Game 6 Preview: Driedger gets nod as Panthers look to sweep Detroit


Just a quick note. Due to my schedule being absolutely crowded, I am going to only do my recaps at the conclusion of each series.

SEASON SERIES

The Florida Panthers defeated the Detroit Red Wings in Overtime last night to extend their point streak to 5 games. The 3-2 victory came thanks to Aleksi Heponiemi. The 155 lb Finnish forward became the fourth player in NHL history to score his first career goal in the overtime frame of his debut game. Interestingly, this was a couple weeks after Krill Kaporizov became the third to do it for Minnesota. Kaproizov was the first to do it since 1990.

Last night’s game was brutal. The Panthers consistently played down to competition. Jonathan Huberdeau, Keith Yandle, Mackenzie Weegar and Carter Verehaege put in disappointing showings. However, Sergei Bobrovsky, Juho Lammikko, Aaron Ekblad and the aforementioned Heponiemi had strong showings. The Panthers got lucky with COVID stopping them from starting with Dallas and Carolina because they would’ve been through the woodchipper. The Panthers need a statement win tonight. The talent and skill is there. They’ve had an easy schedule and they need to play up to their potential.

THE RED WINGS

The 2-5-2 Red Wings put up a solid effort last night, but were unable to solve Sergei Bobrovsky after the first period. The Wings also lost Tyler Bertuzzi to an injury in the third period, a big blow. Bertuzzi is questionable to play tonight. If Bertuzzi is unable to go, one would expect to see Givani Smith slide in. The 22 year old Smith has one assist in three games this year. Thomas Greiss is expected to start back to back nights, as Jonathan Bernier will likely continue to sit out with an injury. Greiss had a great outing last night, as all of the Panthers goals involved a ton of hard work to score. Luke Glendening, who had a scary incident last night after being hit by Mackenzie Weegar is expected to play. Glendening had been left bleeding at the forehead from the Weegar hit, causing him to cut himself on the stanchion.

Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi scored last night for the Red Wings. Assuming Bertuzzi is out, I’d expect Mantha to fill his spot with Dylan Larkin and Bobby Ryan, and to ensure the continuity of the lineup, I’d expect Smith to get second line duties with Taro Hirose and Vladislav Namestinkov. I don’t expect any other lineup changes.

THE PANTHERS

The 4-0-1 Panthers hope to go to 5-0-1 before they return home for a three day break before taking on Nashville back to back Thursday and Friday. The Panthers will start Chris Driedger in net on the second half of the back to back, after a solid performance from Sergei Bobrovsky last night. Driedger is 1-0-1 with a .934 save percentage and a 1.92 GAA this season.

Other than Driedger starting, it is unlikely that the Panthers will make any other lineup moves. The leading candidate to be scratched is Yandle, and following last night where he scored, despite him taking two dumb penalties and making many defensive mistakes, he’ll most likely still be in the lineup. Owen Tippett could be scratched but I think it’s highly unlikely. Along with Heponiemi and Yandle, Sasha Barkov also added a goal to the scoring column.

PREDICTION

Sitting at 3-2 with predictions, with no correct score or correct GWG predictions, my prediction tonight is a 4-1 victory with the game winner coming off the stick of Aleksander Barkov.

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