Game Day Preview: Maple Leafs vs. Panthers. We Had It Once, We Ain’t Got It Anymore.

FLORIDA PANTHERS: 21-27-7 (49 PTS.) vs. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS: 30-21-6 (66 PTS.)

TSN GAMEDAY

GAME DAY SONG: Downbound Train,  Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band

After a rough road four game road trip that started out well, the Florida Panthers come home for two quick games in hopes of getting themselves back on track.  With the thought of giving up 20 goals over four games the pressure to climb back into a fading playoff spot won’t get any easier this evening when the Toronto Maple Leafs come to town.  The Leafs who were struggling just a month ago are now a zesty 10-1-1 over their last 12 games as they hit their stride just before the Olympic break.

The Leafs are led by Phil Kessel who was named the second star of the month for January as he piled up 20 points in 15 games and now has 30 goals and 31 assists for 61 points in 57 games.  With his hat trick on Saturday against Ottawa, Kessel scored 30 goals for the 6th time in his career.

As the Leafs surge upwards in the Atlantic division, they now have a total of 6 players who have scored in double digits.  James van Riemsdyk who’s having a breakout season is second in scoring with 22 goals and 45 points, followed by the enigmatic Nazem Kadri, Joffrey Lupul and Mason Raymond and Tyler Bozak.

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Game Day Preview: Panthers vs. Maple Leafs. One False Move, And Baby The Lights Go Out.

FLORIDA PANTHERS: 21-25-7 (49 PTS.) vs. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS: 28-21-6 (62 PTS.)

TSN GAMEDAY

GAME DAY SONG:  The hauntingly perfect Point Blank from 1978, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

After a thrilling and emotional come from behind victory in Detroit on Sunday, the Florida Panthers got beaned in Boston Tuesday night by a score of 6-2.  While the Panthers have had some real character wins this season, it’s difficult to come back from a 4 goal deficit especially against a team like the Boston Bruins.  The Panthers weren’t in the game from the beginning, as the Bruins were all over them putting 19 shots on goal in the opening period.  If not for Tim Thomas, it could have been over in the first 20 minutes.

Slow starts and the excuses for them are beginning to get old, but let’s put that into perspective.  The Panthers have given up the first goal of the game in 33 of 53 games.  Despite the fact that they’ve managed some comebacks, their record is 8-21-4 when the opposition scores first.  That right there will be the biggest factor keeping Florida out of the post season, which as we know is a pipe dream anyway, but at one point there was some hope.  Let’s be brutaly honest, it appears now that any chance has all but faded.

Let’s admit as well that Boston is one of the elite teams in the East, and very difficult to play against.  However when you sit both Erik Gudbranson and Krys Barch two of your most physical players, you don’t stand much of a chance to compete with a team like the Bruins who are known for being nasty, as well as skilled.  Understanding the decision to keep those players out of Tuesday’s game isn’t easy.  Which again points to the fact that the Panthers must be more physical overall, otherwise teams will continue to push them around.

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Five NHL Players on Santa’s Naughty List This Year

Growing up, children are taught that if they are good all year long Santa Clause will leave them a bounty of presents on Christmas morning. However, if you happen to spend your year being naughty instead of nice, then Santa will instead leave a large lump of coal in your stocking.

While the NHL may follow its own set of rules, it doesn’t mean that the happenings on an ice rink are hidden from Santa’s watchful eye. Although fighting and tough play are accepted and usually praised during hockey games, it doesn’t mean that these altercations sit well with the big guy up at the North Pole.

No, no, Santa is a fan of good behavior first and foremost and checks his NHL allegiances at the door as Christmas day approaches. With only a few days remaining, Saint Nick has already made his list and at this point is almost certainly checking it twice.

Here is a look at which NHL players may be receiving a lump of coal over the fireplace this holiday season.

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Game Day Preview: Panthers vs. Maple Leafs. From The Muscle To The Bone

FLORIDA PANTHERS: 12-17-5 (29 PTS.) vs. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (17-14-3) 37 PTS

TSN GAMEDAY

GAME DAY SONG: We Take Care Of Our Own. Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band

Don’t look now, but the Florida Panthers have a three game winning streak, and have won five of their last six games, including two victories against the Detroit Red Wings.  On Saturday the Cats beat the Montreal Canadiens in one of their most complete performances of the season so far, even though it looked as if for the final 90 seconds Florida was looking for a life preserver.  Scott Clemmenson made 17 saves, which isn’t many, but a few of them were spectacular, and the Panthers will likely call on him tonight, with Tim Thomas still sidelined by a recurring groin injury.

