Florida Panthers - Weekly Beak - It’s Not a Good Time Bob

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For those of you that know me, you know I have a love for a movie called The Other Guys. For those that don’t know me, I love the movie The Other Guys, so go watch it. I guarantee you it will crack you completely up. Funniest movie probably of all time. But what I saw Saturday was just about as unfunny as it can get. I’m sorry, but I am upset. So, let me get my rant on.

Don’t Go chasing waterfalls

The Florida Panthers started out the game against the Buffalo Sabres today with what looked like a bit of an onslaught. They carried the play and spent a huge amount of zone time in the Sabres’ defensive zone. They got a bunch shots towards Linus Ullmark. To no avail. They could not light the lamp. If you look closely at the game film, you will see while they do get shots, they are typically from low danger areas, high outside the face off circles, or on drop passes progressively moving the puck farther away from the crease, or way outside from extreme angles. There was not a lot of grind, no extending the play, and pretty much all one-and-done situations. They had two power plays. They peppered Ullmark, however only with rather predictable shots to the Sabres logo on his chest or to his glove or over the net or outside of the net or on the skate or pad of a Sabres defender. Where the shots did not go was onto the stick of a Panther in front of the net or in the goal. Right after the second power play, as the two minutes ran out, Keith Yandle was kind enough to completely back off Henri Jokiharju and allowed him to shoot unabated on net from a nice undefended pass from Sam Reinhart. The $10 Million Man also obliged and went down early like he does in his pre-period routine and simply got torched, top shelf, where Randy Moller keeps the his homemade Stanley Cup Ring..

i don’t want no scrubs

Right after that first goal by Buffalo, the Panthers just caved. They simply quit. They allowed the Sabres to take over and push them around. While the Sabres did not outshoot the Panthers they capitalized on soft play from the Panthers and got high-danger shots on Bobrovsky. The Sabres second goal came after a half hearted attempt to get the puck into the offensive zone by the Trocheck line. The Sabres were able to easily move the puck up the boards by a usually hard-nosed Noel Acciari and a touch pass to Marcus Johansson, turning into and a two-on-one against Aaron Ekblad with a nice pass from Johansson to Connor Sheary past an outstretched Bobrovsky. The Usual Suspect: Keith Yandle. Again. Yandle was beaten by the touch pass off the boards to Johansson and then coasted back into (behind) the play, watching Ekblad lay out to try and block the pass to Sheary and watching Vincent Trocheck attempt to back check and help out. As a reminder, Trocheck was the forward trying to gain the puck in the offensive zone with Brett Connolly that started the whole play off. Trocheck was able to get all the way back from the far blue line, across the red line, over the near blue line, between the face off circles, to the crease, into the play in the same time it took Yandle to get beat inside the near blue line and casually skate with head down to the slot about a second after the goal. Pathetic. So the Panther coaching staff rewarded Yandle with the one-timer position on the next power play. One word: underwhelming.

real quiet, you gotta creep, creep

Lately the Panthers have dominated the play in the second period, at times leading the NHL in second period scoring. But not this second period. They were quiet. Too quiet. Buffalo gets a power play at around the 14:30 mark in the second. Faceoff deep in the Panther zone, to Bob’s left. Acciari against Jack Eichel. Acciari lays an egg and gives up a clean win by Eichel to his defenseman. A quick back and forth between Rasmus Dahlin and the right winger, followed by a one-timer pass from Dahlin to Reinhart just above the left wing face off circle. Goal. Wasn’t even close. Bob was beaten like the pantry door at a fat farm. And for his efforts he was shown the door and given a nice cool seat on the bench.  Enter Chris Driedger, who I have affectionately monikered The Driedge Report.  Now it’s 3-0. In the second period. Come on this is our period. We then got to watch 27 minutes of the most boring hockey of all time, with the Sabres content to dump the puck out of their zone and the Panthers unable to get the puck into the dangerous areas of the ice. The Panthers were able to get a delayed penalty on a Kyle Okposo malfeasance against Josh Brown to quickly have it evaporate with a double minor high stick by Brown back on Okposo. Back to the penalty kill. As a glimmer of hope the Panthers were able to get the kill. Frank Vatrano had a nice short handed chance going backhand to forehand against Linus Ullmark, but Ullmark was able to match his move going post to post, stopping the five-hole chance.

