With the Eastern Conference-leading Montreal Canadiens arriving for Sunday’s contest with the Florida Panthers less than 24 hours after playing in Tampa, you could make a reasonable assumption that the Cats, with ‘fresher legs’, would be in a spot to put the Habs under pressure from the opening face off. Seems like a logical theory but, in practice, it was absolutely wrong. After a three goal third period in a comeback win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, Montreal kept right on rolling in the first period Sunday, scoring two goals in the opening 8:42 on its way to a 5-2 rout.
After giving up a goal on the first shot in two consecutive games, Jacob Markstrom stopped the Habs first effort. The same can’t be said for the third shot, as David Desharnais scored with a wrister from the top of the left face off circle that beat Markstrom’s glove just 1:46 into the game. Michael Ryder doubled the lead with his deflection of PK Subban’s point shot for a 2-0 lead with less than ten minutes gone.
After settling down over the next 30 minutes of play, it looked like the Panthers might get out of the second period only down by that margin. However, late period goals from Montreal captain Brian Gionta and Francis Bouillon (of course, his first of the season) all but put the game on ice for the Canadiens.
Florida did show a little push back in the third, thanks to the third line of Tomas Kopecky-Shawn Matthias-Jack Skille. Kopecky was credited with a goal with what was a Bouillon own goal in reality eight minutes into the third. Matthias‘ goal, his seventh on the season, at 13:57 made things interesting until a Kris Versteeg holding penalty gave the Habs a power play two minutes later. Ryder made them pay for the mistake with his second deflection of a Subban point shot on the night ended the night with less than five minutes to play.
Over this three-game losing streak, the Panthers have been outscored 15-5 with two of the games coming on their home ice (but, make no mistake, Sunday’s game felt like the game took place at Centre Bell). With the season slowly slipping away (Florida is 8 back of the 8th sport in the East), and a schedule that features many more games on the road than at home, frustration is really starting to mount in the Panther dressing room. To wit, take a look at Matthias in Sunday’s media scrum:
Peter Mueller, who sat with full gear on, minus his sweater until the media began to shuffle out of the room had this to say about his squad’s play:
“We didn’t show up. It’s not fun, definitely not fun from the drop of the puck. We were out there for a minute and a half and they got the momentum just like that. We were battling up-ice since then.”
It doesn’t help that this loss comes on the heels of a Sunday morning report from the Ottawa Sun some Panthers might find themselves elsewhere in the near future. It’s not inconceivable that, in the very near future, Dale Tallon might look to move a player or two if he can get the right deal. Fans have been expecting some sort of move from him almost from the opening few weeks of the season. Is this loss the one that makes him decide to change some of the chess pieces on his board?
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MONTREAL CANADIENS: 16-5-4 (36PTS.) vs. FLORIDA PANTHERS: 7-12-6 (20 PTS.)
GAMEDAY SONG: Out In The Street
The past week of hockey for the Florida Panthers has been a repeat performance of the entire season. One word that you might use to describe the results is schizophrenic. After a solid win at home on Tuesday against the Winnipeg Jets, the Cats followed that up with a clunker in Washington on Thursday, and then a spirited effort at home against those same Jets Friday night, only to come up on the short end of the score. Again. The Panthers can’t seem to buy a two game winning streak, and probably would miss the handout if they were being given away. This is how the season has gone. When things are working and when they’re prepared, the Panthers compete. Yet when they start slow, such as they did both Thursday and Friday, they either never catch up, or when they do, they run out of gas in late in the game or in overtime. We’re at the midway point of the season and you would have hoped that by now the Panthers would have found some sort of happy medium.
With injuries mounting, and with the Jekyll and Hyde performance, the Panthers are running out of time and falling further behind the pack. Making the post season at this point is likely to happen only if the Panthers win the division. And that is an extremely tall order even now. Unless they can string some wins together soon, they’ll be on the outside looking in. Preparation has been an issue as the Cats are continually suffering from sluggish starts to games and falling behind quickly. Each game at this portion of the season now becomes a must win, and with that being said, we’ll try not to type that in each preview since we already know it to be so.
Tuesday night, the Florida Panthers scored five goals….and lost in overtime. Thursday night, the same Panthers squad only gave up one goal….and lost in overtime. Rene Bourque’s tip in 2:10 into overtime wasA all the visiting Montreal Canadiens would need as they downed the Cats 1-0.
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MONTREAL CANADIENS: 7-4-1 (15 PTS.) vs. FLORIDA PANTHERS: 4-6-2 (10 PTS.)
GAME DAY SONG: Man’s Job By Bruce Springsteen with Bobby King
The Montreal Canadiens play game two of their Florida road trip hoping for a better ending tonight then what they experienced in Tampa on Tuesday. After jumping out to a 3-0 lead against the Lightning, Tampa scored three unanswered goals in just over five minutes, with the game tying goal coming with 44 seconds left sending the tilt to overtime. Montreal held the Lightning to one shot on goal in the extra frame, but couldn’t solve Anders Lindback, who made six saves. Finally Montreal’s David Desharnais scored the only shootout goal to give the Habs the victory. Coach Michel Therrien hopes this was a learning experience for his team:
“You know what? We came to win this hockey game, and this is what we did,” Montreal coach Michel Therrien said. “And we were almost perfect for 54 minutes. We opened the door. We will learn from it.”
Whether Montreal just sat back for the last period, or Tampa decided to dig in their heals and show some character, it’s not the way Montreal wants to win. Despite the scare the Canadiens find themselves sitting in the 7th spot in the Eastern Conference, looking to gain more ground. Therrien who is in his second tour of duty with Montreal, has his team playing (from what I’ve seen) an uptempo style of hockey, utilizing team speed to their advantage. However holding on to leads seems to be an issue. In addition to that, Carey Price has played in 10 of 12 games and one has to wonder if he’ll keep that pace up. As of right now that puts him on track to play 40 of the 48 games, which could leave him gasping for air come playoff time. Whether that matters or not remains to be seen.
