Panthers vs. Rangers. This Is No Time To Get Cute

FLORIDA PANTHERS: 3-10-4 (10 PTS.) vs. NEW YORK RANGERS: 8-8-0 (16 PTS.)

MUST SEE, GAME DAY SONG: NEW YORK CITY SERENADE, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band

Life in the NHL can be a lot of things, but one thing it’s not is easy.  Just ask the Florida Panthers and new head coach Peter Horachek.  The Panthers who were in the midst of a seven game losing streak fired their coaching staff Friday, giving the new bench boss and his staff one practice to prepare his team for back to back games this weekend.  After yesterday’s loss to Ottawa, the Panthers are now the owners of an eight game losing streak as they enter the renovated Madison Square Garden to face off against the New York Rangers, who after a sluggish start of their own, seem to be finding their groove.  The Rangers are now 8-8-0, 6-4-0 in their last 10, and like the Senators on Saturday, are looking for their third consecutive win.

After giving up two goals in the first two minutes yesterday, things started to get better, yet the result was the same that it’s been all season long.  You can’t play come from behind hockey in the NHL.  Every. Single. Night.  The Panthers cut the lead in half when Nick Bjugstad scored his second goal of the season two minutes later, with Tomas Kopecky getting the lone assist.  More importantly however is the fact that it was Tom Kop’s first point of the season.  Yet the Panthers woes, especially on the road continued, and it was their ineffective power play that let them down again.  With five opportunities including a 5 on 3 advantage, the Panthers were held scoreless again!  Please note that during the 5 on 3 the Panthers were unable to register a shot on goal.  Now after 17 games Florida’s power play has converted only 5 times in 59 chances.  Horachek vows to work on this part of the game, and while he does, just imagine how different things might be if the Panthers had scored 10 times instead of 5.  The momentum swing that a power play goal can provide a surge just at the right time, and helps build confidence during the game.

When you combine the slow start, and the inept power play, it’s plainly obvious as to why the Panthers are where they are.  In Horachek’s defence however, he hasn’t been given enough time to fix this, and he’s still trying to learn the names of his players.  We’ll see how this looks in 10 games, but things better improve quickly.  After tonight, the Panthers have an off day on Monday before the Anaheim Ducks visit South Florida Tuesday night, and thanks to the NHL schedule makers, the Cats head out west for a five game western road swing.  Good times will be had by all no doubt.

One move that Horachek made was naming defenceman Erik Gudbranson an alternate captain, as Erik wore the “A” for the first time in his young career, signalling that he has the confidence of his coaching staff.  Erik now in his third season needs to be the leader he was expected to be when the Florida Panthers made him their number one pick in 2010.  This change in coaching may give him a fresh start and a new outlook on his role here with the Panthers.  Horachek has indicated he wants to know the identity of his team and over the next few games, we could find out.

 We can discuss all we want about the certain parts of the game where Florida looks good, or has improved, but unless the Panthers start winning, none of that matters.  Not generating shots on a power play, especially with a two man advantage, making the same mistakes with turnovers, and taking ill advised penalties is more than just coaching.  The only thing that matters right now is winning. The culture in the room, the composure on the ice, and the maximum effort from all the players is the only way to move forward.  Let’s hope it begins tonight.

If you’d like to see what hard work, and paying attention to detail gets you, please watch the game day video I’ve linked at the beginning of this article.  Bruce wrote that song when he was 24. TWENTY FOUR!!!!!  And this past summer 40 years later, that performance can be called nothing less than musical perfection.

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.

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