FLORIDA PANTHERS: 13-24-6 (32 PTS.) vs. NEW JERSEY DEVILS: 16-17-10 (42 PTS.)
GAMEDAY SONG: Symptoms-Atlas Genius
The New Jersey Devils tonight’s opponent for the Florida Panthers were on one of the franchise’s worst losing streaks until they finally shutout the Philadelphia Flyers 3-0 on Thursday. The blanking of the Flyers was the 121st of his career for Devils netminder Martin Brodeur. The Devils had previously been 0-6-4 in the previous 10 games, and saw themselves drop from seventh to 12th in the Eastern Conference prior to the tilt against the Flyers. Prior to the start of Friday night’s games, the Devils had moved up to 11th behind Buffalo and Winnipeg, and have a game at hand, with five left on the schedule for them.
New Jersey who are a dead last in the league in scoring with only 99 goals on the year are looking for their first two game winning streak since March 21-23, and don’t have a winning streak longer than five games. If the Devils were to miss the playoffs it would be for only the second time in 13 seasons. From where they sit currently, they trail the New York Rangers by six points, so their work is cut out for them with little room for mistakes to be made. They’ll play the Rangers two more times before the season ends, with the final game coming on the last day of the season, meaning this could go down to the wire.
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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.
After Saturday night’s pasting by the Carolina Hurricanes, the Florida Panthers started out the game with much more zip and energy. Unfortunately for them, Canes goaltender Cam Ward showed up. Again. Out shooting the Hurricanes 12-9, Ward made all 12 saves to hold the Panthers scoreless in the first while Carolina scored twice on Panther’s netminder Scott Clemmensen.
The Canes would score again in the second period when Jordan Staal put one past Clemmensen, making it 3-0. A which would hold up until Panther rookie Jonathan Huberdeau tipped in a Peter Mueller cross ice pass to give the Panthers life in the closing minutes of the middle period. The score would remain 3-1 until the closing minute of the final frame when Huberdeau scored again with the Panther net empty for the extra skater to make it 3-2 with 55 seconds left.
The Panthers seemed to play two different games having energy in the first, a lull for most of the second and third, then showing some life late in the third. But too little too late once again, as they just ran out of time. Clemmensen was visibly upset after the game, spoke quickly and softly and said:
“It’s a 60 minute game. And we all have to play 60 minutes”.
On a night in which the Florida Panthers played possibly one of their best all-around games of the season, the unlucky Cats still could not pull off a victory over the Buffalo Sabres, inevitably losing 4-3 in a shootout.
The action at the BB&T Center kicked off early on on Thursday night as George Parros and John Scott squared off for a heavyweight bout only 2:37 into the game. Although Parros was able to get in a few good punches, Scott eventually dropped Parros’ to his knees – giving him his second victory against the veteran figther this season. Parros last chance to beat Scott this year will come when the Panthers face the Sabres for the final time during the regular season on March 28th.
After the dust had settled from the brawl, the real action got underway as the Panthers and Sabres combined for an astounding 5 goals during the first period of play alone. Although he was impressive in his shutout relief appearance of Jose Theodore on Tuesday night, backup Scott Clemmensen just didn’t seem to have his head on straight Thursday against the Sabres. Clemmensen allowed 3 goals on just 10 shots before being pulled in favor of Jose Theodore. Much like Theodore’s performance on Tuesday night, Clemmensen fell victim to allowing soft and costly goals – a trend that hopefully won’t continue for either netminder.
As previously reported by Panther Parkway, the Florida Panthers are now juggling three goaltenders after recalling top goalie prospect Jacob Markstrom from the AHL on Wednesday.
After a series of cringe-worthy games and giving up an NHL-leading 3.73 goals per game on average, the Panthers finally decided to cave into the fan’s outcry to give the young netminder a chance to help change the team’s fortunes. Although a lot of the team’s recent woe’ can be attributed to their defense just as much as their goaltending, it was clear that something had to be done to shake things up and this was by far the easiest option.
Those worried that Markstrom will be negatively affected by playing in front of a porous defense should remember that Markstrom did play in 7 games for the Panthers last season where he went 2-4-1 with a 2.66 GAA / .923 SV%. While last’s year defense was playing better than the Panthers’ current unit, the fact that Markstrom has already been tested at the NHL level should keep his mental stability intact.
However, now that Markstrom is heading for the big stage, what will become of the current regime of Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen? With both Clemmensen and Theodore serving one-way contracts and neither bound for the AHL anytime soon, it is clear that one of these two netminders will have to leave the Panthers’ now crowded crease.
