The Conference Semifinals get underway on Tuesday, with matchups from the Atlantic and Central Divisions. The President Trophy-winning Florida Panthers host the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning in the early contest.
The Panthers are one team were looking to target ahead of their Game 1 against the Lightning.
Of all the talented Panthers skaters who could have led the team in scoring through the opening round, Carter Verhaeghe is one of the least suspecting. Verhaeghe averages the 11th-most minutes on the Panthers and skates on the team’s second powerplay unit, averaging less than 30 seconds a contest. Still, the 26-year-old nearly doubled the next closest player in scoring, accumulating 12 points through the first six postseason games. We’re expecting him to carry that momentum into Game 1 against the Lightning.
Despite the limited playing time, Verhaeghe has some of the most noteworthy analytics. The former Niagara Ice Dog finished the first round with the fourth-best expected goals-for rating on the Panthers, ranked near the top of several categories. Verhaeghe was on the ice for the fourth-most scoring and third-most high-danger chances, with a 57.4% Corsi rating across all strengths. The winger didn’t miss, scoring on 40% of shots and elevating the team’s shooting percentage to 20% when he was on the ice.
Inevitably, Verhaeghe’s metrics will erode, but we’re not expecting that to start in Game 1. The Bolts come into tonight’s matchup on limited rest off a hard-fought series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Additionally, the Panthers benefit from last change, allowing them to get Verhaeghe matched up against the Lightning’s weaker units. Florida will have a chance to pot a few, and Verhaeghe should get involved early.