Panthers’ Best Goal and Save of November

After a month in which they fought their way to a 4-8-3 record it’s safe to say that the Panthers’ November campaign was not without controversy. From the firing of head coach Kevin Dineen to the trading of former top-line forward Kris Versteeg, the team began to once again push forward towards a new identity.

While the Cats still find themselves a far cry from a playoff team, they have begun to show improvement under the watchful eye of new head coach Peter Horachek. Even in many of their defeats the team has shown signs of turning it around as the once lowly Florida franchise continues it’s rebuild toward consistency and prominence.

On the ice, the save and goal shown in the videos below aptly demonstrated where the team hopes they are heading – forward.

Best Goal: Aleksander Barkov (11/10/13 vs. New York Rangers)

On the surface this goal by Panthers’ rookie Aleksander Barkov may seem rather pedestrian, but it is the complete series of events that leads to the goal that make it noteworthy. From the crisp passes to the almost zen-like patience of the young Fin, Barkov picks his moments perfectly and helps the team net a rare powerplay goal.

Best Save: Tim Thomas (11/19/13 vs. Vancouver Canucks)

While Tim Thomas may have already amassed a handful of highlight reel saves in his tenure as a Panther, I have decided to choose a series of saves rather than just one particular moment for this month’s top spot. After having already stopped 27 of 29 shots on the evening, Thomas helped will the Panthers to possibly their most impressive victory of the season as he stopped all three Canucks’ shooters in the Cats’ 3-2 shootout victory.

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Panthers vs. Senators. I’m Tired Of Waiting For Tomorrow To Come.

FLORIDA PANTHERS: 3-9-4 (10 PTS.) vs. OTTAWA SENATORS: 6-6-4 (16 PTS.)

TSN GAMEDAY

GAME DAY SONGBetter Days, Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band

A seven game losing streak that saw the Florida Panthers struggle to play consistent, and spirited hockey resulted in the firing of head coach Kevin Dineen and his coaching staff (Craig Ramsey and Gord Murphy).  While the inability to put together a solid effort for a full 60 minutes was the main factor of the teams’ losing streak, there are some other issues that need to be corrected.  Offensively challenged, the Panthers have scored only 12 goals during the seven game tailspin, and have the worst power play in the league with only five goals scored with the man advantage.  Making matters worse, they’ve been outscored 27-9 on the road, and have only 2 power play goals in 32 chances in opposing buildings.

New coach Peter Horachek and his assistants, both former Panthers, (Brian Skrudland and John Madden) will have little time to implement many changes, anthe players will be expected to perform.  Horachek is a no nonsense coach, and says that the players will have to take responsibility for their actions:

“We have to take a bigger, better approach on how we approach our day and how we approach ourselves,” he said. “Are we prepared to practice, are we prepared to play? And how we want to go about that. What kind of team do we want to be? Do we want to be individuals or do we want to start playing the way we’re capable of playing?”

Sounds like Horachek expects a culture change immediately, and has also stated that he wants the Panthers to play “harder and faster”.  The Panthers will have to do so without their most consistent player so far this season, Jesse Winchester, who received a three game suspension for his elbow to the head of Boston’s Chris Kelly.  Winchester who was signed as a free agent this summer by Dale Tallon has been energetic, hard working, and consistent in each game he’s played.  Brad Boyes, who was in Dineen’s doghouse could get a chance to get back in the lineup, and from an offensive standpoint, that could be a plus.  However Boyes will need to pay attention to his play at both ends of the ice, or find himself watching games instead of playing them.

The Panthers could also benefit from Tim Thomas who is expected to return to the lineup tonight after missing time with a groin injury.  It’s not a secret that the Panthers seem to play better with Thomas in net, and his return combined with the change in coaching just might get the Cats going.  The bonding will have to take place quickly as the Panthers will embark on a five game western road swing next week.  There’s still time to turn the season around, however you should expect more moves coming in the future if things don’t improve.  GM Dale Tallon who is not at all pleased with where the team is made this comment to Ottawa reporters Friday:

“we need our better players to play better or I have to get better players.”

