the florida panthers sit just two points out of a playoff spot, what do they need to do to claim it?
All we have to do is win games? Right?
Well of course, but after their last two games against the Los Angeles Kings and the Vegas Golden Knights, hope seems to be fading away at a rapid rate.
What Florida has to do falls on the players, coaches and front office. As previously mentioned, the team sits only two points out of a playoff spot behind the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs with a game in hand in the Atlantic Division. The time to strike and leapfrog them is now and they cannot afford another bad stretch. They had a chance last night, but unfortunately they were outplayed, outworked, out shot and quite frankly, over matched.
If they intend on making it in, here’s a few suggestions:
Keep it simple.
Now we all love to see fancy setups and stylish goals, don’t get me wrong. But if this team wants to get pucks in the net, they need to play simple, back to basics hockey. I’ve lost count of how many times a good scoring chance has been completely nullified this season due to one too many passes, a play trying to be too cute, or simply holding onto the puck for too long. On the power play, they try to get too creative or just become too complacent with the passing game.
To quote the great one, Wayne Gretzky….
You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
If they get an open lane, take a shot. Be a little more selfish with the puck. Hope for a deflection or a lucky bounce. Every now and then you’re going to need a gritty and dirty goal. And it’s more than obvious this team can score goals, they’ve proven that many times.
Defense wins championships
I know for a lot of Panthers fans this sounds like a broken record. But unfortunately the fact remains: the defense has not been good this season, and the woes will continue if it doesn’t tighten up.
Here’s a perfect example. Both Keith Yandle and Anton Stralman decide to go after the man behind the net rather than have one defender stay back and cover the forward in the slot. This leaves the shooter all by himself with no one set to cover him, too easy for anyone. In addition, everyone gets caught puck watching as he just one-times it past the goalie. It’s too easy for even a bad team to score on this. You never have two defensemen chasing a player behind the net. They teach this in pee wee hockey!
If this team wants to get back on track, they have to tighten up and be a bit more physical.
dale tallon needs to make a blockbuster move
This goes with the defense. Dale Tallon has to make a deal that involves bolstering the defense and sending a message that he’s done playing around. So far he’s made some minor moves, such as shipping off Denis Malgin and putting Jayce Hawryluk on waivers, who was ultimately claimed by the Ottawa Senators. These are not cap space moves, these are “dead wood” moves. However, with the deadline coming tomorrow, time is running out. And at this point, it may not matter who stays and who goes.
I won’t name anyone specific but there are some real nice defensemen looking for a new home.
Special teams need to be special
Over the course of their last two games, the Panthers notched three power play goals. Before their game on Thursday, they scored 0 power play goals in their last 20 chances. That dropped them down to 13th in the league on the power play. They were previously 6th. With these top scoring players on this team, there should be no excuses to getting power play goals. Against Vegas last night they were 1 for 3. Special teams can be a difference maker, and this part of their game needs to get back to some consistency.
The penalty kill has been better as of recent.
goaltending needs to be sharp
Now I do agree that most of the fault is on the defense for the goals against. But there are some key mistakes that the goaltenders have to fix and fast.
Last night, Sam Montembeault allowed two goals that seemed entirely stoppable. If he stopped those, this game might be on it’s way to overtime. But unfortunately, life is not like a video game where you can go back in time. On Thursday, Sergei Bobrovsky seemed to do the same with two more, including one he failed to control the rebound off of, which resulted in the game winning goal.
Their stats certainly don’t help their case either. Both Bob and Monty have their goals against averages above the 3 mark and both their save percentages are below .900. Unacceptable.
Are they overworking Bob and do you give more shots to Monty? Granted, he had a rough night, but playing Bob too much could tire him out and cause him to not play as well, this especially includes back to back nights.
lets get physical
This team needs to play with a little bit of dirt on them sometimes. You can’t just let the other team run your goalie over without some retaliation. Someone gets lit up with a huge hit, answer back. Try playing a bit more physical against teams to show them who’s boss. Drop the gloves every now and then if you have to. Now that has been shown by some players as of late, but it needs to be every game. Physical play from the opponents has doomed this team on most nights, it needs to stop.
In addition, physicality is a big deal in the postseason, they need to show they can handle it.
the big question: is there still enough time to right the ship?
Yes. Due to a struggling Toronto team that literally just lost to a 42 year old Zamboni driver substitute goaltender, the Panthers still continue to sit 2 points behind third in the Atlantic. With this into consideration, their meeting on February 27th just might be the Cats biggest game of the season.
However, they cannot rely on other teams to pick up their slack. Ultimately, they need to take care of their own business, or they can kiss playoffs good bye.
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, @Mister_Joester! Make sure to follow and listen to our podcast @LOPanthersPod All images unless otherwise noted are courtesy of @KimSmithImages