The Florida Panthers came out on top of a wild comeback thriller against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night. This was Florida’s first game in a week after their two game series against Carolina was postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the Hurricanes organization. Florida looked like the stronger team tonight but it wasn’t the prettiest of wins. Here are the takeaways from the game.
#1: Sergei Bobrovsky’s play put the Panthers in a hole early on.
After a subpar 2019-2020 campaign with the Panthers, the $70 million goalie looks like he hasn’t changed. In the opening minutes of the game, Bobrovsky gave up two weak goals on Columbus’ first two shots. After the Panthers clawed back to make it a 2-2 game, Bobrovsky let in a short handed goal on another saveable puck. The two-time Vezina winner couldn’t seem to find his groove in regulation despite his team keeping Columbus to just 17 shots through three periods. Bob stood his ground in the overtime and shootout, but he didn’t help his team at all by giving up those early goals. If his performance continues to hinder the team like this, promoting Chris Dreidger to the starter shouldn’t be out of the question.
#2: The penalty kill was spectacular, going 6/6.
It’s never a good sight when your team takes six penalties in a game. Luckily for Florida, their 12 penalty minutes didn’t lead to a goal against. The penalty kill (pk) unit was able to not only kill off all the penalties, but also generate a few short handed chances the other way. Each time Florida killed a penalty, it completely took the momentum away from Columbus. One of the six penalty kills came during the overtime when Frank Vatrano took a tripping penalty. The team had to kill a 4-on-3 to stay alive in the game. Last season the Panthers penalty kill ranked twentieth in the NHL with a 78.49 penalty killing percentage. An improved pk unit will be extremely valuable down the stretch in this condensed season.
#3: New Panthers shine once again.
Florida’s team looks completely different this season. The offseason acquisitions of Carter Verhaeghe, Patric Hornqvist, Alexander Wennberg and Anthony Duclair paid dividends tonight against Columbus. The four first-year Panthers combined for six points, while Hornqvist got the game-tying goal with two seconds left in regulation and the shootout winner. Florida moved to 3-0-0 for the first time in franchise history.
#4: The first line controlled the game from the jump.
Aleksander Barkov is known around the league as one of the best two-way centres in the game. Heading into this season, head coach Joel Quenneville decided to split up Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau to provide more balance across the top 6. As they did against Chicago, the line of Barkov, Verhaeghe and Duclair controlled the game. Columbus couldn’t find a way to stop the constant pressure from this unit. Between Verhaeghe winning loose puck battles, Duclair walking past defenders and Barkov ripping pucks towards goal, this line was nothing short of dominant. The three of them combined for two goals and five points on the night.
#5: Aleksander Barkov was more aggressive.
Throughout his career, Barkov has never been a selfish player, sometimes he was too unselfish for his own benefit. In the past Barkov often looked to dish the puck to his teammates rather than taking the shot himself. It looked like Barkov flipped a switch tonight, he came into the game with a shooter’s mentality. The captain led the game with eight shots on goal and found the back of the net once on a beautiful shot from the slot. An aggressive Barkov will keep goalies guessing and it will ultimately help evolve his game more as a two-way playmaking centre.