NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three important questions facing the Florida Panthers.
[Panthers 31 IN 31: Season preview | Top prospects | Behind the Numbers | Fantasy breakdown]
1. Will the Panthers get the best of Sergei Bobrovsky?
Bobrovsky fills a need for the Panthers, who used four goalies in 2018-19. But his goals-against average has increased and his save percentage has declined each season since leading the NHL in those categories in 2016-17, when he won the Vezina Trophy as the best goalie in the NHL for the second time.
Bobrovsky, who turns 31 on Sept. 20, led the NHL with nine shutouts and had a 2.58 GAA and .913 save percentage in 62 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets last season before agreeing to a seven-year contract with Florida on July 1. He had a 2.01 GAA and .932 save percentage in a four-game sweep of the Presidents' Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2019 Eastern Conference First Round.
During his introductory press conference July 2, Bobrovsky said he feels like he is entering his prime. The Panthers think so too.
"We wouldn't have made that commitment to him if we didn't think he still had that in him," general manager Dale Tallon said. "We feel very positive about him. He has an unbelievable attitude and his work ethic is second to none. He'll fit in nicely with [center Aleksander Barkov] and what our guys do as far as on-ice training and dedication to the game."
Video: Bobrovsky on signing seven-year deal with Panthers
2. Will they improve defensively?
New coach Joel Quenneville will preach responsibility and a commitment to doing things the right way. His system worked for the Chicago Blackhawks, who, with Quenneville as coach, allowed 2.52 goals-against per game from 2009-10 through 2016-17, tied for sixth in the NHL in that span. Chicago won the Stanley Cup three times (2010, 2013, 2015) and finished no worse than fourth in its division in those eight seasons.
The Panthers had the most giveaways in the NHL (1,234) and were 28th in goals-against (273; 3.33 per game) last season.
"It's going to be a work in progress, but we feel it's an area that we can improve upon," Quenneville said. "Whether it's exits cleaner, neater, but at the same time, without the puck we'll just try to simplify it. That's probably the biggest focus going into the season."
Video: 31 in 31: Florida Panthers 2019-20 season preview
3. How much of an impact will Joel Quenneville have?
Coming to a team with top young players like Barkov and defenseman Aaron Ekblad, each 23, who have yet to have success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is one reason Quenneville said he decided to return to coaching at age 60 after he was fired by the Blackhawks on Nov. 6, 2018.
Quenneville, who also coached the Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues, has guided his team to the playoffs 18 times in his 22 NHL seasons.
"He touches all the boxes," Tallon said. "His numbers speak for themselves. He's a champion. He has high expectations, yet he still makes it fun."
Video: Quenneville joins the show to talk Panthers hockey
Lead photo courtesy of Eliot J. Schechter/Florida Panthers