To the naked eye, Saturday’s 2-1 loss in overtime to the Tampa Bay Lightning might seem like a slow start out of the gates for the Florida Panthers, but don’t be fooled, there were plenty of positives that came out of this game for the Cats to look forward to.
Step in the Right Direction
This season has had all the hype attached for the Florida Panthers, and losing on opening night doesn’t seem like the best start, but it’s extremely important to understand the caliber of a team the Panthers were taking on, and how meaningful getting a point out of that game was.
Getting the Point Across
Last season, the Panthers missed out on the post-season by a single point, so making the game go to overtime might be monumental at the end of the season, now that we know first hand how much a point can mean. By playing an overtime game so early, the Cats already have a feel for how their new lineup will piece together in a 3-on-3 situation. There will continue to be wrinkles to figure out, but experience in overtime could be key in many big games, which the Panthers hope to start winning from now on.
Top Tier Competition from the Start
Just as the Panthers began last season, the Cats had to take on one of the league’s best teams in the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Panthers were able to hold a lead for nearly 50 minutes against a team that some consider a Stanley Cup favorite, and significantly out shot the Bolts by a tally of 43-29, illustrating just how the Panthers were able to control the pace and style of play Saturday night. Going on the road in the NHL isn’t easy. Picking up points against a Cup favorite in their house isn’t easy either, and the Panthers showed fans that they’re up to the task after their effort in Game 1, which impressed me.
No Puck Luck for Hoffman
The new scoring threat winger the Panthers traded for over the summer had an immediate impact for the Cats against Tampa, but he wasn’t able to cash in on his chances. In overtime, Mike Hoffman skated in alone against a Tampa D Man, and wired a wrist shot to the blocker side of Andrei Vasilevskiy. His shot went off of Vasilevskey and then off the goalpost, Hoffman inches away from a game winner in his first game as a Panther. In the shootout, Hoffman again found the post, his heavy wrister got past Vasilevskiy, but not the iron, but it was promising to see such action out of Hoffman in his first game.
I’m Lovin’ It
The Panthers only goal of the game came at 5:58 of the first period, coming from rookie defenseman Jacob MacDonald. MacDonald became the fastest Panther rookie defenseman to score his first NHL goal, and gave the Panthers the lead early in a huge game. This goal is huge for MacDonald’s confidence, who made the team after winning a pre-season camp battle. This caps MacDonald’s long road to the NHL, and you can find out more about him in an article we wrote on MacDonald here.
This week presents a few challenges for the Panthers. Coming off this weekend’s loss, the Cats will have to get healthy, as both Roberto Luongo and Derek MacKenzie left the game Saturday with injuries. The injury bug seems to have hit early for the Panthers, but keeping other key players healthy will ultimately be a determining factor in this season’s success. Moving on from this loss, the Cats will open their home schedule this Thursday against the Columbus Blue Jackets (1-1-0), and will play their first Legacy Saturday game on the 13th against the Vancouver Canucks.
Overall, the Panthers put together a complete effort against a top-tier team in the NHL on the road, and gave fans reason to believe that this team can replicate excitement and success of last year.
As always, thank you so much for reading!
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