The Florida Panthers came into their first round series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning expecting goaltending to be one of their strengths, but with 4 games now played in that series it has been anything but. Although you would be mistaken to blame the 3 - 1 deficit they now face solely on the their goaltending, there's little doubt that both veteran goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and goaltender Chris Driedger have been outclassed by the Lightning's Andrei Vasilevsky thus far in the series.
Against the high powered offense of the Tampa Bay Lightning that means bad news and perhaps for that reason it would appear as though veteran head coach Joel Quenneville is looking at making a drastic change to his lineup with his team on the brink of elimination. Florida Panthers insider George Richards is now reporting that rookie goaltender Spencer Knight has been spotted in the starter's net ahead of the Panthers Sunday morning practice, with the more experienced goaltenders in the lineup, Driedger and Bobrovsky, splitting time at the other end of the ice.
It is important to note that this could be nothing but gamesmanship on the part of Quenneville, however I don't see what advantage he would expect to get from making it appear as though he is giving his rookie netminder the net in Game 5. The move is a shocking one given that Knight, a 20 year old former first round pick (13th overall) at the 2019 National Hockey League Entry Draft, has just 4 games of NHL experience under his belt all of which have come during the regular season.
Knight did have a good showing over those games however recording a 2.32 goals against average and a .919 save percentage, numbers that look very good in comparison to what the Panthers goaltending tandem has put together thus far in the playoffs.
Bobrovsky, the Panthers 10 million dollar man, has recorded an abysmal 5.33 goals against average and .841 save percentage over his 3 playoff appearances thus far and Driedger has not been much better with a 3.70 goals against average and a .871 save percentage thus far over his 3 appearances against the Lightning in this series.
Given that context I can certainly see why Quenneville feels this is a risk worth taking, especially given Knight's propensity to show up huge in clutch moments like when he led team U.S.A to a Gold Medal at the most recent World Junior Championship, but there's also no question that this will be a b ig gamble if Knight does indeed get the start.