These same individuals who may have been holding their sticks too tight, or just not giving effort now have to answer for themselves.  Not to say that they cost Dineen his job, but as we all know you can’t fire 22 players, so making the change with Kevin is just the first step.  Tallon has been working the phones trying to make a deal, or two, and has the full support of new owner Vincent Viola.  The players will now have to buckle down, and forget about the past and move forward under the new regime.

The Senators who always play well against the Panthers in Ottawa (winning the last 6) will be looking for their third consecutive win, and will be riding the hot hand of goaltender Robin Lehner who is playing for Craig Anderson who has been out with a stiff neck.  That’s good news for the Panthers since Anderson is 9-1-1 against his former team, with a 1.90 GAA.  Florida would be wise to keep their eyes on Bobby Ryan who has 9 goals and 9 assists as well as Jason Speeza who has 8 goals and 8 assists himself.

The adrenalin of a new coach could see the Panthers come out flying, but let’s be patient.  Things will change, but time is needed to get things in order.  Nonetheless, if Horachek can get the Panthers to use their speed, be more responsible defensively, and make smarter decisions, a turnaround is possible.  Horachek has his work cut out for him, but the players are all under the microscope more than ever before.

THE HOT LIST:

* Erik Karlsson has 9 points in 6 games.

* Bobby Ryan has 8 points in 4 games.

* Kyle Turris has 7 points in 5 games.

* Scottie Upshall has 4 points in 4 games.

COLD AS ICE:

* Tomas Kopecky has 0 points in 16 games.

* Colin Greening has 0 points in 10 games.

Thanks for reading.  We welcome your comments and opinions.

Follow the Panther Parkway crew on Twitter: Frank Rekas @FrankRekas, David Lasseter @davidlasseter , Paige Lewis @PaigeLewisFL, Jameson Cooper @JamesonCoop, and Amanda Land @HockeyGirl2530.  Also, please join our FaceBook Fan Page and hit the like button, send us photos, and tell us what’s on your mind.

Panthers vs. Bruins. Like Just Another Stranger Waiting To Get Blown Away

FLORIDA PANTHERS: 3-8-4 (10 PTS.) vs. BOSTON BRUINS: 8-5-1 (17 PTS.)

GAME DAY SONG: Point Blank, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

After a six game homestand which many thought would help the Florida Panthers get out of their early season funk, the Cats now find themselves on a three game road swing that takes them to Boston tonight, and then onto Ottawa and New York to play the Rangers this Saturday and Sunday.  Did I mention that the Panthers are also in the midst of a six game losing streak? A road trip like this isn’t necessarily meant to be the antidote for what ails them, however things could be much worse, and maybe a little bonding away from the Florida sunshine might do them some good.

With the way the Panthers are playing lately it’s hard to find anything positive to talk about.  Playing a full 60 minutes has been the major issue with this club, and it was on display again with their overtime loss on Tuesday to the Edmonton Oilers.  A team by the way who’s given up the most goals in the NHL, and has exactly one more win than the Panthers.  Florida has now lost to Edmonton, Buffalo, and Philadelphia.  Those three opponents, and the Panthers find themselves bringing up the rear of the NHL.

The organization must turn things around immediately or risk losing an already fragile fan base that’s been patient to this point.  New ownership which was the first step taken this season, has promised to make the necessary moves to put a winning product on the ice, and those moves could be and should be imminent.  While waiting for the “other shoe to drop”, general manager Dale Tallon has given head coach Kevin Dineen a vote of confidence, despite the teams horrifically dismal performance.  Tallon had this to say after Tuesday’s loss:

“There will be changes though,” Tallon said outside the arena. “I don’t make rash decisions. None of us are happy. I have to fix this and I will. We’re better than this.”

You’ll find more quotes and analysis here from George Richards at the Miami Herald.  While Tallon has indicated that changes will be made, the sooner they happen the better so that players who aren’t going anywhere can play with less nervousness than they already have.  The Panthers had four complete days off last week, and that may have been the perfect time to make a change, but now that there have been two more losses, this bunch is likely the most fragile it’s been.  Adding to the pressure is the fact that after this short three game roadie, the Panthers come home to play Anaheim on Tuesday, then embark on a five game Western conference road swing.  The season is on the brink, and that road trip could be damaging for the balance of the season if they’re aren’t a few wins after they come home.  So with eight of the next nine games on the road, Florida has their work cut out for them.

