First of all I hope that everyone is safe, healthy and doing well. It’s been quite awhile since I last published something, and whether you missed me or not, here I am.
The Florida Panthers returned to the ice for an exhibition game Wednesday afternoon as they took on cross state rival Tampa Bay. The game started at noon. Someone should have told the Panthers.
I didn’t watch. I didn’t need to as I received my game updates by periodically looking at my Twitter feed. What I read, I didn’t like. What I expected was about the same as what I read. A dud of a game.
Granted, the Panthers have been off since March. But so has everyone else. This game was a tuneup I read several times. A precursor to Saturday when the games count for real. Both teams, heck, all 24 teams are preparing for the playoff push which officially starts on Saturday. At least they could have looked as though they gave a rats arse.
If the Panthers play Saturday like they played Wednesday, the season will be over after three games, as the New York Islanders will have an easy go of it. The reason(s) I didn’t expect anything different? Well it can be summed up in this comment from captain Aleksander Barkov:
“Now we know how it’s going to be in the playoffs. We have to be ready for that. We got a good lesson from Tampa. Fortunately for us that game didn’t count. Now we know even more. We’re going to be even more ready for Saturday. Everybody’s still excited and ready to go.”
NOW WE KNOW?
You mean it took an embarrassing loss like that to figure out that this is serious?
If you analyze the statement, and read between the lines, it’s as though Barkov is saying this was a wake up call. Really? What did you think this game would be? A cakewalk? The Lightning outskated, outhustled, and outclassed the Panthers in every facet of the game. Nothing new for the most part. The level of inconsistency that has plagued this unit and core of players is about the only consistent thing they have shown.
Yes, the Lightning are a good team. A very good team that’s hungry. The Panthers are not in the same class. And by Wednesday’s performance belong in their own bubble.
Mike Matheson was on for all five goals against. He’s just not ready. Or maybe just not who the organization thought he was. Enjoy the rest of that contract. Sergei Bobrovsky didn’t look or fare much better. You could say he was victimized by a leaky defence. While that may be true, he is under the microscope now more than ever. If the Panthers are blown out in 3 games, or even 4 by the Islanders, the mutiny of Panther fandom against Bob will be in full force. For the entire offseason.
I love Coach Q. Without a doubt I feel he’s the right man to lead the Panthers to the promised land. The problem is the roster he has won’t get him there.
If you’re going to give the Panthers the benefit of the doubt and blame it on things like, they were getting the rust off, or they haven’t played a real game in months, then you are continuing to fool only yourself. The same old excuses continue to plague this team no matter who’s on the roster. And they are spoken by whomever is chosen to be the spokesperson for the team.
There are some good players on this team. There are some not so good players on this team too. If we’re getting excited about Brady Keeper can do, and waiting for Barkov to take the open shot rather than pass, you’re in for a huge disappointment.
I’m not going to say that the team lacks heart. That’s too strong of a remark. The team does however lack leadership. They lack hunger, and they lack the mental toughness to play with a chip on their shoulder. Too strong? Too harsh? Too bad.
There can be no more excuses. A deep playoff run is what the fan base expected. But just being lucky to be in the playoffs isn’t enough. Only because of the expanded format are the Panthers in this position….sniffing playoff hockey.
I’m tired of the talk. I’m tired of the promises. I’m tired of the excuses.
I want results.
Thanks for reading.
You can follow along with Panther Parkway @pantherparkway on Twitter! You can also follow our writers: @FrankRekas, @Josh_LOPanthers, @JacobWinans8, @prudentia0, @Spencer_hoag, @Mister_Joester! All images unless otherwise noted are courtesy of @KimSmithImages