Florida Panthers Boast Best Goalie Tandem in League

Florida Panthers Goalie

Photo Credit: @FlaPanthers via X

Sunrise, FL – The Florida Panthers goalie room runs deep. If you didn’t have the benefit of reading their names or looking at their contracts, you’d be hard-pressed to figure out who their starter is and who their backup is.

In one corner, you have a guy who is allowing a league-best 2.06 goals per game with a .926 save percentage in 26 games.

That’s the backup.

Anthony Stolarz

His name is Anthony Stolarz, and he was signed by Florida over the offseason for one year and $1.1 million. His job was originally to give starting goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky an occasional break while his original backup, Spencer Knight, began the 2023-24 season in Charlotte, the Panthers’ American Hockey League affiliate. Knight was Bobrovsky’s backup and the expected starter-in-waiting before he entered the National Hockey League’s Player Assistant Program late in the 2022-23 regular season.

Stolarz’s aforementioned “occasional” start turned into a more regular amount of playing time. As the season progressed. The 30-year-old Stolarz has played 26 games to Bobrovsky’s 58.

The incredible thing about this split is: Bobrovsky hasn’t been injured, and he hasn’t underperformed. Stolarz’s performance is just too good to keep him off the ice.

“(Stolarz) has worked hard to change his game to get better,” Panthers head coach Paul Maurice after Stolarz’s shutout win against the Ottawa Senators April 9. “He’s just improved his game from training camp to where is now.”

That 2-0 win against Ottawa was Stolarz’s second shutout of the year, with the other one coming at the Buffalo Sabres in February. 

Stolarz is a New Jersey native who made his debut with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2016. He made a one-year stop with the Edmonton Oilers before playing for the Anaheim Ducks for the last four seasons before signing with Florida last offseason. 

“I try to cherish every time I go out there, and it’s obviously special, what we do,” Stolarz said. “Looking at my career path coming in here, I kind of knew that there’s an opportunity to do something special with his team. Obviously, getting to know everyone and seeing how hard the guys work. You get that close to the Stanley Cup last year and just kind of see how hungry everyone is this year. It’s exciting to be a part of.”

Sergei Bobrovsky

Bobrovsky, on the other hand, is allowing just 2.37 goals per game with a .915 save percentage. The Florida Panthers are the only team in the league with two goaltenders in the top-10 of goals allowed per game (with at least 25 games played).

“(The value Stolarz has provided is) immeasurable,” Maurice said. “Because beyond the numbers – which are league leading in some departments – he’s also been a really important relationship guy with Sergei. They get along incredibly well, support each other, cheer for each other. And that’s a really important thing for Sergei, to have someone to cheer for, and that cheers for him. They’re unique, they got a really good thing going.”

“We kind of push each other in practice,” Stolarz said of Bobrovsky after a 4-3 shootout win against the Montreal Canadiens on Feb. 29. “I think that’s the biggest thing. He’s obviously a great teammate, a great person, and I’ve really enjoyed my time with him. So I’m just trying to pick up as many things as I can. His work ethic is top notch. So obviously every day in practice trying to match his level of intensity has made me a better goalie.”

Stolarz is expected to start in net on Tuesday’s season finale against the Toronto Maple Leafs with playof seeding and home-ice advantage already clinched for the first round.

“I’m usually kind of packing up right now and getting ready to go home,” Stolarz said after his last start on April 9. “So to be in the hunt, and obviously in playoffs, is huge and exciting.

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