Panthers have options to replace Barkov during his injury absence

It cannot be denied that replacing the captain Alexander Barkov in this Florida Panthers roster will be a tough task. Despite the difficulty, the Panthers were left with no other choice after Barkov left Tuesday’s game with a serious injury after a knee collision with New York Island defender Scott Mayfield. Barkov is listed as week to week, meaning that if he exceeds the minimum two-week timeline, the Panthers will need to replace his offensive and defensive production for at least the next eight games. follow theirs. Here’s how they can manage to do it.

Barkov .’s impressive year-out-of-year production

Barkov is an elite NHL center, especially in uniform strength. In 15 games this season, he has scored 17 points, with all but two of those points come with uniform intensity. If Max Pacioretty – who has played only two games so far this season – is eliminated, Barkov ranks forced for saturday of NHL forwards in ice goals for the percentage of people who watch more than 13 minutes of 5 innings per game.

In defence, Barkov has also caught up with where he left off last season. He’s an 11 plus, linking him with three others for the best plus minus rating among NHL centers. He averages more than 20 minutes in a game and lead all NHL . strikers in the lesson. All told, he is continuing to produce on both sides of the shot that has seen him win the Selke Trophy in 2021 as the league’s best defensive forward.

Replacing a player with better points per game and nine offensive goals is hard enough, but the Panthers will also need to replace Barkov’s product on the defensive side. That task was a big one five to five, but it also included replacing some of the few minutes he spent taking penalties. This is how they will try to do it.

The new top line of the Panthers

In Barkov’s absence, it appears that the first choice for interim head coach Andrew Brunette is the return of the lineup commonly known as ‘9-1-1’ featuring Sam Bennett, Anthony Duclair, and Jonathan Huberdeau, who wear the numbers nine, 10 and 11. respectively, Huberdeau and Bennett have been mainstays throughout the season, with Tuesday night’s game against the Islanders being the only time Huberdeau paired a central defender other than Bennett when both Both are healthy.

Sam Bennett Florida Panthers
Sam Bennett, Florida Panthers (Amy Irvin / Hockey writers)

Defensively, Duclair leads the league in plus/min between strikers, and Bennett is behind with a plus 10. Though some of Duclair’s defensive production can be attributed to playing with Barkov all season , this group of strikers remains an effective two-way unit. Duclair, widely known to be one of the fastest players in the game, has the pace needed to engage quickly and still be effective on the defensive. The coaching staff will expect him to do that to help make up for Barkov in charge of defence.

In terms of puck’s attack, this new line is not only fast, but also loves to shoot. While this new lineup may be able to bypass Barkov’s slot advantage, they will shoot the shot in a similar clip to the previous lineup of Duclair, Barkov and Carter Verhaeghe. Although Barkov leads the Panthers in terms of shots this season, Bennett remains behind and actually leads the team in shots per game played. This formation may not hold the edge in attack for as long as a Barkov lead, but they will use their speed and preference for long shots to score, resulting in plenty of attacking opportunities.

Ri ripples down the Panthers lineup

Barkov’s injury was the first real opportunity for the Panthers to test the impressive depth they’ve built up during the season. So far, Noel Acciari is the only Panther to be sidelined with an injury of any severity. Bennett, Anton Lundell and others have missed a few games, but nothing more than daily injuries. This time, however, the Panthers’ lines will fundamentally change.

In midfield, the most notable change will be the introduction of veteran striker Joe Thornton into the regular squad. Thornton has only played in six games so far this season, although he has had time to appear on second power play equipment while on the roster. He would step back steadily to center the third line between the first set of shots by Frank Vatrano and Owen Tippett. Expect Thornton’s ice time to increase significantly to the 14 or 15 minute mark, up from the current 10 minutes of ice he’s averaged this season.

Anton Lundell Florida Panthers
Anton Lundell Florida Panthers (Amy Irvin / Hockey writers)

In the second unit, rookie Anton Lundell will play a much larger role. Not only has he focused on Verhaeghe and Sam Reinhart, by far the best attacking talent he has played with in his youth career, but he is also more prominent in his ability to take penalties to help take the lead. important confrontation and ate up precious minutes vacated by Barkov’s injury. This is a great opportunity for Lundell to continue his two-way play and give the Panthers coaching staff confidence to deploy him in high-leverage, late-game situations.

When it comes to the fourth and final line of the striker corps, Brunette and the coaching staff maintain some impressive versatility. Any combination of Patric Hornqvist, Ryan Lomberg, Eetu Luostarinen and Maxim Mamin could be used before management even considers a potential call, such as Zac Dalpe, if Barkov needs time. on the injured reserve list.

What to see:

All that said, two main questions remain with the Panthers’ attempt to temporarily replace Barkov’s production. First, the new top lane will have to take on more attack payload than before. That work begins with Huberdeau, who has 15 points from 16 games. Despite the nearby points for each game, he will need to catch up on the scoring pace, as he has scored in just four Panthers competitions so far.

The second important question revolves around the increased responsibility for Lundell. Centering the second line, he will be relied upon for more ice time, winning key encounters in the defensive area and spending more time on penalty kills. Although for the first time in his career he gets to play with two offensively gifted peers, he will need to show his abilities to be a mini Barkov and excel in both. of the shot.

Ultimately, the Panthers played five times over the next 10 days, with four of those games meeting teams with a win percentage higher than .500. Without their captain, the task ahead is a tough one, but with the depth ahead of them, it’s a challenge they face. Panthers have options to replace Barkov during his injury absence

Subhankar Mondal

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