Images property of Kim Smith (@kimsmithimages)
Welcome back to a special holiday edition of State of the Territory. Since it’s been a while since our last installment, we have a lot of Panthers hockey to review. Let’s take a look at the State of the Territory.
12/16 vs OTT (W 6-1)
Truly a must-win game, the Panthers were coming off of a 3 game home regulation losing streak. Noel Acciari gave the Cats a 1-0 lead going into the 2nd, where the Panthers offense would then explode. Acciari notched his second, followed by Barkov on the powerplay. Acciari then scored his 3rd of the night, giving him his first career NHL hat-trick. Dominic Toninato and Mike Matheson each tallied in the second as well to help the Cats cruise to a 6-1 win. Sergei Bobrovsky totaled 29 saves in the win.
12/20 vs DAL (w 7-4)
Once again, the Panthers found themselves up early in a game. Jonathan Huberdeau chipped in his 12th of the season on the powerplay. Denis Gurianov found a loose puck in the Panthers slot and fired it past Bobrovsky to tie the game at 1, but Anton Stralman’s weak wrister from the point bounced off Roope Hintz to give the Panthers a one-goal lead headed to the second. Vincent Trocheck scored a timely goal while Frank Rekas and I were talking about his regression this season, coincidentally. Colton Sceviour fired one home on a 2-on-1 to give the panthers a 4-1 lead. In the next 4 minutes, Noel Acciari would pull off another hat-trick, this one a natural, three-in-a-row, just to out-do his last performance I guess. After taking a 7-1 lead, Tyler Seguin tried all he could to keep his team involved in the game. He scored two goals including an absolute bomb on the powerplay.
12/21 @ Car (w 4-2)
In the second half of a back-to-back and considering the Panthers troubles in Raleigh of late, I think a lot of people doubted the Cats would be able to win this game outright. Evgenii Dadanov scored on a breakaway in the first, sprung loose by a great pass from Brian Boyle. Boyle then scored on a tip-in on the powerplay in the 2nd to double the Cats lead. Jonathan Huberdeau made it a 3 goal game just :26 into the third with a slick move on Mrazek. Neiderreiter and Acciari (I know, again) traded goals, followed by a late tally from Lucas Wallmark as the game finished 4-2 in favor of the Cats.
12/23 @ TBL (l 6-1)
Riding a 3-game win streak, the Panthers had a shot to get some real momentum into the Christmas break. Right from the start, the Lightning dominated the Cats from end to end and the Panthers never had a shot. The story of the game was the Bolts powerplay, which scored three times on the night, punishing the Cats for their mental errors. To add insult to injury, or in this case injury to insult, Aaron Ekblad was injured late in this game and his status for the coming games are uncertain.
Noel Acciari: Holy cow was Noel Acciari hot this past week. He scored 7 goals and recorded 1 assist, as if he needed it, to be named the NHL’s first star of the week. Noel couldn’t miss as he recorded back-to-back hat tricks, joining Pavel Bure as the only Panthers players to record such a feat. Acciari has already surpassed his goals total from last season, and he looks to continue on Florida’s second line as Coach Q’s scrambling seems to have clicked for Acciari.
Jonathan Huberdeau: Another Cats player benefiting from the blending of lines out of the coaching staff is Jonathan Huberdeau. Huby had already been having a stellar season, and he’s the most likely Panther player headed to this year’s All-Star game, but he had an exceptional week as well. Huby tallied 3 goals and 8 assists good for 11 points in his past 4 games. Jonathan Huberdeau is certainly blossoming into what the Panthers believed he’d be when they drafted him 3rd overall in 2011.
The Week Ahead:
12/28 vs DET
12/29 vs MTL
12/31 @ CBJ
1/2 @ OTT
Thanks for reading this article! You can follow along with Panther Parkway @pantherparkway on Twitter! You can also follow our writers: @FrankRekas, @Josh_LOPanthers, @CF3234, @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