Chronicle extended stats by Billy Bertrand: Disappointing streak for Ben Chiarot

After by far the best regular season in their history, which earned them the Presidents’ Trophy, the Panthers’ journey came to an abrupt end at the Battle of Florida. They were swept away by the two-time defending champion in the second round. The Panthers are therefore walking out of the playoffs empty-handed after being aggressive in the trade market last year.

They traded their next three first-round picks to Sam Reinhart, Claude Giroux and Ben Chiarot. Reinhart had a great season with 82 points in 78 games and is part of the organization’s long-term plans, while Claude Giroux did his part in the playoffs with 8 points in 10 games. On the other hand, for Chiarot, the transaction quickly soured.

However, Chiarot and Florida seemed like a tailor-made duo. The Panthers had a historic attacking record of more than 4 goals per game, but they wanted to strengthen the blue line on both defense and resilience in order to set themselves up for the playoffs.

Chiarot met all criteria at the time of the transaction. A defensive defender who would solidify the left side of the blue line behind Mackenzie Weegar. A defender who has saved more than 150 shots in each of the last three seasons. And most importantly, a defender who knows what it takes to go far in the playoffs. After all, he was a crucial player in CH’s run to the Stanley Cup Finals last year, playing more than 25 minutes per game. He also had 56 playoff experience.

His start to the season was promising for Florida, with 8 points and a plus-4 difference in 20 games at nearly 21 minutes per game, but the Panthers had a very favorable schedule to end the year. In those 20 games since Chiarot took over, only 6 have been against teams that made the playoffs, including three games against Toronto.

As competition intensified in the playoffs, Chiarot’s contribution all but disappeared. He only broke the 20-minute mark once, in Game 6 against the Capitals, which required overtime. In terms of individual influence, Chiarot was one of the least prolific defenders of the organization on either end of the ice.

Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette gave him a lot of responsibility despite the reduced playing time, and Chiarot didn’t answer the call. He was second for the Panthers in terms of competition and second-bottom with just 31.7% of his appearances starting in the offensive zone. With all this time spent in the defensive zone, such minimal defensive effectiveness is very disappointing.

With the CH, Chiarot had also shown he could support attack when the opportunity presented itself, but that offensive zeal was nowhere to be found in the playoffs. Only Radko Gudas attempted fewer shots than him and with only 18 breakouts he offered almost nothing in the switching game. The 4 defenders before him have all scored at least 36. As a result, he has just one assist on his tally in 10 games.

Chiarot also found himself in the first pair with Aaron Ekblad starting Game 4 against Washington. Ekblad missed the end of the season through injury, preventing Chiarot from playing with him ahead of the playoffs to build chemistry with the star defender and the results speak for themselves. The Ekblad-Chiarot duo were completely outplayed as they shared the ice 5-5 while attempted shots went 85-52 in the opponent’s favour.

Of course, Chiarot isn’t the only player responsible for the Panthers’ dropouts. The power play was completely anemic with just one goal from 31 opportunities. The overall offensive has almost halved at just 2.30 goals per game. Even so, the Panthers paid top dollar for Chiarot and he didn’t take the call. Brunette couldn’t use him in favorable situations and Chiarot couldn’t up his game by a notch like he did for Montreal last year.

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