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.

Panthers Lifeless In Tampa

There’s not too much recap here as the Florida Panthers had a team put up a touchdown on them for the second time in three games. This time, the culprit was the cross-state Tampa Bay Lightning, who took advantage of a sloppy effort from the Cats at both ends of the ice in a 7-2 thrashing.
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Preview: Florida Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning. So Get Right, Get Tight, Get Down

FLORIDA PANTHERS: 14-27-6 (34 PTS.) vs.  TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING: 18-25-4 (40 PTS.)


GAMEDAY SONG: Kitty’s Back Part one,  & Kitty’s Back Part two. Bruce Springsteen

Back in October, knowing that there wouldn’t be a season due to a lockout, we were impatiently waiting for the season to begin, and the nonsense to end.  The longer the stalemate dragged on, the further away the games seemed to be.  Finally after months of waiting, on January 19th the season started, and faster than you can snap your fingers, it ends tonight.  The final game of the “shortened” season is a meaningless one between state rivals, the Florida Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning.  Other than pride and making a final statement for a few players, this game will have very little substance.

The good news for the Panthers is that their poor season has guaranteed them to have one of the top two picks in the upcoming NHL draft in June.  Meaning that either Seth Jones, Jonathan Drouin or Nathan MacKinnon will be a Florida Panther come this summer. The draft lottery takes place on Monday, and the Panthers will learn their position then, and we’ll all begin speculating on which one of those three will be chosen.  In the meantime, there hasn’t been much to get excited about this season other than the performance of Jonathan Huberdeau as he continues to make his claim for Rookie of the Year.  If he does win the Calder Trophy, it would be the first time in Florida Panther history that a rookie did, and he stands the best chance of any rookie the club has ever had to do so.

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Lights Out! Lightning Beat Panthers With Just 13 Shots

If I were to show you a complete stat sheet from Tuesday night’s game with every possible stat other than the final score, you would surely think that the Panthers came away from this one with an easy victory. However, that would not be the case against the Lightning as the Panthers’ now predictable slow start dug a hole that the team was never able to climb out of.

Martin St. Louis (Wikipedia)

Martin St. Louis (Wikipedia)

Much like they have done in previous nights, the Florida Panthers found themselves down 2 goals early in the first period of Thursday night’s game. The Lightning’s scoring got started early as Vincent Lecavalier was able to put the first shot of the game past Panthers’ goaltender Jacob Markstrom – the 3rd time in the past 4 games that Markstrom has allowed the first shot of the game to be scored.

After the Lecavlier goal, the Panthers took control of the period and ended up outshooting the Lightning 17-3, but still couldn’t end the period on a high note. With only minutes remaining in the 1st period, Martin St. Louis slipped a goal past a helpless Jacob Markstrom to put the Lightning up 2-0 heading into the 2nd period. Although Markstrom did allow 2 goals on only 3 shots in the period, the bulk of the blame can be placed on the team’s defense which left the poor Swede out to dry on both scoring plays. In their last 4 games, the Panthers have been outscored 10-1 in the 1st period of play – a clear indicator of their recent streak of being able to start games on the right foot.

Only 13 seconds into the 2nd period and the Panthers’ hard work on offense finally paid off as Kris Versteeg was able to sneak a goal past Lightning goalie Anders Lindback to get both the Panthers and the fans at the BB&T Center back into the game. From that point on, the Panthers completely dominated throughout the entire 2nd period and eventually tied the game up on a goal from forward Tomas Kopecky. Kopecky’s goal was created by the hard work from Jack Skille whose primary assist on the goal earned him a 4 game point streak – tied for the longest of his career.

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Mid-Season NHL Awards

Hart Trophy- Most Valuable Player

  1. Sidney CrosbyWinner
  2. Patrick Kane
  3. Eric Staal
  4. Ryan Getzlaf
  5. Steven Stamkos

Explanation: It’s safe to say that at this point in time, Sidney Crosby isn’t walking, but running away with the Hart Trophy. With 45 points in just 26 games, Crosby is on pace to score 142 points in an 82 game season.  He currently holds a 1.73 points per game average, as well as a 1.27 assists per game average. There have only been 4 players in the history of the NHL who have had a better assists per game average, and they are: Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, and Adam Oates. That’s not a bad bunch of guys to fall into a category with.

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Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Florida Panthers. Them Downtown Boys Sure Talk Gritty.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING: 10-14-1 (21 PTS.) vs. FLORIDA PANTHERS: 7-13-6 (20 PTS.)


GAMEDAY SONG: It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City. (Look at the outfits!)

Tonight will be a battle for last place in the Eastern Conference as these two frustrated clubs will match up for the third of five games. The  Tampa Bay Lightning have won both games played between the two cross state rivals so far this season, and looking to make it seven in a row overall against their divisional couterparts.  Tampa is struggling however just as much as the Florida Panthers are as their 1-7-0 record over their past eight games indicates.  Additionally Tampa is 4-13-1 since February 2nd.  Hard to imagine those numbers from a team that posseses the offensive firepower they do with Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, and rookie of the year candidate Cory Conacher, but then no one expected the Florida Panthers to be last in the league either.

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Late Collapse Doom Panthers Again

I’m no mathematician but I’d be willing to be that the odds of scoring five goals in a National Hockey League and losing game are pretty slim. That said, I’d imagine the chances of it happening twice within five days are about the same as Wayne Gretzky showing up on my doorstep, asking me to teach him how to be awesome at hockey (Hey Great One, I have spare time if you ever need me). Yet, there were the Florida Panthers late Saturday afternoon, looking up at a scoreboard that read Tampa Bay 6 – Florida 5 in overtime.
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Panthers Skid Hits Five in Loss To Tampa Bay

After having their first two day break since the season started January 19th, one would’ve figured a hungry, desperate, somewhat rested Florida Panthers squad would’ve found their way to the state’s west coast for its game Tuesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning. And then at the end of the first period, that this game was headed the same way as the past four games: a lopsided loss, this time 5-2, characterized by an anemic offense and sloppy defensive play.
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Game Day Preview: Florida Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning. Time To Rise Up


GAME DAY SONG:  The RisingBruce Springsteen & The E Street Band

The interstate rivals meet tonight for the first time this season with exact opposite records.  The Florida Panthers are in the midst of a four game losing streak, while the Tampa Bay Lightning are on a three game winning streak and coming off a 5-1 spanking of the Philadelphia Flyers Sunday evening.  In that game the high scoring Lightning saw veteran Martin St. Louis contribute four assists, while Steven Stamkos added a goal and an assist to give him 10 points on the year so far.  The Lightning who have an abundance of scoring are tied for the league lead in goals for (24) with the St. Louis Blues, and are averaging 4.8 per game. 

Stamkos however is not the team leader in points, as Martin St. Louis sits at the top with 11 (3G- 8A).  Forwards Teddy Purcell,  who had a goal and two assists against the Flyers, and rookie Cory Conacher  add some additional scoring depth as well, presenting more than just top top guns to be careful of, and we haven’t even mentioned the ever dangerous Vincent Lecavalier.  The Panthers who haven’t been very sharp of late, and have made numerous defensive mistakes, had better be on their game tonight, or it will be over quickly.  This Tampa team can score in bunches and they can spread it around as well, making them one of the more offensively dangerous teams in the league, and they know it:

“When you get a little confidence going, as our offensive players have right now, you try to run with it,” Stamkos said. “We know, once we get on a roll, we’re a tough team to beat.”

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