Rather than discuss the matchup for tonight, it’s time to realize that a shakeup is in order.  Jameson Olive wrote a fantastic article yesterday, and everything he says is spot on.  The hard part of all this is that the Panthers are stuck in a losing environment that isn’t healthy, especially for the youth of the organization.  We can talk till we’re blue in the face about putting together a 60 minute effort, tighten up the defence, etc, etc.  But unless there are results, and quickly, this movie that seems to be on a spiral, will kill the season.  And we aren’t even at Thanksgiving.

Many feel that building through the draft and sprinkling in some free agents and a subtle trade or two is the way to make yourself competitive, the Florida Panthers are having zero success with that formula.  This team can’t wait for this summer to spend money on free agents, and make bold trades.  The time is here to act, and do so in a big way.  The team needs a superstar, or at least two highly skilled players to help turn this around.  In addition, by having those players now, it will be easier to attract some of the bigger free agents next season.  The Panthers haven’t had a goal scorer for years, something that isn’t a secret.  Suffice it to say, Olli Jokinen was the last real scoring threat the Panthers had, and he was traded away for two defencemen, and ultimately Olli’s points were never replaced.

It’s hard to say what happens on this three game stint, but if anyone thinks that keeping games close, only to lose late or in overtime is acceptable, then you better have your pulse checked.  This is a results oriented business, and right now the Panthers aren’t getting results.  It will take more than a bandaid to fix what ails this team, and it’s apparent that management is full aware of that.  It doesn’t matter if you think that Dineen has “lost the room” or if the players as a group just aren’t connecting, they’ve all had a full training camp and 15 games to work out the kinks.  The inevitable is going to happen.  The only question is, who will remain standing when it’s all over.

P.S.  Watch the vintage recording of today’s game day song.   Classic Bruce.

Thanks for reading.  We welcome your comments and opinions.

Follow the Panther Parkway crew on Twitter: Frank Rekas @FrankRekas, David Lasseter @davidlasseter , Paige Lewis @PaigeLewisFL, Jameson Cooper @JamesonCoop, and Amanda Land @HockeyGirl2530.  Also, please join our FaceBook Fan Page and hit the like button, send us photos, and tell us what’s on your mind.

The Florida Panthers Are Looking For Answers.

With the young season only 12 games old, the Florida Panthers have come out of the gate in the same fashion that they’ve started most of their games……flat.  With one game remaining on their current six game homestand, the Panthers currently sit 7th out of 8 teams in the Atlantic Division, and 13th overall in the Eastern Conference.  Their record of 3-7-2, which to me reads 3-9, is a record that could easily be anywhere from 7-4-1 to 5-5-2.  Though many didn’t pick the Panthers to be in the post season at year end, the slow start raises many questions as the team looks for answers to their losing record and inconsistent play.

As one tries to find out why the team is so inconsistent, the situation becomes more puzzling since the Panthers are doing so with a healthy roster.  Sans Ed Jovanovski who is still not ready to comeback from injury, and the recent groin injury to goaltender Tim Thomas, the Panthers are a very healthy bunch.  They were told to show up to training camp in shape, as opposed to out of it, which many were in last year’s lockout shortened season.  Last season’s team was battered with injuries from start to finish, and as many as eight (or was it nine) different players made their NHL debut so that the team could play with a full roster. On many nights it was blatantly obvious as to why the team was struggling much as it did.

This year the only thing that’s been constant is the teams’ ability to be perfectly inconsistent. 

The poor starts, which have occurred in 3 of 5 games on this home stand are the main reason that Florida owns the record they have.  Playing a full 60 minutes has been a problem for this team that dates back to the days of Jacques Martin, then to Peter DeBoer, and now unfortunately to Kevin Dineen.  The difference is that with the prior two coaches the games ended poorly, rather than started poorly.  Then the Panthers were giving up goals late, now they’re giving up goals early.  As I said earlier, the first two weeks aren’t a real gauge for the performance of a team.  Four weeks in, we now are seeing things becoming habit forming, and playing from behind every night is a sure fire way to miss the post season.

