Florida Panthers Must Stop Bleeding Red.

If you’re expecting a preview from us for tonight’s game, you’ll be disappointed.  Mostly because we don’t like doing the same thing over and over, and watching the hockey team from Sunrise, Florida self destruct nightly seems to have taken on a life of it’s own.  Knowing what ails them is one thing, hoping that they’ll figure it out before Thanksgiving is another.

The Florida Panthers come home tonight after a three game eastern road swing which saw their losing streak grow to nine games.  After firing head coach Kevin Dineen and his staff on Friday following the loss to the Ottawa Senators, the Panthers losing ways continued for the next two games under new coach Peter Horachek.  It’s hard to impossible to place blame on Horachek for the two losses, as he’s barely learned the names and the numbers of his players, and hasn’t had any practice time with his team.  That’s not an excuse for Horachek, nor is it meant to take the players off the hook.  In reality however it is the players that must look in the mirror and determine what can they do to turn this around before the season slips away.

We have commented many times already in this young season that the Panthers play well in spurts, and wonder how much better they’d be if only they could put together a solid effort for 60 minutes.  The spotlight is squarely on the players now, as no amount of wishful thinking, saying the right things, and looking for silver linings can change their woes.  Action speaks louder than words, and if the Florida Panthers are to avoid a 10th consecutive loss, some things better get fixed starting tonight.  Horachek was visibly upset on the bench in both games he’s coached so far, and has pointed to one major area that needs to be corrected.  Turnovers:

“You’re not going to win games when you turn the puck over,” said coach Peter Horachek, who is 0-2 since taking over for the fired Kevin Dineen on Friday.

“We’re not going to get any better until we decide we’re not going to manage the puck that way. Those were unforced errors. You can’t win games that way. It’s unacceptable.”

Dmitry Kulikov, who seems to think that Christmas is all about giving was the whipping boy Sunday night, as another example of his careless play cost the Panthers.  A poor pass to Erik Gudbranson led to a the go ahead goal by Brad Richards 46 seconds into the third, and then he was called for a penalty later in the frame with Kris Versteeg already in the box, giving the Rangers a two man advantage.  That all but killed any thought of a comeback and frustration set in as goaltender Tim Thomas laster punched J. T. Miller in the face with his blocker after Miller got to close for comfort.  Thomas and Miller each received penalties, but the netminder’s actions weren’t able to spark his teammates.

As the Anaheim Ducks roll into town, things won’t get any rosier.  The Ducks own the best record in the NHL at 15-3-1, have won 8 of their last 9, and have outscored their last three opponents 14-5, and are looking for their 6th win in a row.  After tonight’s game the Panthers go on a five game Western Conference road swing.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with that style of hockey, I promise you, it will make you stand up and take notice. 

The Panthers find themselves in this predicament for a few reasons, and whether or not you want to blame the previous coaching staff or not, you can’t win games when you turn over the puck constantly.  Better decisions need to be made by everyone, and many of them are very simple.  Being harder on the puck is one thing that must change, being able to finish checks is another, as the Panthers have shown very little physicality.  In some of these cases it’s about having better hockey sense, which I believe you either have or you don’t, and for those that don’t, it’s not expected that they’ll get it anytime soon.

The powerplay, which has absolutely no juice needs a complete overhaul.  The entries into the offensive zone are poor, and the amount of time spent in the zone isn’t being used wisely.  Additionally with little to no traffic in front of the net, it’s no wonder that they’ve only scored 6 times in 62 chances.  The Panthers record so far in games that have been decided by one goal is 1-9.  Imagine if they’d have scored just 6 more power play goals at the right time, where they might be?  Scoring a power play goal can change momentum, give you confidence, and boost your energy.  The Panthers need to try that sometime. 

Right now their best efforts in spots isn’t good enough.  This is a team who needs everyone giving maximum effort on each and every shift.  We can cliche all we want, and look for positives despite the losing streak.  Sorry, but with the exception of 2010-2011, that movie has been watched so often, the CD is worn.  It’s time to dig deep, get out the lunch pails, get your sweaters dirty boys.  But unless everyone is willing to change, the results won’t.

Like basketball legend Pat Riley said first, and Mike Keenan said second:

“There’s Winning, and There’s Misery”.

If this thing reaches 10, it’s going to be worse than misery.

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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