Game Day Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Florida Panthers. I Don’t Believe In Magic

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Jersey Fail? From last season. Image Property of Panther Parkway

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS: 9-6-0 (18 PTS.) vs. FLORIDA PANTHERS: 4-6-4 (12 PTS)

TSN GAME DAY

GAME DAY SONG: Counting On A Miracle

The Florida Panthers host the Toronto Maple Leafs this evening for the fourth and final game of what has been a dismal homestand so far.  Desperately needing a win, the Panthers will need to be firing on all cylinders tonight against a Leafs team that has won seven of their past 10 games, and is 6-2-0 on the road.  A win tonight by Toronto ties them with their best road start since 1940-1941 when they went 7-2-0. Despite losing goaltender James Reimer to a lower body injury last week, backup Ben Scrivens is coming off a 34 save shutout performance against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night. It was the first career shutout for Scrivens.  The Leafs are hoping performances similar to that continue, as the win was their fifth in their past six games following a lackluster outing in Carolina on Thursday.  Coach Randy Carlyle was displeased with the way his team played in that one:

Well, we got outworked in Raleigh,” Carlyle said. “We stated that and put that to our players that our commitment to the work ethic had to be to the higher level than it was in the last game.

One of the big stories for the Leafs this season has been the slow start of forward Phil Kessel who has only two goals after 15 games and didn’t get his first until game 11.  Streaky as Kessel is, he wasn’t without chances, as he’s taken 60 shots on goal this year so far.  Fortunately for Toronto they’ve been getting help from Tyler BozakJames Van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri.  Kadri who is finally getting regular ice time leads the team in scoring with four goals and eight assists for 12 points.  JVR leads in goals with eight, indicating that the change of scenery from always sunny in Philadelphia to Toronto has helped. The Leafs as a team are among the league leaders in goals for, and won’t make this an easy game for the Panthers.  Their defence is active with captain Dion Phaneuf and John-Michael Liles as the leaders of the blueline corps.

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Florida Panthers View From Above. Do You See What I See?

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From Above. Image Property of Panther Parkway

Some may find my writing or commentary here and on Twitter insensitive, negative or arrogant.  While that’s not who I am, I do take solace in being fair and truthful as I see and perceive things.  If you’re looking for an apologist or a “homer” that’s not me. If you want fair opinion, then you’re in the right place. This article is in response to many of the discussions that were had after Saturday’s loss to Tampa.

The Florida Panthers will complete their four game homestand tonight against the much improved Toronto Maple Leafs hoping to get at least one win out of the four games played here in Sunrise.  A rather disappointing week finds the Panthers with an 0-0-3 record on home ice in which they’ve squandered a two goal lead late in the game, not once, but twice.  Only to see both games lost shortly into overtime.  Those games saw the Panthers erupt for five goals in each tilt, but sandwiched between them was a 1-0 overtime shutout by Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens.  It seems as though the Florida Panthers score five goals, or no goals on their way to a consistently inconsistent season.

After this weeks overtime losses to division foes Washington and Tampa Bay,  many of the same mistakes that Panther fans have been accustomed to over the years began to raise their ugly heads again causing many probing questions, as well as some harsh remarks from the fan base.  Many are calling for the Panthers to get Jacob Markstrom here as fast as possible with confidence in Jose Theodore fading, and trust in Scott Clemmensen almost non existent.  The losing is certainly frustrating, and the fragility and lack of confidence in the team is clearly present.  Especially late in games.

While many are quick to judge and ready to pull the plug on the current goaltending tandem, to be fair, one must take a long hard look at what else is happening on the ice before making such a statement.  While this isn’t an apology for either Theodore, or Clemmensen, who both must be sharper and more consistent, there are a glut of other issues that contribute to this seasons erratic and frustrating play.  It was after a home game earlier in the year when Captain Ed Jovanovski commented in the dressing room that play in all three zones has to be better.  It was an issue more than 2 weeks ago, and it’s still an issue now.  Which brings us to the point of this article.

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