Photo image property and courtesy of Kimberly Smith
Any team that’s going to have success in the NHL has to have a bottom six that can provide a number of things. Secondary scoring. Solid defence. The ability to energize the flow and momentum of a game with a big hit, a sustained forecheck. These are just a few of the attributes that the bottom two lines are known for. A team that is successful reaching the first round of the playoffs and beyond often relies on this bottom six at crucial times in those post season games. Winning a faceoff, generating scoring chances, eating up seconds with some good cycling are all valuable.
The bottom six for the Florida Panthers last season at times was the weak link to their overall game, and for a variety of reasons. None that we need to rehash. This year however things are already looking different. Going into Thursday night’s home opener the third line was comprised of Jared McCann centering Denis Malgin and Frank Vatrano. A completely different look from last season, as each player is not only young, but plays well defensively, and has goal scoring capability. The fourth line had Juho Lammikko (playing in his first NHL game) between Troy Brouwer and Colton Sceviour. Sceviour is the lone holdover from last season, and Brouwer was signed in the offseason as a free agent. Derek MacKenzie and Michael Haley are both out of the lineup.
Already things are looking different, with the fourth line especially contributing solid minutes and a goal by Brouwer that gave the Panthers a brief lead in the game.
It took Brouwer 20 plus games last season with Calgary to get his first marker, so this is hopefully a sign that there’s many more on the way for the veteran winger. Strong net front presence and his large frame blocking the goaltenders view are two reasons why he’s here. Scoring ability and leadership are among the others.
The fourth line was solid in Thursday’s game with each of the three players seeing 9 plus minutes of ice time. They had an 8-2 shot advantage versus their opposing lines and had some real good moments defensively as well. The more they play like this, the more coach Bob Boughner will be willing to use them in all types of situations. Here’s more on the fourth line from today’s practice:
#FlaPanthers Practice Notebook: 4th Line Keeps it Simple; Boughner Makes Adjustments
— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) October 12, 2018
One small change at today’s practice had Mike Hoffman on the third line, with Denis Malgin being moved up to the top line with Vincent Trocheck and Jonathan Huberdeau. Coach Boughner not being afraid to make some changes with lines early in the season is a good sign.
All in all after only two games, we can see that the improved bottom six, should they maintain their performance level, will make the Panthers better. Once they play a few more games and get their timing down, they’ll blend in nicely with the other lines giving Boughner the confidence to roll four lines consistently.
A brief side note in closing. It was announced earlier today that forward Michael Haley will be away from the team while taking part in the NHL/NHLPA assistance program. Whatever the issue is, I/we hope that Michael gets the help he needs, and gets a quick resolution to the matter. Many were upset or confused as to the nature of Haley’s recent injury and the organization’s quietness as it related to him. Remember that hockey players are human beings as well. As much as we all want to know what’s going on, give the player and the team the benefit of keeping things to themselves. When it comes to a personal matter, respect the fact that the individual involved may not want to make the information public. We all have that right, whether we are an athlete or not.
Thanks for reading.
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