I have tried very hard to instill some level of positivity amongst my negativity. I am eternally optimistic and try always to present the whole situation and comment on both the bad and good aspects, to try and find the positive. I have hope and I have faith. Maybe I am just insane with all this constant hope while expecting a different outcome. But I am tired of being fooled by this team. Or to put it quite bluntly, The Defense Sucks.
The Florida Panthers started their five-game road trip out west on Monday in San Jose, then traveled to Anaheim for a game on Wednesday, and moved on to Los Angeles for a game last night (Thursday). These were three games that the Panthers desperately needed to win. No exceptions. These three teams are having down years and will more than likely be sellers at the deadline, San Jose has already given up Brenden Dillon in a trade with Washington. The Panthers needed all 6 available points, again, no exceptions. The first two games, fortunately, went our way. The Panthers beat the Sharks 5-3 but had to tough out a late barrage by the Sharks. The game started off quite well with Evgenii Dadonov scoring on a nice pass from Frank Vatrano at the 15:08 mark in the first. The Sharks would come back with a goal later in the first as the result of a mishandled puck behind the net by Sergei Bobrovsky. Mike Hoffman got the lead back in the second with a nifty backhand-forehand move through the five-hole. Colton Sceviour would advance the lead to 3-1 on a perfect grinder type shot-rebound-finish on a breakaway. This is how the game should have ended. The Panthers should have gone into lock down mode. Not so fast. The Sharks go on the power play around the 5:15 mark of the third period. Puck gets dumped around the boards somewhat innocently. Aaron Ekblad beats his man to it, but breaks one of the golden rules by trying to clear the puck through the middle of the ice, where a waiting Brent Burns intercepted it and put it back in play. Mackenzie Weegar ended up having to come out high and attempt a block, but it left his man open in front of the net and Ekblad did not attempt to clear him from the crease, ending up with a partially blocked puck and a completely blocked Bobrovsky and the puck bloopering over Bob like a nice sand wedge shot from the fringe.
We got a little breathing room on a shot from Anton Stralman off a beautiful back door feed from Jonathan Huberdeau, 4-2. Just put it into lock down mode already. Hold on a second there, professor. Temo Meier scored on a really soft bad angle goal at the 1:42 mark late in the third. Bob immediately went down and got torched by a bad-angle roofed backhand. Luckily, Keith Yandle picked up a loose puck, passed to Trocheck on the left side and watched Trocheck deposit the puck into the empty net. It actually hit a Sharks player and trickled in (nothing is easy). Game over. But dang, why does it have to be so hard? This game should have ended 3-1 or 4-1. The Panthers outplayed the Sharks, but the defense just could not lock it down.
Here’s the beginning of the Meier goal. Dadonov is late, but keeping Meier to the outside on his back hand.
You can see Bobrovsky goes immediately down, leaving the upper half of the net open.
This is the reverse angle. Such a bad angle shot. Bob is down. Goal. SOFT.
The Anaheim Ducks game was much better and Bobrovsky was able to knock down a 1 goal against performance. However, it should have been a shutout. Enter Keith Yandle. I have given Keith a hard time previously, but what I am about to show you is absolutely the worst of the worst. Yandle and Stralman are paired, and the Ducks attempt a hail Mary stretch pass with a high dump. The pucks hits the Ducks player’s glove and takes a fortuitous bounce towards Yandle. He then attempts possibly the most bone-headed play ever by trying a blind touch pass through the legs. Right to the trailing Duck player. But wait, there’s more. The first Duck in now goes to the net and is somewhat (but not really) covered by Stralman. Yandle makes what looks like an attempt to approach the trailing Duck. And then just commits the most unacceptable play of all time. With the first Duck player in front of the net, shielding Bobrovsky’s view, Yandle actually steps away, out of the play and allows the Duck player to shoot unabated at the net. Goal. Stupidest, most selfish, soft, weak, bone-headed play, EVER. This is why many fans have a deep seeded dislike for Mr. Soonk. Here is the sequence.
And lastly the LA Kings game on Thursday. Time for Bobrovsky to add to the torment. The Panthers went down 1-0 early on what looked like a simple shot from just inside the blue line. It was Gabriel Vilardi’s first NHL game, first NHL shift and first NHL shot resulting in his first NHL goal. Some will argue that Stillman tipped it. But come on, it’s over 30-40 feet away. That is a save that must be made. You be the judge:
For a must win game, apparently the Panthers did not get the memo. I realize the game was the second night on a back to back. But there is no excuse for the complete lack of urgency on the part of this team. They were 2 points back of a playoff spot and layed an egg. Even adding more fuel to the fire, the game was probably one of the best for the top line. Huberdeau posted a 4 point night, Barkov had two goals, and Acciari added an assist. All in, the top line was responsible for 7 points. All to lose 5-4 to the 22-34-5 LA Kings. I know, I know, “there’s lots of hockey to be played” and “it’s only one game”. That was game 61, there are only 21 more to go, and if you haven’t realized all the other NHL clubs have 20 or so games left. It is hard to play catch up in the NHL with only a month or so left. Pure and simple, that was a must win game and they didn’t get it done.
I saw a few Tweets about the dismal performance. One caught my eye as it contained video evidence of bad defense.
This first one was the Kings goal to go up 4-3. One opponent behind the net. Most of you know it is REALY hard to score from behind the net. What isn’t hard is to make a pass to an open winger in front of the net. So please tell me why are both Stralman and Yandle behind the net? Also why is Trocheck casually skating to the open winger? This is too easy. It’s unacceptable.
The last one is equally bad. We have three Panthers surrounding two Kings. We also have one King undefended in front of the net. Pass, shoot, rebound, shoot, Goal. Game over.
Like Pierre McGuire said, “it’s just not good enough”. My observations are that we have a mix of guys from veterans to rookies on defense. Even rookies have played since they were toddlers. There is no real defensive scheme that allows these two situations where opposing players get free shots on the goalie. I am not sure if it is bad coaching or scheme, but our defense seems to always be chasing the puck. Most players learn the zone defense that includes staying tight to the man in your zone. The Panthers seem to play in a box from the crease to the top of the circles and between the hash marks. They constantly have to chase the play, allowing the opposing team to move the puck relentlessly. They opt for shot blocking, but usually they are trying to block a shot from 20 feet away. It isn’t working. They rank in the bottom of the NHL in team defense. I don’t know if they can change this approach. Rumors are that management is looking for a lock down D. If this happens it could possibly help, but I fear it may be too far gone.
I hate being this negative, but I stayed up until 1:30 am this morning watching what I thought was a must win game. So, I’m cranky, please give me a pass.
That’s my Beak for the Week. Chirp, Chirp peeps.
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