Offense

It’s not just the poor starts that are concerning, because once they get their “legs”, they do play a relatively competitive game. But when you’re only recording 2.166 goals per game, and missing the net more times than not, those poor starts will come back to haunt you. Buffalo’s Jhonas Enroth made 44 saves Friday night but 17 additional shots were blocked, and 17 more weren’t even close.  Add to that there have been many point blank chances that haven’t been converted, and many opportunities that were foiled because of a pass first mentality.  There’s also the cuteness factor that creeps in at the most inopportune time.  Fancy plays and backdoor passes have caused more than a handful of odd man rushes against.

Scottie Upshall and Tomas Kopecky are still looking for their first marker, and Shawn Matthias finally found the back of the net for the first time of the season Sunday.

Defence

The team defence seems to be very porous most of the time, and is giving up an average of 3.5 goals per game, while offensively they are only scoring 2.166 per game.  In two of their 12 games the Panthers gave up seven goals, and during Friday night’s loss to Buffalo, a team they clearly outplayed, they surrendered a 1-0 lead in the 1st period and lost 3-1, while taking 45 shots. Another issue with the defence is that they have only scored twice.  Matt Gilroy and Dmitry Kulikov have one goal a piece, while Brian Campbell, Tom Gilbert, Erik Gudbranson and Mike Weaver (who isn’t expected to score) are all scoreless.

Identity/Chemistry

The team seems to be lacking an identity.  Most nights it’s a dump and chase game, but if you aren’t winning the battles to the puck, it’s more like dump and go for a line change.  Coach Kevin Dineen has been doing his best to find the right formula for his lines.  It’s been a difficult task as he looks for the right mix.  12 games in, one would have thought that there would be at least one trio that had some chemistry. In fact, Fleischmann, Barkov, and Boyes were the 4th highest scoring line in hockey up until Brad Boyes was sent to the 3rd/4th line for a few games. Even though Brad Boyes has emerged as the top goal scorer with five, his defensive lapses (we knew this would happen) almost landed him in the press box Sunday.  Boyes was spared that embarrassment as Tomas Fleischmann sat out with the flu, and Boyes scored his team leading 5th goal, and the lone shootout goal in the loss to Tampa.

Special Teams

Both special teams units are in the bottom third of the league with the power play sitting 29th and the penalty kill at 21st.  The lack of net presence on the power play has been a long time problem for this team that just won’t go away.  No one has been able to take the place of Gary Roberts, (and that was five years ago) and stand in front of the net and act as a screen to the goaltender, or be available for a deflection or scoop up a rebound.  As for the Penalty Kill, Mike Weaver and Jesse Winchester have been bright spots on the PK, but unfortunately that’s the only positive thing you can really say.

The problems are small in nature, but when you add them all up, the Panthers are digging a hole the size of the Grand Canyon.  While the team seems to play better in front of Tim Thomas, Jacob Markstrom has been inconsistent in the games he has played, and at some point he needs to steal a game… or three. To this point, and realizing that he’s played less than 100 NHL games, he hasn’t lived up to the hype.  Yet is he a victim of poor defence, or do his mechanics still need refining?  The fat rebounds that he gives up suggest yes to both, however when he comes out to challenge shooters, you find yourself saying, “that’s more like it”. It’s very concerning.

Finally, does the lack of motivation and or intensity at the beginning of games fall to the coaching staff or to the players?  A quick start and the ability to play with a lead changes your mentality and your energy level.  It can set the pace for a game, and allow a team to play to their strengths instead of having their weaknesses exposed.  Veteran goaltender Tim Thomas said it perfectly a couple weeks ago before the game against Pittsburgh.  “I’m tired of losing”.  The team responded with a win, but it hasn’t carried forward.  Losing creates frustration, bad habits, and an atmosphere that doesn’t bode well for young players.  The Panthers were off Monday, spent Tuesday as a “team building day”, and are back at practice today.  With their next game Friday night against the St. Louis Blues, they have time to regroup and find some answers to these concerns.

