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Chris Driedger Part of Florida Panthers Roster Changes for Game 2

After a Game 1 loss in which they allowed five goals, Joel Quenneville has decided to change things up and start Chris Driedger for Game 2.

Despite Chris Driedger having the far superior numbers, the Florida Panthers elected to start Sergei Bobrovsky for Game 1 of their series versus the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, after a 5-4 loss, head coach Joel Quenneville has decided to make a change, and announced this morning that Driedger will get the start in Game 2.

Related: Sam Bennett Suspended for Boarding Tampa Bay’s Blake Coleman

The Right Call

This is the right decision by the Panthers bench boss. As mentioned above, Driedger was the far better of the two during the regular season and as a result had many thinking he may start Game 1 of this series. In 23 games this season, he posted a 2.07 goals against average (GAA) along with a .927 save percentage (SV%), compared to Bobrovsky’s 2.91 GAA and .906 SV% in 31 games.

Chris Dreidger Florida Panthers
Chris Dreidger Florida Panthers

Just one season prior, he started the year in the AHL with the Springfield Thunderbirds but was called up to the Panthers early on and never looked back. In 12 games last season he had an even more impressive 2.05 GAA along with a .938 SV%. Given that he has only played in 38 career NHL games to this point, his lack of experience is somewhat concerning but it is hard to argue the results he has had so far.

Bobrovsky’s Contract Mess

If you were to take a look at the stats from this season, it would have been easy to pick who the Panthers starting goalie heading into the playoffs should have been, however it’s not quite that easy. During the 2019 offseason, Florida chose to sign Bobrovsky to a ridiculous seven-year, $70 million contract with a cap hit of $10 million.

At the time of the deal, Bobrovsky was regarded as one of, if not the best goalie in the entire NHL. His resume was very impressive, led by two Vezina Trophies in 2012-13 and 2016-17. Despite his accomplishments however, most questioned this deal given the extremely high cap hit along with the fact he was already 30-years-old.

Unfortunately for the Panthers, this deal so far has gone even worse than anyone had imagined, as Bobrovsky has been flat out bad since joining the team. Last season, he posted an ugly 3.23 GAA and a .900 SV% in 50 games. Most were hoping it was just an off year and he would bounce back, but so far that has not been the case. At 32-years-old, it is possible he can still re find his game and get back to being one of the leagues best, but it doesn’t seem likely at this point, making his contract arguably the worst in the entire NHL.

Driedger Playing for a Deal

Speaking of contracts, Driedger is set to become an unrestricted free agent at seasons end. While the Panthers would certainly like to have him back, his play during the regular season may have earned him a raise they simply cannot afford. If he is able to continue that play in the playoffs, he could command a very solid contract for a guy who was in the AHL just a season ago. Even more importantly, if he is able to play well, he could help his Panthers teammates knock off the defending Stanley Cup champs in the Lightning. This series is far from over and should be thrilling right down to the end.

Next: Oilers Need to Make Decision on Zack Kassian… If He’s Healthy

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