I like to think myself a positive person, an optimist so to speak. That being said, my beaks have contained an abundant amount of negativity. But then again, so has the Panther’s play at times. Well this week I would like to tip the scales back to the positive side. So, let’s get after it.
It started back on Thursday, January 9, with a win against the Vancouver Canucks. I had beer league for a late game at 9:15 so I was able to watch the first period and 15 minutes of the second. I tried really hard to watch the replay, but you know, beer league. The replays come on at midnight and even though they try and trim out the intermission reports it still takes til 2:30 am to get through.
Sorry, I digress. Noel Acciari, The Cherry Bomb, lit the lamp twice, Jonathan “Big Dawg” Huberdeau notched two assists, Evgenii Dadonov added a goal, and the Panthers got some valuable depth scoring from the likes of Mike Hoffman and Mark Pysyk. The first of Cherry Bomb’s goals came within the first minute of the game on a great forecheck play. Vincent Trocheck and Brett Connolly pressed the Vancouver defenseman after a dump causing him to dangerously dump the puck between the crease and face off dot, where Acciari promptly scooped it up and scored beating the Vancouver netminder high on the short side. A goal-scorers goal. Two minutes later Pysyk scores on a nice break out play up to Colton Sceviour who carries the puck up the left boards and then passes across to a hustling Pysyk for a tap in goal inside the right post. Dadonov closed out the scoring in the first with a nice 2 on 1 play with Aleksander Barkov. The period also included some fantastic goal tending by Sergei Bobrovsky, with an all-alone one-on-one stop and shut down on a Vancouver power play. Which brings us to the Hoffman goal. Oh my the Hoffman goal. Actually if there was a way for a player to get one point for the assist and half a point for the actual goal because the pass play was that good, it should go to Jonathan Huberdeau and the move he made on Tanev of the Canucks and one timer pass to Hoffman.
On Sunday, January 12, the Panthers hosted the Toronto Maple Leafs. This was an especially fun game for me, as the day started with a 2 hour drive from Fort Myers with my hockey bag and sticks in tow for a game on the BB&T ice before the actual real hockey game. It really is a cool feeling to skate across that Panther logo and look up into the seats and check out the scoreboard. After the game and a quick tail gate we were ready for the real game. Mind you, the guys I played with were predominantly Maple Leaf fans, so while they were ready for the game, their team sure as heck wasn’t. We all witnessed an offensive onslaught, hanging a snowman (you golfers will know what I mean) on the hapless Leafs. The Panthers outhustled and outworked Toronto with a relentless forecheck and it resulted in a huge win. Oddly enough only Acciari, Brian Boyle, Aaron Ekblad, Anton Stralman, and Keith Yandle failed to register a point. Jonathan Huberdeau cemented his legacy in the Florida Panthers history by overtaking the original Jokeman, Olli Jokinen for overall points leader in a Panther sweater.
Next up, the LA Kings. For 53 minutes the Panthers totally shut down the Kings in all facets of the game. They forechecked and grinded their way to a 4-0 lead. The first goal came on yet another wicked pass play, this time first from Barkov to Huberdeau and then Huberdeau to Dadonov who was camped out in the crease on the power play. Tic-Tac-freakin Toe. They continued this play for the aforementioned 53 minute mark, and because this is all about positivity, we’ll just leave it there and state the Cats achieved a well-fought 4-3 victory. Of note as well, this game saw the Panthers net-minder Chris “Driedge Report” Driedger go down with what appeared to be a pulled groin. He was playing quite well before that and we hope for the best in a speedy recovery.
Finally, the hapless (maybe the wingless) Red Wings of Detroit on Saturday January 18. Suffice it say, the Red Wings are taking after their namesake Hockey Arena by putting out $5 ice hockey like the $5 pizza from the Small Roman. Another great game from the first line with goals from Dadonov and Barkov and another two assists from the Big Dawg. More depth scoring from Mark Pysyk and this time Denis Malgin. One outstanding stat from this game is the fact that the Panther penalty kill went perfect killing all 7 penalties. One the other side the Panthers were able to convert on one of seven power play attempts, but like I said, we’re going positive today and one is infinitely better than none. Vinny Trocheck took a hit, destroyed Valteri Filppula on a hit and earned the right to fight Filip Hronek for his efforts. I absolutely love it. This is the stuff we have all been looking for. Oh, and Sergei Bobrovsky inched ever so close to the 0.900 mark in save percentage with a very good game.
Now the Panthers have completed a four game win streak. They outscored their opponents 21 to 8. They played from the very start of each game and finished strong (the last minute of the Kings game was strong). They forechecked. Hard. They dumped, and these times chased. They hit. They took away time and space. They took away turnovers. They fought. The broke out. They passed. They shot. And they scored. They killed penalties. And, by the by, they made saves, a lot of them, by three different goal tenders. Except for about 6 minutes of one of those games they completely dominated the play and were never really in danger. They played exactly up to our expectations. They proved they can do it. Now they need to point their building team chemistry and direct their anger and fortitude on the Minnesota Wild on the first of a 5-game road swing through the Midwest with stops in Chicago, Montreal, Toronto and Columbus. The All-Star break comes between the Chicago and Montreal games. With the exception of the Wild, these teams are all in the thick of things with aspirations of the playoffs. But they all are hockey teams and they can all be beaten. We’ve shown the NHL that we can do it, provided they play for the full 60 minutes, get an early lead, outhustle, outwork, forecheck hard, hit, grind, dump, chase, kill penalties, and make saves. All things they have recently done, to great success. What do you know, we got four in a row. Now let’s get that fifth one tonight.
That’s my POSITIVE beak for the week. Chirp, Chirp peeps.
Thanks for reading.
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