If you watched Monday night’s 4-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators, you probably figured that the Florida Panthers couldn’t play much worse than they did in that game. Then you get to Tuesday night’s 4-1 loss against the Montreal Canadiens and you realize that they were capable of ‘topping’ that effort. It was another night where Panthers skaters were poor in every phase of the game.
For the second straight game, Florida forwards failed to generate consistent offensive push, while only going 1-for-8 on the power play, including a five minute man advantage that included two minutes of 5-on-3. The penalty kill would fare no better, as they allowed two Andrei Markov goals. Another goal, the first of Alex Galchenyuk’s promising NHL career, came just six seconds after a Stephen Weiss penalty expired.
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FLORIDA PANTHERS: 1-1-0 (2 PTS.) vs. MONTREAL CANADIENS: 0-1-0 (0 PTS.)
GAME DAY SONG: Night. Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band.
After last night’s listless performance against the Ottawa Senators, the Florida Panthers will be back at it tonight against the Montreal Canadiens who are coming off a home opening loss against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. While the Habs are rested and likely better prepared, the Panthers cannot afford another sluggish performance. There’s no sense in rehashing last night’s debacle, but if you want the “scoop”, my popcorn spilling brother Dave Lasseter will fill you in.
Head coach Kevin Dineen didn’t look happy with last night’s performance and made this rather surly comment:
“Obviously we have to play a better road game and get a more well-rounded effort,”
On the positive side for the Panthers is that they swept the season series against Montreal last season for the first time in franchise history. Prior to that Montreal had beaten the Panthers 11 out of the last 15. Alex Kovalev who happens to be on a short reunion tour, will play in front of Canadian fans who will likely appreciate his talents more than those in Ottawa. Last night the skilled veteran heard mostly boos when touching the puck. Tonight’s reception promises to be different. As for Kovalev’s reaction, it doesn’t seem to faze him either way:
It’s great to get recognition,” said Kovalev with a smile. ”It means they still remember me.”
Coming into last season there wasn’t a lot of hype going around about the Florida Panthers, unless you call season long negativity hype. Although some people did believe they would be a much improved team with the additions of players such as Tomas Fleischmann, Brian Campbell, and Kris Versteeg, no one really expected such a big turnaround. The Panthers went onto shock the National Hockey League and a large part of their success was due to veteran goalie, Jose Theodore. Read the rest of this entry
The NHL lockout is tough on everybody: the players, owners, and especially the employees and fans. The greed of some affects the lifestyle of many, and the sport of hockey suffers as a result. There’s no hiding the fact that this lockout is horrible.
But if you choose to demonize the owners and blame them for the entire situation, keep in mind that not all owners are created the same. Perhaps some of them are being victimized just the same as those being locked out of money. Most of these owners would actually rather accept the NHLPA offers than lose an entire season to a lockout.
Consider the Panthers’ majority owner, Cliff Viner. Look at all the momentum the Panthers have developed over last year. The team had one of its most successful seasons in its young history, and captured South Florida’s attention ad they made their way to a Southeast Division title. Sportswriters were talking about them, games were being sold out, the tiredness that usually accompanied conversations about the Panthers replaced with excitement. Why would it make any sense for Viner to surrender an entire year and ruin all the positive vibes? It doesn’t.
Also look at the San Jose Sharks’ ownership group, Stratton Sclavos and Kevin Compton. They get sellouts every night at HP Arena and their team is a perennial Stanley Cup contender. But their nucleus is aging: Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau would both lose a year from their careers, and the chase for the Cup would get that much more difficult for San Jose.
Most teams find themselves in a similar boat as these two teams: the possibility of profit and attention is too high to pass up.
So if there are owners who would want hockey to be played, it begs the question of which owners are not as eager. Since only Bill Daly and Gary Bettman are allowed to speak for the NHL and the owners, nobody can be totally sure. Good guesses can be hazarded that the big-market teams are participating in driving down negotiations. Maybe a team like the Rangers or Canadiens would seriously demand a buy-out clause for players, and a team like the Maple Leafs or Bruins would balk at higher revenue-sharing. These teams, since they are a few of the real power players within the NHL, probably have more say in negotiations than the Panthers and Sharks of the league. At least we assume this, since the positions taken by the NHL in meetings seems slanted more for the richest teams in the league to benefit than the ones with lower budgets.
Whatever the case, there needs to be a realization among the owners in general that there needs to be sacrifice on their part in order to make a deal work and end the lockout. Some owners already recognize this, but a few are still in denial.
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Welcome to what will hopefully become a weekly staple here at Panther Parkway: The Friday Feature, where we have a friend of the site speak out on some of the issues of the game, and give us their honest and direct opinions with no strings attached. Up first is someone that I consider to not only be a good friend to me, the site, and many of you, but a person who’s opinion I am truly interested in hearing. You know him as “Coach K”. Who is he?
Kosta Papoulias (Better known as Coach K), is a radio personality and associate producer with the Web Sports Media Network. He appears regularly on Montreal Hockey Talk (www.montrealhockeytalk.com), a smash-mouth, uncensored Montreal Canadiens post-game show. Kosta has spent the better part of the last 18 years behind the bench at all levels of hockey, and speaks often to some of the best minds in the game, sharing his insight and analysis. Coach K lives near Montreal, with his loving wife of 13 years, Carole, and their 2 daughters, Amanda and Kristina.
Let’s get to it:
1) So Coach K, knowing the passion you have for the game, and the knowledge you have, I’m going to get right to it. What is your position on the NHL Lockout, specifically is one side more out of line than the other?