But who should go and why? Here is how I see the Panthers’ options for both Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen.
Currently playing on a 1-year $1,500,00 contract and scheduled to be a un-restricted free agent next season, Jose Theodore would be the Panthers’ easiest player to move if Jacob Markstrom remains in the NHL through the rest of the season.
Although he has had a handful of standout games this year, Jose Theodore is still having a less than stellar statistical season – compiling a 4-6-2 record with a 3.37 GAA / .893 SV%. Even though his defense has left him out to dry on several occasions, Theodore has still fallen victim to allowing quite a few soft goals this season and hasn’t resembled the goaltender that helped carry the Panthers to a Southeast Division title last season.
Considering he is in the last year of his contract, a veteran goaltender like Theodore could intrigue several teams if he were to hit the trading block in the coming weeks. Team’s in need of a backup goaltender such as the Philadelphia Flyers could be willing to part with a draft pick or perhaps more if they believe that a change of scenery could help squeeze out the last bit of greatness that Theodore has at this stage of his career.
If Markstrom does end up excelling at the NHL level this season, I fully expect General Manager Dale Tallon to receive a few phone calls about Jose Theodore’s availability.
Some may find my writing or commentary here and on Twitter insensitive, negative or arrogant. While that’s not who I am, I do take solace in being fair and truthful as I see and perceive things. If you’re looking for an apologist or a “homer” that’s not me. If you want fair opinion, then you’re in the right place. This article is in response to many of the discussions that were had after Saturday’s loss to Tampa.
The Florida Panthers will complete their four game homestand tonight against the much improved Toronto Maple Leafs hoping to get at least one win out of the four games played here in Sunrise. A rather disappointing week finds the Panthers with an 0-0-3 record on home ice in which they’ve squandered a two goal lead late in the game, not once, but twice. Only to see both games lost shortly into overtime. Those games saw the Panthers erupt for five goals in each tilt, but sandwiched between them was a 1-0 overtime shutout by Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens. It seems as though the Florida Panthers score five goals, or no goals on their way to a consistently inconsistent season.
After this weeks overtime losses to division foes Washington and Tampa Bay, many of the same mistakes that Panther fans have been accustomed to over the years began to raise their ugly heads again causing many probing questions, as well as some harsh remarks from the fan base. Many are calling for the Panthers to get Jacob Markstrom here as fast as possible with confidence in Jose Theodore fading, and trust in Scott Clemmensen almost non existent. The losing is certainly frustrating, and the fragility and lack of confidence in the team is clearly present. Especially late in games.
While many are quick to judge and ready to pull the plug on the current goaltending tandem, to be fair, one must take a long hard look at what else is happening on the ice before making such a statement. While this isn’t an apology for either Theodore, or Clemmensen, who both must be sharper and more consistent, there are a glut of other issues that contribute to this seasons erratic and frustrating play. It was after a home game earlier in the year when Captain Ed Jovanovski commented in the dressing room that play in all three zones has to be better. It was an issue more than 2 weeks ago, and it’s still an issue now. Which brings us to the point of this article.
When July 1st of 2011 came around, the Florida Panthers needed to act quickly on a goaltender since Tomas Vokoun rejected a three year deal that would have paid him significantly more than what the Washington Capitals did last year. General Manager Dale Tallon didn’t take long to find his man snatching up veteran Jose Theodore and signing him to a two year contract at $1.5 million per season. I fully endorsed this signing, and knew that of the goalies available, Jose was the right man for the job. Many Panther fans questioned the move, especially after Theodore had a “stinky” performance in one of the Panther pre season games. However soon after, and all season long that was forgotten, as Theo had one of his better seasons as a pro.
Theodore finished the year with a very respectable 2.46 goals against average with a .917 save percentage, accumulating 22 wins in 53 starts. For those of you aching to have Bobby Lou back in South Florida, his GAA was 2.41, and his save percentage was .919 with 31 victories playing for a Vancouver team that scored 46 more goals than the Florida Panthers. Theodore didn’t have the advantage of those extra goals, and still managed to hold his own and more, keeping games for the Panthers close, as well as stealing a couple along the way. Night in and night out Jose Theodore gave the Panthers a chance to win. He also never appeared to be flustered even when things seemed to be getting out of hand. Maintaining his composure and not letting a bad goal affect his play, Jose Theodore was one of the reasons the Panthers not only made the playoffs, but won their division.