As the Carolina Hurricanes prepare for their third opponent of the postseason, head coach Rod Brind’Amour will have to use strategies from the last two series to prepare for the Florida Panthers.
The opening round against the New York Islanders taught this Canes team a lot about the physicality involved in the NHL playoffs. The Islanders brought some bite but were not quite talented enough to keep up with the boys from Raleigh.
In the second round, the New Jersey Devils reminded the Canes of the speed and youth that is coming to the forefront of the NHL. Teams like the Devils and New York Rangers terrorized the rest of the Metropolitan Division during the regular season.
Not nearly as physical as the Islanders, the Devils presented a much more skilled opponent with blazing speed.
Another huge difference between the first and second opponents was goaltending.
Ilya Sorokin is nominated as a Vezina Trophy finalist and the Devils had to juggle two goaltenders that played mediocre during the series.
Now come the Panthers squad in many ways is a hybrid between the Hurricanes’ first two opponents. Not quite the bruisers that the Islanders were but the Panthers have some players that will mirror the hate Matt Martin brought to Raleigh.
Not quite as fast as the Devils, the Panthers are not slow by any standard and have a very deep group of forwards with top-tier skill.
Goaltending is as you guessed it not quite as good as the Islanders but not as poor as the Devils. The Panthers used a trio of solid goalkeepers during the regular season with Sergei Bobrovsky leading the way in games played with 50. Spencer Knight assumed a lot of the starting goal while healthy but finished with only 21 games played.
Current backup, Alex Lyon, played in 15 contests and boasted the best GAA of the three with a 2.89 and 9 wins.
Like many past playoffs, the hot goaltender can win you a round or two or even the Cup. Having a two time Vezina Trophy winner in Bobrovsky is never a bad thing but he has gotten hot at the right time.
Bobrovsky has 7 wins in 10 games played this playoffs with a .918 save percentage and 2.82 GAA.
To win the Stanley Cup, you have the beat the best.
The first two rounds presented specific challenges that tested the Canes up and down the roster but now the mix of skill and grit will present a new challenge.
Ultimately this series will come down to whether Bobrovsky can stay hot and if so, can the Canes goaltending match.