Shortly after Scott Clemmensen surrendered the second goal of the first period against the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday night, the boos began to rain down from the stands. A chant of “We want Markstrom” formed shortly after. It appeared that the Panthers crowd finally lost all patience with the veteran backstop, and for good reason: Clemmensen’s stats this year are simply subpar to say the least, and four crappy periods against the division rival Hurricanes would sink his numbers even further.
At intermission, the venom spewed in Clemmensen’s direction was reaching an all-time high: fans on Twitter demanded that Clemmensen be subbed out in favor of the young Jacob Markstrom, who was totally not in a position to play after not practicing for days and just getting his pads at around the time the puck dropped. At least a couple fans even maintained that they would refuse to renew their season tickets if Dineen didn’t pull Clemmensen. And maybe the Panthers coach might’ve consideredswitching the struggling netminder out in favor of the potentialed Swede, if he thought it would make any difference.
The sad truth about the Panthers and their goal-hemmorhaging ways is that they have only a little to do with the man in pads. On all three goals surrendered by the Panthers on Sunday night, Clemmensen could do little to stop the shot. The first was a bullet through traffic that he couldn’t have seen, after the Panthers couldn’t get the puck out of the zone. The second was the result of miscommuncation between the defensemen, leaving a cutting Alex Semin one-on-one with a shocked Clemmensen. The third was a one-timer in the slot from a guy that should’ve been picked up by somebody.
The rest of the team is leaving the goaltender out to dry, time in and time out.
And as talented and big as Markstrom is, even he can’t stop pucks when he can’t see them, or when guys are getting clean, easy looks on net. In fact, no goalie can or will do that regularly. Dineen knows that the problem with this Panthers team is the team defense, and not necessarily whoever is in net. Looking back at every one of these goals, it’s apparent that the problem started well before the puck was shot on goal.
In the first goal, the puck was never corralled in the Panthers’ defensive zone. Even the normally smooth Jonathan Huberdeau didn’t clear the puck out of the zone, and instead gave the puck right to Justin Faulk for his slap shot. And making the save even more difficult was Colby Robak, who should’ve followed the old adage for defenseman: if you’re not going to block the shot, get out of the way so the goalie can see it.
The second goal was a mess. Both defensemen, Brian Campbell and Erik Gudbranson, played the man with the puck – Eric Staal – and nobody even had an eye on the man slashing in – Alex Semin. He wound up getting a great pass and Clemmer had no chance.
The third goal was once again bad defending. Filip Kuba didn’t cover the slot after his fellow defenseman Tyson Strachan went behind the net to battle for the puck. Kuba was in no-man’s land once the puck made it under his stick and right on the tape of a wide-open Eric Staal.
Clearly it would be simplistic to blame only Clemmensen for these goals and the loss. The problem is in front of him, and his numbers are suffering because he has no help.
So tonight against the Winnipeg Jets, Jacob Markstrom will get the call, and Clemmensen will be in a backup role. We’ll see if the defense tightens up and makes some plays, but at this point there’s little guarentee of that, no matter who’s in goal.
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