It’s all well and fine to appreciate the resiliency and late comebacks, but the points you lose now are too hard to make up later.  In order for the Panthers to get themselves back on track, they’ll need to “get back to basics”.  A cliche that is just one of about 50 that we’re all growing weary of hearing.

Thanks for reading.  We welcome your comments and opinions.

Follow the Panther Parkway crew on Twitter: Frank Rekas @FrankRekas, David Lasseter @davidlasseter , Paige Lewis @PaigeLewisFL, Jameson Cooper @JamesonCoop, and Amanda Land @HockeyGirl2530.  Also, please join our FaceBook Fan Page and hit the like button, send us photos, and tell us what’s on your mind.

Game Day Preview: Lightning vs. Panthers. There’s No Where We Can Hide

GAME DAY SONG: DEMONS by Imagine Dragons

This is not so much of a preview as it is more of a brief analysis of the Florida Panthers after their frustrating 3-1 loss to Buffalo Friday night.  With a record of 3-7-1, the Panthers could easily be 7-3-1 if not for a few bad bounces, a few missed scoring opportunities, and of course a full 60 minute effort.  Let’s not forget running into a hot goaltender here and there as well.  Friday night’s loss to the Buffalo Sabres has to be one of the most aggravating losses this franchise has seen in recent memory.  The Panthers controlled the entire first period by outshooting and outplaying the lowly Sabres, and took a 1-0 lead into intermission.  But we’ve seen this scrmipt before, and the ending is usually the same. The next 40 minutes the Panthers did what I mentioned in my game day preview that they shouldn’t do……they gave the Sabres an ounce of hope, and Buffalo used it to score three unanswered goals (one an empty netter) and leave with only their second win of the season.

The Panthers recorded 45 shots on goal against backup Jhonas Enroth who looked like a Vezina Trophy winner last night.  However, there were numerous scoring chances that the Panthers weren’t able to take advantage of.  Tomas Fleischmann, Shawn Matthias and Kris Versteeg all had glorious chances to score, but didn’t finish.  In all the Panthers took aim at Enroth a total of 79 times, but only 45 were counted as saves, as 17 were blocked, and 17 missed the mark.  The inability to capitalize on scoring chances, and the inability to find accuracy in their shots has plauged Florida like a bad fungus which won’t go away. Consistently being inconsistent isn’t a virtue to be proud of, and this Panthers’ team has been guilty of it far too long.  Coach Kevin Dineen is looking for answers:

“It’s a hard loss for us,” a sullen coach Kevin Dineen said. “At the end of it, we weren’t trading chance-for-chance. It was three or four then one against. It’s just the quality of that one chance against. .-.-.

“We’re still looking for that complete effort on both sides of the puck. We couldn’t crack that nut out there and that’s the frustrating part of the game.”

In addition, the Panthers who lack overall physicality have had trouble with their emotions at times.  Steve Ott, Buffalo’s co-captain, and known agitator, did his job Friday night by getting under the tatoo’s of Panther defenceman Erik Gudbranson.  The two dropped the gloves and danced a bit at the close of the first period, however the officials became involved immediately by doing their best to separate the two.  Both received five for fighting, and it was Gudbranson who received another five minute fighting major in the second period when he fought Cody McCormick just after Rasmus Ristolainen scored his first NHL goal, tying the game at one.  While I certainly don’t mind Gudbranson getting his hands dirty, the Panthers can ill afford to have one of their defencemen miss 10 minutes of ice time in less than 20 minutes of hockey.

The Panthers who were coming off a very solid performance against the Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday, seem to be looking not only for an identity, but answers as to why they are struggling so much.  Kevin Dineen has tried so many line combinations already, he makes Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville look tame in doing so.  However, Dineen is attempting to send a message with the shuffling, but also he’s benched Scottie Upshall, and will bench Brad Boyes (the teams leading goal scorer) tonight for performance.  Dineen is most upset with the defence of Boyes, and is apparently willing to sacrifice his offence to teach the veteran a lesson.

One of the biggest flaws in their game right now is the lack of net presence both at even strength and on the power play.  Very little traffic has been generated in front of opposition goaltenders, and the opportunities for shots off of rebounds have been almost non existent.  Garbage goals as they are often called can make the difference in tighly battled contests.  Unless you’re in position to get them, they’ll never happen.

