Sergei Bobrovsky will have a chance to show he's still one of the top goalies in the NHL when the Florida Panthers play the New York Islanders in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, coach Joel Quenneville said Wednesday.
Signed to a seven-year contract by the Panthers on July 1, 2019, Bobrovsky was 23-19-6 in 50 games (48 starts) with a 3.23 goals-against average, .900 save percentage and one shutout. His goals-against average was the highest of his 10-season NHL career and his save percentage second-lowest (.899 for the Philadelphia Flyers in 2011-12).
Bobrovsky's performance in the qualifiers will be critical if Florida is to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where it would try win the Cup for the first time since entering the NHL in 1993-94.
"He's got a chance to win for us and to prove that he's a top goalie in the game," Quenneville told "The Joe Rose Show" on WQAM-AM. "But goaltending, especially right off the bat, it's going to be so important for teams. Everybody has to get a groove off the bat.
"I think [Bobrovsky] is doing everything he can to help himself. I think it's a great opportunity for him to put this season, where all of a sudden we're only going to remember how he finishes, and let's go from there. That could really add a lot of confidence to our team and [Bobrovsky] as well."
The Panthers are hoping Bobrovsky can find the form that made him a two-time winner of the Vezina Trophy voted as the best goalie in the NHL (2013, 2017) and helped the Columbus Blue Jackets sweep the Presidents' Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference First Round last season. He's healthy after missing Florida's final four games with a lower-body injury before the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
Video: FLA@LAK: Bobrovsky makes glove save on Schaller
He likely will be motivated after saying April 7 that his first season with the Panthers wasn't easy, trying to adjust to a new team, coach and surroundings.
"He has something to prove, and that's a good thing, so I expect him to be at the top of his game," Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said May 28. "And when he's at the top of his game, we have a chance to win. We're counting on him. We're relying on him and we expect big things from him."
Florida (35-26-8, .565 points percentage) enter the qualifiers as the No. 10 seed in the Eastern Conference and play the No. 7 seed, the Islanders (35-23-10, .588), in one of eight best-of-5 series. The winner will advance to the playoffs, and the loser will have a chance at the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft in the Second Phase of the NHL Draft Lottery.
Provided health and safety conditions allow and the NHL and NHL Players' Association reach an agreement on Phases 3 and 4 of the Return to Play Plan, training camps will open July 10. A start date for the qualifiers and hub cities -- one for the 12 participating Easten Conference teams, one for the 12 Western Conference teams -- have not been determined.
Bobrovsky is 16-10-0 with a 2.18 GAA, .928 save percentage and three shutouts in 27 games against the Islanders. He was 0-2-0 against New York this season, but had a 2.05 GAA and .938 save percentage.
"There will be reminders as we go into the series of how the Islanders played and what we have to be aware of," Quenneville said. "We felt we played pretty well against them all three games this year. We didn't beat them, but I think the games were all close and territorially we did some good things."
The Panthers were 0-2-1 in three games against the Islanders this season, losing 3-2 in a shootout on Oct. 12 (with Sam Montembeault in goal), 2-1 on Nov. 9 and 3-1 on Dec. 12.