SUNRISE — There was some speculation from a certain Florida Panthers reporter that one reason coach Paul Maurice left Spencer Knight in Monday’s loss to the Boston Bruins was because Sergei Bobrovsky was unavailable.
With a nasty flu bug running through the team, it was concievable that Bobrovsky was not feeling good enough to do more than back Knight up.
Of course, it was just speculation on my part.
Knight, as everyone could see, was fighting the puck from the start of the game as he himself was coming back from missing six games and almost two weeks of action with said flu bug.
It was apparently Knight was rusty and he ended up allowing seven goals — including three in the first and five through the first 40 minutes.
Maurice said on Wednesday that he did not want to take Knight out unless he absolutely had to.
Bobrovsky, Maurice said, was not sick and could have come in but he made the decision to stay with his young goalie despite all of the collective firepower of the Bruins being thrown at him.
“You can’t learn a bunch of things about playing goal from the bench,” Maurice said after the game. “You have to live through them.”
He repeated that on Wednesday.
Dealing with the pysche of any goalie is a balancing act and, after coaching in the NHL for four decades, few know that more than Maurice.
It is not ideal to have a goalie — especially a young one such as Knight — to get discouraged and down on themselves after a rough outing which happened to come in front of friends and family in Boston.
One also hates to see a goalie get unnecessarily peppered when they just do not have it.
Pulling Knight after he gave up three goals in the first 21:43 of his previous start in Winnipeg also played into why Maurice’s wanted to keep Knight in the game against the Bruins.
On Monday, Florida found itself down 4-0 early in the second after David Pastrnak scored a power play goal before the Panthers rattled off three goals in a span of 5:20 to make this a game.
Boston then made it 5-3 on a David Krejci goal with 9:10 left in the second and wrapped things up courtesy of a pair of goals from Patrice Bergeron in the third for a decisive-looking 7-3 win.
“I was absolutely not putting him in that game,” Maurice said of Bobrovsky on Wednesday. “The number of games he ran, he needed a mental day off. There’s a lot of things you cannot learn from the bench as a young goaltender and one of them is fighting through, grinding through when it is not easy and it’s not right.
“Could Sergei have gone in? For sure. But he needed the day off. … There was a lot for Spencer to learn that night. It was good for him.”
When Knight was pulled on Dec. 6 in Winnipeg with the Panthers down 3-1 in the second, Maurice explained the hook was due to Knight having “a good run but it was not happening for him tonight. … He played enough for us.”
Bobrovsky was in the midst of one of his worst stretches of hockey in his time with the Panthers.
In November, he was pretty dreadful, going 2-3 (he was not given the loss despite giving up four first-period goals to Dallas) with a 4.70/.860.
When he replaced Knight against the Jets, he had played once in six games and it appeared Knight had supplanted him as Florida’s No. 1 netminder.
Bobrovsky gave up a goal to the Jets in that loss but played a very solid game, his best outing in weeks.
The Panthers wanted to get him back in net and putting him into a game Florida was already losing removed any pressure and allowed him to just getting back in and playing his game.
With Knight getting sick — he was not feeling great going into the Winnipeg game, one reason he had a short leash — the net went back to Bobrovsky.
Maurice said the plan was to give Knight the rest of the night off in Winnipeg, let Bobrovsky get in and start feeling good again with Knight getting the start against Detroit the following game.
But Knight got sick, Bobrovsky beat the Red Wings and his game has gotten back on track.
Now he looks like the starter again.
In December, Bobrovsky’s numbers have improved dramatically (3.27/.921) although Florida is just 3-4-0 in his starts.
Bobrovsky has now started seven of the past eight games with Maurice saying before Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to the Devils that, barring anything crazy, Bobrovsky would be back in goal Friday against the Islanders.
Maurice confirmed that Thursday afternoon before his team flew to New York.
Knight will get his chance to play again and will get the opportunity to get back on a roll once more.
For now, however, it looks like Bobrovsky is Florida’s go-to guy.
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT NEW YORK ISLANDERS
- When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
- Where: UBS Arena; Elmont, N.Y.
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Last season: Florida won 3-0
- This season (Florida 2-0): Florida 3, Islanders 1 (Oct. 13); Florida 3, Islanders 2 (Oct. 23)
- All-time regular season series: Panthers lead 56-32-11, 8 ties
- Next Up for the Panthers: Dec. 29 vs. Montreal Canadiens, 7 p.m.