Panthers' Driedger picks up shutout in first NHL start with Bobrovsky benched

Chris Driedger took advantage of his opportunity on Saturday night as the Florida Panthers' $70 million man continues to struggle this season. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

It hasn’t been a secret that the goaltending situation has been a bit of a disaster in the early stages of the Florida Panthers’ 2019-20 season.

Therefore, when hockey fans see the squad knocked off the Nashville Predators 3-0 at BB&T Center on Saturday night, they may be surprised to find out the man that recorded the 27-save shutout wasn’t named Sergei Bobrovsky or Sam Montembeault.

Making the first start of his NHL career, Chris Driedger stopped every shot fired his way to propel the Panthers to victory. His calm, steady performance came after it was revealed earlier on Saturday that Bobrovsky would be benched in favour of Driedger.

He is the first netminder in franchise history to record a shutout in the first start of his NHL career, according to NHL Public Relations.

“Honestly, I’m speechless,” Driedger said after the game, according to David Dwork of WPLG Local 10 News. “It’s been a long time coming... This is pretty surreal right now. I’m kinda cloud-nineing.”

The 25-year-old was called up from the Springfield Thunderbirds — Florida’s AHL affiliate — on Monday after Montembeault was sent down.

Before Saturday’s contest, Driedger had played a total of 95 minutes in the NHL spread over three appearances with the Ottawa Senators in three different seasons. His last NHL action came on Oct. 28, 2016 against the Calgary Flames.

In the AHL this season, Driedger owns a 6-8-0 record along with a sparkling 2.09 GAA (third in the league) and .938 SV% (first).

His performance on Saturday helped snap the Panthers’ three-game losing skid and makes things a little more interesting in the team’s crease moving forward. Despite the shutout, Florida’s 3.46 goals against per game still leaves the team fourth-last in the NHL. While the team currently sits second in the Atlantic Division, both Bobrovsky and Montembeault sport a goals against average over 3.30 and save percentage below .890.

With all of these things in mind, George Richards of The Athletic believes Driedger will likely get the start against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday.

In case you need a reminder, Bobrovsky is currently in the first season of the seven-year, $70 million deal he inked with the Panthers over the summer.

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