In what has been overall up and down season for the Florida Panthers, the team continues to find their most consistant play from an unlikely source. While players like Jonathan Huberdeau and Shawn Matthias have given the Panthers several “wow” moments this season, it has been the reliable play of the team’s 2nd line that has been helping the team stay in most games this season.
While names like Tomas Kopecky, Tomas Fleischmann, and Marcel Goc might not jump off of a stat sheet or turn any heads, the combination of this European trio has shined for the Panthers in an overall somber season. Although a brief injury limited Marcel Goc early in this season, the eventual teaming of these three skaters has been one of the lone things to work for Kevin Dineen this season as he has constantly had to tweak his roster to adjust for countless injuries.
While Jonathan Huberdeau may be the team’s individual MVP this season, the team’s 2nd line as a unit has been the Panthers’ most valuable weapon. Through 42 games this season, the trio of Kopecky, Fleischmann, and Goc have combined for a grand total of 73 points – the most by any line on the team. In fact, even with Huberdeau’s fantastic rookie season and Matthias’ goal explosion in March, it is Fleischmann and Kopecky that currently sit atop the Panthers’ scoring list.
However, even with their impressive point totals, the effects of the Panthers’ hardworking trio can be felt outside of the goal column as well. On a team that has been bereft of back checking for a good portion of the season, the Panthers’ 2nd line has done all they can to aid their wary defense – currently holding 3 of the top 4 spots in takeaways.
The centerpiece of this talented trio for the majority of the season has been the hardworking German, Marcel Goc. Although the team has an abundance of talent at the center position starting to make their debuts, the organization made a wise decision when they decided not to move Goc’s cap-friendly contract at the trade deadline this season. Not only is Goc one of the better defensive forwards on the team, but with the departure of Jerred Smithson to Edmonton, he has become the team’s premier face-off specialist. In fact, Goc’s 340 face-off wins are good enough for first on the entire Panthers’ roster and 148 more than the next highest skater.
Although the Panthers’ are heading towards the end of a season that they will hope to forget, the discovery of this new three headed monster may bear fruit in during the 2013-2014 season. With the Kris Versteeg’s impending return form injury and Stephen Weiss‘ poetnetial return to the team next season, the powers that be may be tempted to dismantle this prosperous line in favor of reuniting the team’s premier line of the 2011-2012 season. Given how hard it has been for the Panthers to find consistency not only this season, but for many years prior, it may behoove the team to stick with what’s working. Until that time, Panthers’ fans should celebrate the work ethic and accomplishments for the team’s 2nd line for the remainder of this otherwise dreary season.
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