Florida Panthers: How Should Bob Boughner Manage His Goalies?

MONTREAL, QC - MARCH 19: James Reimer #34 celebrates with Roberto Luongo #1 of the Florida Panthers after defeating the Montreal Canadiens in the NHL game at the Bell Centre on March 19, 2018 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - MARCH 19: James Reimer #34 celebrates with Roberto Luongo #1 of the Florida Panthers after defeating the Montreal Canadiens in the NHL game at the Bell Centre on March 19, 2018 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Through great goaltending, the Florida Panthers surged to a win streak that was unrecognizable after they lost their opener in the Global Series.

The Florida Panthers have given up just seven goals across the win streak, the best in the NHL across this timeframe.

It would be rude not to give 39-year-old Roberto Luongo credit for this run of form. The veteran has made 123 saves across his first four starts in his return from the injury on opening night and has won all four of his starts convincingly.

Despite that, James Reimer has also stepped up lately; 70 saves across his last two starts, with only one goal conceded on even strength. The two were both unbelievable in guiding the Panthers from the back for the five straight wins.

Unfortunately, there’s always a caveat with the Panthers. Roberto Luongo has struggled massively with injuries, and playing him five times out of the last six is a recipe to re-injure their No. 1.

Suffering another injury to Luongo would be terrible for the Cats, as missing Luongo was a big reason for a lot of the losses after opening night.

Luongo may also be lacking confidence at the moment, as his defense has let him down a lot in the previous two games, giving up six to the Columbus Blue Jackets and four to the New York Rangers.

To go along with that, the Panthers’ Finland trip, which lasted eleven days, has put the Panthers well behind schedule with the rest of the NHL.

The Cats stand at eighth in the Atlantic, but the Panthers have played three fewer games than the Buffalo Sabres and Montreal Canadiens.

To catch up, the Panthers will have to play eight games across fifteen days, a brutal schedule which features seven games with only one day off and one game off no rest from the night before.

With this, Bob Boughner needs to manage both Luongo and Reimer appropriately across this next month to avoid any stress on either netminder. Here is the formula on how to do so:

It’s not as simple as ‘play Luongo against the good teams and bench him in the other games,’ every game across this next month isn’t necessarily a ‘gimme’ game.

All of our next three opponents – the Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Carolina Hurricanes – have tendencies to give Florida trouble.

Ottawa and Tampa Bay, are both teams that have been absolutely unstoppable on the offensive end, top five in goals for this season (Ottawa at five, Tampa Bay at two).

James Reimer should get the start Monday night against the Senators. Not only has Luongo been struggling as of late, giving up ten goals in his last two starts, but Reimer’s one start during the win streak was against Ottawa.

After giving up a late 1st-period goal to Ryan Dzingel, he bounced back by saving 34 of 35 shots in a 5-1 Panthers win.

It’ll be a must-win for Florida after the Panthers dropped their last two games in convincing style. This little extra two days off for Roberto Luongo means that he should be ready for a Floridian clash between the Panthers and the Lightning.

Roberto opened the season versus Tampa Bay, saving 12 of 12 shots against the Bolts before being pulled due to injury.

Tampa Bay is a team that Florida tends to play well with when Luongo is on form, so the rest for him has to come Monday.

The tricky question is the two games after that, away to Carolina this Friday, followed by a home game with the Chicago Blackhawks less than 24 hours after puck drop in Raleigh.

With both goalies relatively fresh at this point, it’s a big choice to make for Bob Boughner for the team to take as many points as possible.

As controversial as it may be based on how the two opponents have been this year, Roberto Luongo should get the start versus Carolina.

The Hurricanes are a team the Panthers struggle to beat in Raleigh, with the Panthers winless in Carolina since 2016.

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The Canes also love to pound the net with shots from all angles, whether it’s Dougie Hamilton from the point or Sebastian Aho from the flanks.

The Hurricanes’ center depth pride themselves on creating rebounds and Luongo’s rebound control has been miles ahead of Reimer’s this year.

This means that James Reimer would get the start versus the Blackhawks. The Blackhawks have been in poor form lately, and behind the fans (and hopefully, some momentum if he plays Monday), he can propel himself to a top performance.

Reimer has had a better history in recent years than Luongo, with Reimer shutting out Chicago in March 2017, while Luongo gave up four in November 2017.

Chicago is a faster team with players like Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat, and Reimer’s quickness in the crease may help neutralize the Hawks’ quick-paced passes across the slot.

From that next week on, I think Boughner should go based on momentum. Play the hot hand in net versus the New Jersey Devils, who have already topped Reimer this year, but to be fair, the majority of those goals weren’t his fault.

The Devils shouldn’t be a game that the Panthers should have to stress about too much right now, so determine who a consistent number one goalie is then and there for a massive homestand for the Panthers, which features marquee matchups including the Buffalo Sabres, Boston Bruins, and Colorado Avalanche.

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At that point, the Panthers should know their consistent number one for the rest of the season, and hopefully ready to turn around this inconsistent start.