The Isles’ scoring woes this season have been well-documented, but one factor that will work in their favor is the Panthers’ underwhelming goaltending. Sergei Bobrovsky was the team’s primary goalie, starting in 48 of their 69 games. Nonetheless, he put together perhaps the worst season of his ten-year career.
Bobrovsky amassed just a .900 save percentage (SV%) and a 3.23 goals against average (GAA). Both were well below his career .917 SV% and 2.54 GAA. This is his first season in Florida, so perhaps his struggles were due to playing in a new environment. Regardless of the reason, it’s fair to say that the two-time Vezina Trophy-winner looked nothing like his past self.
The Islanders were much better in net. Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss largely shared the goalkeeping duties this season. Together, they combined for a .914 SV% and a 2.67 GAA.
The Panthers recorded 1,247 hits this season. That was nearly 700 hits less than the Islanders’ 1,915. One of the Isles’ strengths was their checking. They led the league with 28.2 hits per game. The Panthers were 27th in the NHL with just 18.1 hits per game. Perhaps the most telling stat here though is that Noel Acciari led the Panthers with 121 hits this season. The Islanders had five players who recorded more, including Matt Martin with a team-high 242.
The other area where the Panthers struggled was in blocking shots. Perhaps that is part of the reason why Bobrovsky struggled so much this season. The Panthers blocked just 978 shots this season while the Isles blocked 1,153.
Honorable Mention: Playing at Home
The Panthers have the distinction of being one of just five playoff teams to have a losing record at home (17-18-4) this season. A lack of a home advantage could have hurt the Panthers badly in a postseason where every advantage is needed.
Fortunately for Florida, the playoffs will be hosted at a neutral site this season. That should give each team the same home advantage, or lack thereof.