With four games under their belt on this current six game homestand the Panthers have a measly 3 points to show for it, despite the effort, which overall has been above average.  Yet it seems that there are times that the team is still learning when to step on the oppponent’s throat and close games out.  The balance of young and veteran players is fairly even, and it would appear that there is enough experience in the room, and on the bench to know what needs to be done.  There are times however, like Friday night that you wonder.  When the Panthers play a fancy game, it always catches up to them, and the mentality of pass first needs to go out the window.

Tampa comes to town after playing Buffalo Saturday night, and while you hope they might be suffering a bit from fatigue, Florida needs to worry about their own persona, and focus on getting the job.  Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis will give Florida enough to keep their hands full, and because of those two, defensively the Panthers best be on their toes.

The Panthers held a closed practice on Saturday at the BB & T Center, and had a closed door, players only meeting afterwards.  Both are signs of knowing that there’s a problem or set of problems that need to be fixed.  A victory tonight will go a long way in fixing whatever ails this team, yet you want to see it more consistently of course.  As winning one game won’t cure everything.  A loss, and depending on how the loss happens will only add to the frustration, and could potentially force something to happen.  What that something is the Panther brass will need to figure out.

Don’t forgot tonight’s game starts at 5:00 P.M.

Thanks for reading.  We welcome your comments and opinions.

Follow the Panther Parkway crew on Twitter: Frank Rekas @FrankRekas, David Lasseter @davidlasseter , Paige Lewis @PaigeLewisFL, Jameson Cooper @JamesonCoop, and Amanda Land @HockeyGirl2530.  Also, please join our FaceBook Fan Page and hit the like button, send us photos, and tell us what’s on your mind.

Sean Bergenheim Earns Point in Return to Panthers After 18 Month Absence

Nearly 18 months since his last game with the Florida Panthers, forward Sean Bergenheim made his return to the lineup on Friday night against the struggling Buffalo Sabres.

Last seen in an NHL game during Game 7 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals against the New Jersey Devils, Bergenheim missed all of the lockout-shortened 2012-2013 season and the first 10 games of this season while recovering from multiple lower-body injuries.

“It’s been a while, but I don’t feel that it’s been that long,” Bergenheim told Alain Poupart after the Panthers’ morning skate. “When I look at how many months it’s been since I played, I don’t feel that on the ice. I don’t feel it’s been that long. I’m really happy to be back. For sure, I missed this.”

Having earned a career-best 17 goals during the 2011-2012 season, and three goals and three assists in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Bergenheim’s scoring abilities should be a welcome addition to a Panthers team that currently sits near the bottom of team scoring in the NHL.

Luckily for the Panthers, Bergenheim didn’t take long to dust off the cobwebs and get back on the score sheet as a crisp pass to Jesse Winchester gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead at 13:58 in the first period.

“It wasn’t pretty, but it was great to see Bergy (Bergenheim) get in on it, especially so early on in the game,” Winchester said. “Hopefully he can build on that for the next one.”

Still adjusting back to the rigors of competitive hockey, Bergenheim played 6:33 through the first two periods of play while being eased back into the lineup by Panthers’ Head Coach Kevin Dineen. However, after looking impressive throughout the first two periods, Bergenheim briefly made his way off of the 4th line and earned a personal game-high 5:26 TOI during the 3rd period as the Panthers tried desperately to get puck past Sabres’ goaltender Jhonas Enroth who stopped a staggering 44 of 45 shots.

“I thought Bergy had a solid game”, said Dineen. “He made good solid plays and was in there creating offense. A lot of try and a lot of push, but unfortunately like the rest of us he couldn’t find the back of the net.”

Unfortunately for the Panthers, Bergenheim’s return to the lineup was not enough to spark the team to a much-needed victory as the Panthers fell to the Sabres 3-1 behind an astounding performance by goaltender Jhonas Enroth.

While it may be hard to continue to find silver linings for the Panthers as the losses continue to pile up, the addition of Bergenheim’s scoring ability and energy should help bolster the team’s struggling offense.

