s fun! (Facebook)
— Molly Oldham, the cancer survivor who sang the National Anthem in Sunrise for the second time on Monday night, was on The View on Wednesday. (Akron Beacon Journal)
— The Panthers broke ground on their new training facility at War Memorial Auditorium on Tuesday. My take on this move to Fort Lauderdale — and what it means for the future of the Panthers — still to come. (Florida Panthers)
— The Lighting say it will play hungrier against the Panthers. (NHL)
— Max Gildon named to AHL All-Rookie team. (AHL)
— Billy Lindsay joins Joe Rose and Zach Krantz. (WQAM)
— Secrets to Spencer Knight’s success. (Miami Herald)
— Penalties hurting the Lighting and putting it at a disadvantage against Florida. (TB Times)
— Goldie says hello to Hochman & Crowder. (WQAM/The Ticket)
— Jessica Blaylock is on with Zaslow & Amber. (The Ticket)
— Looking for a place to watch tonight’s game?
Check out the Inn Field Pub in Sunrise; off Oakland Park Boulevard just west of Hiatus less than two miles from the arena. Sound will be on, 20 televisions. Lots of specials. Tell ‘em Florida Hockey Now sent ya. (Facebook)
AROUND THE NHL
We still may get Charles Barkley on Turner’s coverage of the NHL next season. But it also looks like we’ll be getting The Great One. (ESPN)
— The Pens are facing elimination on Long Island. (Pittsburgh Hockey Now)
— The Coliseum should be louder as more folks will be allowed into the old barn. (NYI Hockey Now)
— Don’t blame Marc-Andre Fleury for the Vegas series going back to Minnesota. (Vegas Hockey Now)
— Alex Ovechkin says he wants to finish his career with the Capitals. (SN)
— Checking up on the Avs as they take a couple days off after sweeping the Blues. (Colorado Hockey Now)
— Bruins fans getting fired up. Good for them. (Boston Hockey Now)
The Miami Dolphins are back in Davie and have hit the field for OTAs. For updates, check out the Miami Herald.
— The national pundits don’t like the Heat much writes Barry Jackson. (MH)
— Brian Anderson will miss the next few weeks with a shoulder injury. What do the Marlins do? (MH)
— Miami’s game in Atlanta against Alabama will be played at full capacity. So, lots of Bama fans. (Sentinel)