In addition to the solid play from Clemmensen in goal, the Panthers were making desperate plays on the penalty kill as players were using their bodies and sticks to dive and deflect passes in order to help their embattled netminder.  It was a total effort by the Panthers, something that they hope will continue.  Sunday’s victory now gives new head coach Peter Horachek a 9-8-1 record since taking over for the fired Kevin Dineen.  You may say that record isn’t much to brag about, yet when considering where Florida was prior to the coaching change, you’d find yourself to be quite pleased with what Horachek’s been able to accomplish so far.  In addition to their enthused play, the team as a whole has minimized it’s mistakes, and has focused more on defence in all three zones, while still finding ways to generate offence.

Tonight’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, won’t be too much different than the game against Montreal Sunday.  The Leafs play a similar style, using their quickess and tenacity on the puck.  Toronto has five players with 10 or more goals, led by Phil Kessel who has 17 and James van Riemsdyk who has 14,  The Leafs who played last night against the Pittsburgh Penguins, are coming off a 7-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday, which was preceeded by a 6-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues.  Just as it appears, the Leafs are struggling with a bit of consistency as well.  Prior to last night’s game against Pittsburgh, the Leafs were 3-5-2 in their past 10 games, as they look to hang on to a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division.

As Kessel and van Riemsdyk lead Toronto offensively, they still seem to be waiting for free agent David Clarkson to find his groove.  Clarkson who has been suspended two times this season, has scored only twice in 23 games, and has a total of five points.  Not even close to the output that Toronto was looking for when they signed him to a long term contract this summer.

Captain Dion Phaneuf headlines the defence, and Phaneuf recently returned to the lineup himself after serving a two game suspension of his own for a hit from behind of Boston Bruin Kevan Millar.  Hopefully the time off was used wisely by Phaneuf, and  gave him time to shine some of his many shoes (if you didn’t watch NHL 24/7 you won’t get that).

In goal, James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier are sharing the duties with Bernier getting the bulk of the starts with 23.  Their numbers are somewhat identical, as coach Randy Carlyle tries to stick with the hot hand.

The Panthers would be wise to stay out of the penalty box tonight as the Leafs have the third best power play in the league going into Monday’s action.  Florida’s penalty killing still sits at the bottom of the league as the Panthers have only killed 74 percent of the chances against.

The Leafs are playing back to back games, and the Panthers are rested as they didn’t play Monday.  A solid first period, and a simple game is what they’ll need to have tonight.  Based on the way they’ve played lately, it’s not out of the question to expect a victory, especially if the Leafs can’t find their legs.  Florida will have to play as hard as they did against Montreal though.

HOT STUFF

* Phil Kessel has 11 points in 11 games.

* Dylan Olsen has 6 points in 6 games.

No games are gimmies, and no games are ever won before they start.  If the Panthers feel that they have any chance to get themselves in position for a post season run, they’ll have to take care of their own business first before relying on favors elsewhere.  And that starts with beating teams in their division, which lately they seem to be doing.

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.

Panther Parkway Noon Headlines: You Can Play, Steve Ott, Phil Kessel, and More!

What better way to spend your lunch break than catching up on all of last night’s amazing NHL action that you may have missed! Here are the top stories and videos from the all of yesterday’s action around the NHL.

 

  • Watch Steve Ott’s new and “unique” face-off technique.

 

  • Anton Volchenkov has been suspended 4 games for his hit on Brad Marchand. [NHL.com]

 

  • Blues’ goaltender Brian Elliot notched his 3rd straight shutout on Thursday night. [TSN]

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Home Stand Ends With A Thud As Leafs Blank Panthers

Maybe the road will be kinder to the Florida Panthers than the confines of the BB&T Center have been. The Panthers were shutout for the third time in five games as they dropped a 3-0 decision to the Toronto Maples Leafs Monday night. The loss closes out a disappointing home stand that saw the Cats lose all four games, collecting three out of a possible eight points.
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Game Day Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Florida Panthers. I Don’t Believe In Magic

leafs

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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