Bergenheim will look to build on his early success as the Panthers welcome their cross-state rivals, the Tampa Bay Lightning, Sunday at 5:00 p.m.

Thanks for reading and we welcome your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Game Day Preview: Wild vs. Panthers. Including Thoughts On A Slow Start

MINNESOTA WILD: 3-3-2 (8 PTS.) vs. FLORIDA PANTHERS: 2-6-0 (4 PTS.)

TSN GAMEDAY

Game Day Song: Adam Raised A Cain, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band

With frustration building, and losses mounting, the intensity of today’s game day song expresses what many may feel. Not necessarily the words, but the tone.  After what could be called a valiant effort Thursday night against the Boston Bruins, the Florida Panthers came up short……again.  At some point you’d have to think that this Panthers’ team would be rewarded for their effort, yet there are too many problems that continually cause the end result.  You can pick anything from slow starts, to not burying chances, to sloppy defence, to playing a style that was meant more for the 90’s than now.  The bottom line is, the Florida Panthers continued inconsistency has to give at some point.  Add to that, it appears that each game that is lost, a new way of doing it evolves, and Thursday’s last minute goal by Boston’s Reilly Smith proved it.

Eight games into the young season, the Panthers are looking for answers that hopefully will be found on this current six game homestand, but if things don’t turn quickly, the season will begin to slip away.  Not that anyone has aspirations of making the playoffs, but if that isn’t at least your base objective, then what is?  The Panthers currently sit 13th in the Eastern conference, and 7th in the Atlantic division.  They’ve given up a conference worst 31 goals, and have scored only 18 themselves.  Players like Shawn Matthias, Brian Campbell, Scottie Upshall, and surprisingly Tomas Kopecky are all looking for their first goal of the season.  Campbell is already averaging 25 minutes of TOI, and looks as thought he’s trying to do too much.

Speaking of Campbell, the defence looks out of sorts most of the time, and even though head coach Kevin Dineen has tried numerous line changes with the forwards, he’s basically stuck with the same defensive pairings with the exception of sitting Ryan Whitney for Matt Gilroy.  It could be time for Dineen to take a look at some different combinations on the blueline. As for goaltending, Tim Thomas just returned from injury on Thursday and looked good overall after missing four games, but Jacob Markstrom hasn’t.  Early goals which plagued the youngster last season are still an issue, and big juicy rebounds which aren’t entirely his fault need to be reduced.  Not to be a “Debbie downer” this early into the campaign, Florida needs to find a formula for consistency that will give them success.  Even if it’s in little spurts, but the cliche’s have already become tiresome.

The Minnesota Wild come to town tonight riding a two game losing streak, but are 9-3-1 overall against the Panthers.  A team known for having a stingy defence, and usual solid goaltending, the NorthStars Wild are streaky at best this season themselves.  There must be a problem when Matt Cooke is tied for the team lead in scoring with six points, and Dany Heatley has yet to score a goal.  However Heatley, a former 50 goal scorer seems to be a mere shadow of himself lately, and his lack of scoring could indicate that he’s at the downside of his career.  At only 32 years old, one would hope that’s not the case, but Heatley needs to freewheel in order to be effective, and he may not have that opportunity in Minnesota.

Zach Parise leads in goals with 4, and for the money he’s earning he better.  Ryan Suter is Ryan Suter, but he’s averaging 29:00 minutes of ice time already.  Should that pace continue, he’ll likely collapse by Christmas, and become worthless the balance of the season.  These two players will determine the fate of this Wild team, and while Minnesota doesn’t scare or overpower you, their style of play is meant to be low scoring, and with very good goaltending from Josh Harding, they make you earn your wins.

Florida needs to find some sort of identity that will allow them to make some progress.  Taking things one game at a time is fine, but if there isn’t some improvement soon, we’ll be staring a top 3 draft pick in the face again.  The dump and chase style of play doesn’t work, or at least not for all four lines.  Brian Campbell is a puck moving defenceman, and he really should be moving the puck either himself more, or making more north-south passes.  The team has speed.  Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said so, yet it’s frustrating not seeing it.  The defence needs to be more aware, focusing on clearing players and pucks from the crease, and not allow as many second chances.  Less shots that are 55 feet away from the goaltender in honor of David Booth would be a welcomed sight as well.

