Two-time Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky will need to raise his level for the Florida Panthers to overcome the New York Islanders and advance to the 16-team stage of the postseason.
Bobrovsky signed a monstrous, seven-year deal with the Cats on July 1, but left a lot to be desired in his first regular season with the club. He appeared in 50 games and posted a 23-19-6 with a lackluster 3.23 goals-against average, .900 save percentage, and one shutout.
Contrast those the numbers with the stats of the Islanders one-two punch in net and the Panthers would seem to come up on the short end of the stick in the goaltending department, at least on paper.
In his first season with the Isles, former Colorado Avalanche keeper Semyon Varlamov finished with a similar 23-19-4 record, but his 2.62 GAA and .914 save percentage were much better,
1B goalie Thomas Greiss, who outplayed Robert Luongo and helped knock the Cats out of the 2016 playoffs, delivered a 16-9-4 record with a 2.74 GAA and .913 save percentage.
The Panthers and Islanders did manage to get in all three games of the season series in 2019-20 and New York won all three times, limiting the Cats to a Bettman point and holding them to a grand total of four goals.
Bobrovsky got the call in the second regular season game between the two teams on November 9 and stopped 34 of 36 shots in a 2-1 loss. The deciding goal by Scott Mayfield deflected in off the stick of defenseman Anton Stralman 38 seconds after Aleksander Barkov tied things up in the third period.
In the season-series finale on December 12 at the BB&T Center, Bobrovsky turned aside 27 of 29 shots, surrendering a pair of second period power-play goals in another close game that the Islanders went on to win by a 3-1 count.
If the regular season is any indication, Florida goals will be at a premium in the play-in round, so Bobrovsky will likely need to recapture at least some of the magic he displayed in the 2019 playoffs, when he backstopped the Columbus Blue Jackets to a huge upset over the heavily-favored Tampa Bay Lightning.
If he doesn’t, the Cats could find themselves ousted again in similar fashion to the extremely frustrating loss to New York in 2016. His two performances against the Islanders this season are encouraging, but he might need to be a little bit better to out-duel his counterpart on the other end and get his team to the next round.