Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning Series Preview

Panthers

Tampa Bay Lightning vs Florida Panthers

 

 

From early on in the season it was apparent that there were three top teams in the Central Division. The Panthers, the Lightning, and the Hurricanes. With the Hurricanes winning the division that means we get to see the other Central Division matchup between the two teams from the sunshine state. The Panthers claimed 2nd place while the defending Stanley Cup Champions finished 3rd. The Panthers were one point behind the Canes for the Division crown with 79 points while the Lightning finished with 75 points. This will be the first playoff series between these two teams.

 

 

Season Series

Of the eight times these two teams met during the regular season there is a slight edge to the Panthers. They went 5-2-1 against the Lightning. The Panthers scored 31 goals in the series while the Lightning only scored 24. In the last two games of the regular season, these two teams played their 7th and 8th games against each other with the Panthers grabbing both games by a combined score of 9 to 1.

 

Tampa Bay Lightning

The defending Stanley Cup Champions finished 9th in league scoring with 3.21 goals per game average while having 2.59 goals allowed average which sits 6th in the league. Brayden Point was the team’s leading scoring both in the goal-scoring department and total points. Point scored 23 goals and tacked on 25 assists for a total of 48 points. Between the pipes, the Lightning have Andrei Vasilevskiy who appeared in 42 games in which he collected 31 wins posting a 2.21 GAA and a .925 SV%. The team has also played the whole year without its leading scorer from last season in Nikita Kucherov who is expected to return for the playoffs.

 

 

Florida Panthers

The Panthers are coming into these playoffs hot. Winners of six in a row including two against Tampa to close out the season. Florida sits tied 4th in the league with 3.36 goals per game and 10th with 2.70 goals allowed per game.  The goaltending for the Panthers this season has been a hell of a lot better than last season. Last year the Panthers were in the bottom 3 in the league in terms of goals allowed. The trio of Sergei Bobrovsky, Chris Driedger, and Spencer Knight has been spectacular. While Driedger has the better numbers with a 2.07 GAA and a .927 SV% the Panthers are more than likely going to start their $80 million goalies in Bobrovsky. With how well Driedger has played this year, expect Bobrovsky to be on a short leash.

The offense is lead by Jonathan Huberdeau who hit the 20 goal mark for the 5th time in his career. He finished with 20 goals and 41 assists to lead the team with 61 points. Captain Aleksander Barkov was the team’s goal-scoring leader with 26. The play of Carter Verhaeghe and Frank Vatrano has also played a large part in the success of the Panthers’ offense as they both contributed 18 goals this season. The trade deadline acquisition of Sam Bennett has also proven to be beneficial. In 10 games with the Panthers, Bennett scored six goals and registered nine assists.

 

 

Prediction

Regardless of how this series ends up, it will be a great one nonetheless. We should expect to see a very physical series between two teams that do not like each other. They are the two most penalized teams in the league. The Lightning being 1st with 597 PIM and the Panthers are 2nd with 568 PIM. It is really hard to bet against the defending Cup Champions and I find it very hard to believe they get bounced in round one. Especially with a handful of pieces returning the Lightning should be able to close out this series and make it to the 2nd round. Bugzy says Lightning in 6.

 

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