Florida Panthers Blend-O-Matic and Much Assistance Needed: The Weekly Beak

I wanted to try and turn over a new leaf this week. I am going all in on positivity. Hey, it’s the Friday before Christmas, “I ain’t got no job, and I ain’t got S%#t to do”. Some of you may get this, the others, well there may not be any help for you. 🙂

What a game the Ottawa game was. We went to the equipment locker and broke out the wrecking ball. Coulda painted a huge “O” on that thing as we completely dismantled the Ottawa Senators. For the record, the Senators have had their trouble this year, but coming into that game on Monday night, the Senators were riding high with a 5-2 win against the Boston Bruins, a loss in OT to the Canadiens, and an OT win against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Five points out of 6 over those three games and they had recently beaten McJesus and the Oiler 5-2. Anthony Duclair lit the Blue Jackets up with a hat trick. These were not your typical down and out Senators, they had been doing some mad “legislating” of late.

Meanwhile, at the Florida Panthers Ice Den, Coach Q and the Panthers Justice League were concocting their own remedy to solving a 3-game skid and facing being on the outside looking in on the playoff race. Coach put the boys in the Blend-O-Matic and came up with a line of Big Dawg (11), Paycheck (21), and Cherry Bomb (55). He also smashed together Barkov-Vatrano-Connolly, Malgin-Hoffman-Dadonov, and Sceviour–Toninato-Pysyk. We were scratching our heads to be honest, but at the same time, we could see the method to the madness. The first three lines all had a mix of finesse, sniper and grinder. It makes sense on paper, but dang, would it work in the field?

Well, it worked. It worked wicked good, to take a page from the Boston/New England boys in Flipper (77) and Cherry Bomb (55). Noel Acciari recorded his first hat trick. Huberdeau had a game of the ages and was simply en fuego (on fire, for you folks not blessed with the gift of Spanish gab) with four assists. That was about the most fun game to watch that we have seen all year. I will break down the best plays for you below.

Image property of Kim Smith

The first goal started with a nice breakout of the zone by Yandle and a quick pass to Huberdeau up the right wing boards. The Big Dawg (11) makes an elite goal scorers move to the middle and dangles three Senator defenders, but loses the puck to Yandle, who shuffles an elite pass of his own towards the crease finding Acciari all alone in the slot for an easy tap in.

The second was nicest of the three. Acciari starts the play with a move out of the zone up the right-wing boards, he brings the defender to him and then drops to Paycheck (21) at the blue line for a beautiful zone entry. Trocheck brings two defenders to him, dangles the bisquit between the skates of one defender and then drops a sweetie of an area pass to Huberdeau who was walking in all alone on the left wing boards. Huberdeau picks the puck up in the high slot, Trocheck goes to the office (slot) and Acciari hangs high. Huberdeau executes a lethal drop and drag and just nastily walks Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who had sold out on a one-knee poke. Big Dawg then heads to the right side of the net with the puck out in front of him. Two defenders approach and he one-time passes to Acciari with the sickest of slick mitts this side of the Pecos. Cherry Bomb (55) fires the puck and makes no excuse for his second. This is one of the nicest and best executed plays I have seen by the Panthers. A drop, a dangle, a walking drop and drag, and a one-timer, oh my.

The third was pretty darn nice as well. Eggplant (5) picks up the puck high in the offensive zone and dials up a beaut of a one-timer pass to Weegar at the left point. 8-Mile (52) unleashes the beast and gets the puck on net. The Ottawa goalie coughs up a juicy rebound. Cherry Bomb (55) picks up the loose change, goes forehand to the backhand and tucks in the little black disk o hate into the back of the net.  Better to see in video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mT6k3silGPY

There you go. A natural hat-trick. Three in a row. Well done. In all three, Acciari went to the dirty area in front of the net and either finished from a nice pass or finished on the best pass in hockey; the rebound. This is fantastic hockey and what we should be expecting every game. The lines clicked. Maybe it was because they didn’t want a bag skate. Maybe it was the Bartender behind the Bench, Q, blending up some smoothies. Or maybe it was just time that the boys uncorked their collective heads from their collective keisters and played with passion, with drive, with smarts and dominated a game they very well should have. But they won, and that was all that mattered. Admit it, you were happy. You might have been a little nervous at the start, but you had a little spring in your step and an ear-to-ear grin. You know you wanted to go get some black-out on a few teeth out and make your own little picket fence to celebrate the Cherry Bomb hatter. We needed this win to inject some positivity into the ranks. And look what happened: a positive post from me.

Image Property of Kim Smith

Alright, enough of that sappy junk. We play the Dallas Stars tonight. This too is a must-win game. We are at the 6 spot, again on the outside looking in after not playing for three days. The Stars have two or three huge (body and spirit) fellars in Tyler Seguin (ask ole Nathan Horton about him), Jamie Benn (man amongst boys), and Alexander Radulov (no-neck having gladiator). They have an elite offensive D-man in John Klingberg, they have Joe Pa from the Sharks, and Katie Perry from the Ducks. These boys are just nasty. They have won 4 of their last five and they sit at third in the Central Division with 44 points, compared to our 37. This team commands respect and they play a strong big bodied Western Conference style where they will wear you down and dominate the dirty areas. We will need to play a very heads up game with a strong presence inside. We cannot, and I repeat CANNOT, get caught doing our standard puck watching. We will have to actually hit guys, big guys, in front of the net and clear the crease. Bottom line: Put on Your Big Boy Pants, we got us an old-fashioned tilt about to start up in here at the BB&T. We’ve got this. Just gonna have to get a little dirty.

That’s my beak for the week. Chirp Chirp peeps.

Thanks for reading this article! You can follow along with Panther Parkway @pantherparkway on Twitter! You can also follow our writers: @FrankRekas, @Josh_LOPanthers, @JacobWinans8, @prudentia0, @Spencer_hoag, @Mister_Joester! Make sure to follow and listen to our podcast @LOPanthersPod All images unless otherwise noted are courtesy of @KimSmithImages