ain’t too proud to beg

Mixed in with the lack luster play was another very good and predictable performance by Chris Driedger, stopping all 11 shots from the Sabres. In addition, Mike Matheson, who has been recipient of much shade by this author, put together another good game today. Around the 7 minute mark in the third period, Matheson moved the puck up the left wing boards and across the blue line. He brought two defenders to him, made a sweet drag move to his right and brought the defender Colin Miller close, then he ripped a wrister between Miller’s skates, high left (blocker side) beating Ullmark for a sorely needed goal and bringing the lead down to 2 goals. The Panthers went into their standard desperation mode around the 3 minute mark. With The Driedge Report on the bench and our favorite Yandle out with five other Cats, Evgenii Dadonov beat a down and out Ullmark inside the left post. The puck was shot from the right wing boards with Big Dawg Jonathan Huberdeau screening Ullmark, the shot hits Huberdeau’s skate and bounces to the fortunate stick of Dadonov. It is absolutely amazing how a little desperation and traffic in front of the net will lead to a goal. So now, you’re saying there is a chance? The Big Dawg had a prime chance to tie the game at the 15 second mark. Barkov makes a fantastic pass from the right wing boards just below the face off dot to a wide open Huberdeau at the left dot and a gaping wide open net. He missed the net, sadly enough. You all saw it. We all gasped at the same time. The twine of the net just calling out for that 3″ diameter chunk of vulcanized rubber. Then we all got a little more depressed when it slammed harmlessly into boards behind the net. A d-zone faceoff at the 5-second mark after a Sabre icing gave us one last gasp of breath. Yandle got a last second shot off, no goal, no chance. Not today.

Aim for the bushes

Which gets me to the beak. We are now at the half way mark of the season. With a record of 21-15-5 for 47 points. That is a pace for 94 points. As we have seen over the years it is not good enough for a playoff spot. A quick look at social media and even on the NBCSports website you will see things like “Panthers still aren’t getting money’s worth with Bobrovsky” and “The defense sucks”. Unfortunately both are true. Let’s add some more to the heap. The Panthers are soft. The Panthers will not go into the dirty areas. The Panthers fold up and pack it in after the first hint of being behind. The Panthers do not appear to care. The Panthers are not desperate. The Panthers do not have what it takes to succeed and win consistently.

As it stands these are all true. For so many years Panther fans have been given tidbits and morsels of hope in the form of promises to do better, to make changes, to bring in talent, to change the attitude. Hope sucks. We are growing tired of “we need to be better” and “I need to be better” and “we need to play for 60 minutes”. ENOUGH. Just do it. Bobrovsky made it to the second period with another 3 goals against. Yandle looked like a turnstile over and over and then just moped back into the play after a lazy pad slap and was personally responsible for two goals against. The offense settled for perimeter shots and one-and-done situations all game. The forwards attempted mostly danger-free shots from low percentage areas. They did not establish a position in front of the net to screen or block Ullmark’s vision. Josh Brown missed the net on shots from the point in just about every possible manner. Panther color announcer Randy Moller stated it best when he uttered “the play was as cold as last night’s lottery ticket”. I laughed out loud when I heard it. Now I am a little tearful writing it.

Review of the social media platforms and within our own private Panther Parkway communications reveals a call for change. The players that clearly don’t care or are unwilling to compete need to be replaced. I am hearing rumblings of wanting Hoffman, Trocheck, Pysyk, Yandle, Brown, Boyle and Matheson moved, maybe for a defenseman or hard-nosed grit players. I think change is the right path. But I like to think the roster is fine, the attitude is what needs changing. You all saw that desperation with three minutes left. The Sabres were in complete recoil, fight or flight mode and luckily got out of there with a regulation win. If that effort and tenacity is employed from the first drop of the puck, wins will come easily. If Yandle would just step into, or even skate toward and opposing forward the chances would dramatically go down. If the Panthers would roll all four lines with a dump and chase, hit everything that moves mentality more chances would come and conversely opposing chances would diminish. If the Panthers would go to the crease and block the goalie’s vision more goals would result. If the Panthers defensemen would clear their crease and engage the opposing forwards when the puck is shot, the goals against would go down. If Bobrovsky would get square to the shooter and not immediately go down the top shelf burners would diminish. If somebody would actually give a darn about a fellow team mate and maybe fight once, the team chemistry would elevate. These Panthers need a player only retreat where they can bond and develop a kinship that will allow them to not sit idly by when opposing players attempt any type of disrespect on a team mate. It should not be tolerated, ever. None of the things mentioned above are tied to individual skill or talent. They are related to pride, and dignity, and respect, and effort, and desire, and heart. If you want to win these have to creep, creep into their mentality. The attitude must change. It has to come from within. No amount of beaking, or complaining, or pissing, or moaning will create any change if they don’t want to do it. Hopefully their own characters will dig at them and their personal pride will move them to make the adjustments needed. They have 41 games to go. They have the all-star break to do some soul searching. They can at least start tomorrow at 5:00pm in Pittsburgh and show us they are listening and that they care. I’ve said it before, it’s time. I don’t want to see 6 goals for, although it would be nice. What I want to see is a shut-out. I want to see Bob look like Dominic Hasek and take the fate of this team on his shoulders. I want to see blood. I want to see sweat. I want to see tears (of joy). And I want to see it for the remaining 41 games. I want to see them care as much as the fanbase does.

That’s my Beak for the week. Chirp, Chirp peeps.

Thanks for reading.

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