The Florida Panthers Pay A Price For A Long Layoff.

The month of January is over.  For me, I’m certainly glad that it’s behind us.  With the sickness that was going around the Panther Parkway offices, a death in my family, and the overall drain of all that, I’m glad February is here.  Matter of fact, let’s consider February the start to the new year.

As for the Florida Panthers, they may not have realized that there was a game that started at 2 pm eastern time Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens.  Coming off a 10 day “break” for the All-Star game, you would have thought fresh legs, positive mindset, being rested, and the feeling of wanting to extend a 6 game winning streak would be enough adrenaline to get off to good start.  If that’s how you felt as well, you can join club disappointment as the Florida Panthers were shut out by Carey Price and the Canadiens by a score of 4-0.

Price who looked like his Hall of Fame self made 29 saves en route to his 3rd shutout of the season and the 47th in his career.  The Canadiens struck early, which can often be a detriment for the Panthers, who still seem to have a slow start creeping into their game.  Nick Suzuki opened the scoring at 5:25 to give Montreal the lead and they never looked back.  Four different players scored for Montreal and defenceman Geoff Petry picked up 4 helpers in a game that could have been much worse than 4-0 if not for Sergei Bobrovsky.

Now, let me take a minute here.  Many on social media seem to think that “Bob” as we all lovingly call him his good for giving up four goals per night on average.  Many night’s when he’s in net, that is indeed the case.  Often as well, social media seems to get a big thrill out of counting down the goals.  Pretty immature, and not a good look if you know what I mean.

Let me deliver a news flash people.  It’s the defence that the team is playing overall that is causing much of the goals against.  So rather than scold your 10 million dollar goaltender, how about throwing some shade at the other 18 skaters instead.  I don’t like the fact that we’re giving up all these goals either, but placing the blame all on Bob is wrong.  The opening goal was caused because of “another” 2 on 1 advantage with some slick passing.  That’s on your defence.

Additionally the Panthers showed no physical push back during the entire game.  Failure to clear bodies from the crease has been a season long problem, and it reared it’s ugly head again Saturday.  And it’s not just me saying it, you can read it here as well.

If it sounds like I’m cranky, I am.  Maybe the emotional and mental drain of this past month has caught up to me.  But the rhetoric around Bob and all the goals are his fault is old, tiring, and misguided.

The Panthers have no problem scoring goals, and that has been well documented.  And yes, you can win games 5-4, or 6-4 during the regular season.  But if you aren’t going to play defence, and have no interest in a physicality, and be able to push back in the playoffs and stop with the free wheeling, willy nilly passing, you won’t go far.

On top of all the defensive issues, the Panthers are looking at an injury to captain Aleksander Barkov.  Sasha was man handled and cross checked multiple times in Saturday’s game.  He left early in the second period when he went down with an apparent knee injury, and did not return.  He’s scheduled to have an MRI to determine the severity of the injury.  As we all know the current diagnosis is that he’s day to day.  Q speak for, “I’m not giving you any information”.

The old cliche that defence wins championships is still true.  We can all agree that it starts with good goaltending, but when he’s hung out to dry, it doesn’t matter how good he’s playing.

The Panthers were just not ready to play Saturday afternoon and it showed.  Coach Q summed it up quite nicely with this comment following the game:

“Across the board, you look at assessing who’s performance today at least met their standard, or your expectation, or their expectation, and I don’t think too many guys were at that level.”

Panthers better get that message and respond Monday night against Toronto, as the schedule won’t be getting any softer the rest of the way.  The next 13 games feature only one game that could be considered soft and that’s against the New Jersey Devils.  In addition, many of those teams play a heavy physical game, and the Panthers will need to be up for the task.

All the six game winning streak did was allow the Panthers to keep pace in the playoff hunt. They currently sit 2 points out of the Wild Card race, and 2 points behind Toronto in the Atlantic Division.  Monday’s game against the Leafs is a big one.  At this point in the season as we go forward, they’re all big.

Final note:  Due to the illness we faced, travel, and my personal family situation, Josh and I have not been able to record a podcast.  We’re sorry about that, but life has it’s priorities.  We hope to be back on track in the next week or so.  Please hang in there with us.

Thanks for reading.

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