The sting of a loss at home to the Ottawa Senators has a good portion of the Florida Panther fan base in a foul mood. And rightly so. The Senators came into town on Sunday, one night after taking it on the chin in Tampa, (their seventh loss in a row), and stopped that losing streak. At the same time handing the Panthers their 4th consecutive defeat.
The Panthers went through their seemingly normal routine of starting out slow for 20-40 minutes, and then attempting to turn things on in the final 20. Yet as it has often happened this season, they not only gave up the lead, they came up short. Again. The game itself wasn’t even a fun game. It was a frustrating game against a team that they should have beaten. But it was also a game where they played to the level of the competition. And that can’t happen with as talented as a roster that Florida has.
We all know that the forward group for the most part is gifted, skilled and has a ton of talent. We also know that the defence, despite it’s worts, has shown albeit not consistently, that they can shut down an opponent. However the reality of this whole season is, that this is a team that isn’t as good as it was advertised. The mirage of last season’s miraculous finish which saw the Panthers win 25 of their final 35 games gave everyone hope that the entire season would be as good as the last half of last season. You bought it. I bought it, and they bought it. Unfortunately disappointment has set in, and instead of challenging for a Stanley Cup, the Panthers will challenge for a mid round draft pick. Whoo hoo!
Sunday’s loss was one of those unacceptable one’s. You can certainly blame it on the schedule since they played 4 games in 6 nights, and a weekend of back to backs. And though that may have a lot to do with it, it’s just another excuse in a long line of them. Heck, if they’re using the tired excuse now, how would they handle the rigors of a playoff series or 2?
There were and have been some questionable decisions as well. Henrik Borgstrom getting 8 minutes of ice time Saturday night, none in overtime. Despite scoring twice. He played 11 minutes Sunday. With a power play in the waning minutes of Sunday’s game, goaltender Roberto Luongo was not pulled in favor of a second extra skater. The bench was shortened Sunday in the third period, and the 4th line never saw the ice. Save for maybe one shift. With such a heavy schedule that may not have been the right thing to do, as the top 6 was gassed as you would expect. Therefore with nothing in the tank, there was little fight left to overcome an opposing team that was down on their luck. But when you give that kind of team hope, and let them in, they take advantage. A good team, a team that’s a playoff team doesn’t let that happen.
After 65 games the Panthers find themselves 10 points out of a wild card spot. I said the other day that you can stop scoreboard watching. I also said that the nail in the coffin of the season may have come in November when they lost in overtime to the Chicago Blackhawks. Giving up a two goal lead, which has become an almost automatic this year. Truth be told, they are not a playoff team. Not now. And not before. And likely not even last season.
While no one is saying that the players don’t care, or that the players are going through the motions. Collectively the team is not firing on all cylinders, and hasn’t been for most of the season. The inconsistency has been too much to overcome, and the shortcomings have been exposed. And we all know what those short comings are, and are looking forward to them being addressed in the off season.
While there isn’t a lot to fix, there’s enough. And to think just three seasons ago this team was winning their division, and despite getting knocked out in the first round of the playoffs, there was a feeling of excitement and something to look forward to. And then, the wheels began to fall off. We won’t recap the events that took place, but those events have led to where we are today, and still…….. things have not turned around. It was said by this writer that it would take at minimum three years to rebound from that.
Apparently that observation wasn’t far off.
The Panthers have 17 games remaining in their season. Sunday was a dark and disappointing game. There was nothing to feel good about after that defeat. Not even the in game comments of a micked up Frank Vatrano could wash away the stench of that loss.
If we are lying to ourselves about what’s going on here, we have to ask, what are we lying about. Once that’s been figured out, then and only then will things get better.
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