At some point the players need to decide that playing a full 60 minutes is the only way they’re going to win.  Until they do, it’s going to continue to be a frustrating season.  Slow starts and cute plays both have contributed to the overall inconsistency, and until that is corrected, the frustration will continue.  It’s a long season, and even though the roster made some late training camp additions, the core of this team has played for a couple seasons.  The chemistry should be better.  Why it’s not is concerning.  This Minnesota team is beatable, but like any other game, the Panthers must work hard, stop the fancy shmancy, and play as a team.  They can’t continue trying to be something they’re not.

Final note, this will be the first game against his hometown team for Panther forward Nick Bjugstad.  Hopefully he’ll be able to make a lasting impression.

Thanks for reading.  We welcome your comments and opinions.

Follow the Panther Parkway crew on Twitter: Frank Rekas @FrankRekas, David Lasseter @davidlasseter , Paige Lewis @PaigeLewisFL, Jameson Cooper @JamesonCoop, and Amanda Land @HockeyGirl2530.  Also, please join our FaceBook Fan Page and hit the like button, send us photos, and tell us what’s on your mind.

Late Goal Spoils Tim Thomas’ Big Night (Quotes)

Sunrise, Fla. — Over a year of controversy and anticipation came down to just the final 59 seconds of Thursday night’s game as a bouncing puck made its’ way past Panthers’ goaltender Tim Thomas to give his former team, the Boston Bruins, a heartbreaking 3-2 victory in front of a divided crowd at the BB&T Center.

Thomas, a longtime staple of the professional sports culture in Boston, suited up for the first time against the Bruins since his controversial decision to take a leave of absence following the 2011-2012 season. While with the Bruins, Thomas earned a  921 SV% / 2.48 GAA with a career record of 196-121-45 in 378 games played.

Based on his history with Boston – both positive and negative – it suffices to say that this wasn’t just a normal regular season matchup by any means for either party involved.

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Panthers Begin Crucial Six-Game Home Stand

Sunrise, Fla. — After losing five of their first seven games, the Florida Panthers will look to get back on the right track against the Boston Bruins on Thursday night as they begin a crucial six-game home stand at the BB&T Center. Amazingly, even with their early struggles this season, the Panthers don’t find themselves too deep in the cellar of the Eastern Conference standings just yet.

Coming off a 4-3 road loss to the Nashville Predators, the Panthers currently sit in 7th place in the newly formed Atlantic Division, but have yet to lose too much ground in the Eastern Conference standings as the Western Conference continues to dominate their eastern opponents in the early stages of this season’s inter-conference match-ups.

If the Panthers hope to amend the current course of their season, they will begin with the daunting task of besting last season’s Eastern Conference champions, the Boston Bruins.

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Game Day Preview: Penguins vs. Panthers. Always The Same

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: 3-0-0 (6 PTS.) vs. FLORIDA PANTHERS: 1-3-0 (2 PTS.)

TSN GAMEDAY

GAME DAY SONG:  KINGS OF LEON: ALWAYS THE SAME

 After a week on the road, the Florida Panthers will finally come home to the friendly confines of south Florida and the BB & T Center to host the Pittsburgh Penguins for their home opener.  The only good thing about the four game road swing was game one, which the Panthers played a very complete game to beat Dallas 4-2.  Since then it’s been a downward sprial with losses to St. Louis, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay.  It’s not only that the Panthers have lost three in a row, it’s the way they’ve lost, which has to leave a bad taste in their mouths.

The shellacking in St. Louis, and the beating received in Tampa surrounded a valiant effort In Philadelphia.  However, there is no column for effort, and things need to turn quickly.  The Panthers who have been outscored 16-3 in the three losses must tighten up their defence for one, and must forecheck and backcheck better as well.  Both were problems last season with an injury riddled team.  A reversal of fortune was expected with the addition of veterans Tom Gilbert and Ryan Whitney on defence.   The turnaround has yet to materialize.

[Read more...]

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