Panther Report: 2013 IIHF World Championship
With the preliminary round winding down and the quarter finals set to begin this Thursday, the action is just starting to heat up at the 2013 IIHF World Championship. With each team already having competed in at least 6 games, Team Canada and Team Russia have risen to the top of their respective groups. Although no Panthers’ skater has grabbed any headlines throughout the tournament, there have still been some exceptional performances worthy of noting.
Below, I have listed the current statistics for each Panther player represented at the World Championship as well as adding a brief comment on their play.
Brian Campbell (Canada)
Note: As he was for the majority of the season in Florida, defenseman Brian Campbell has been a workhouse for Team Canada so far this tournament. Through 7 games played, Campbell is 2nd on the team in total TOI with 140:23 minutes played. Also, Campbell’s +7 rating is good enough for the best +/- rating on the entire Canadian roster.
Panthers Find Consistency In Their 2nd Line
In what has been overall up and down season for the Florida Panthers, the team continues to find their most consistant play from an unlikely source. While players like Jonathan Huberdeau and Shawn Matthias have given the Panthers several “wow” moments this season, it has been the reliable play of the team’s 2nd line that has been helping the team stay in most games this season.
While names like Tomas Kopecky, Tomas Fleischmann, and Marcel Goc might not jump off of a stat sheet or turn any heads, the combination of this European trio has shined for the Panthers in an overall somber season. Although a brief injury limited Marcel Goc early in this season, the eventual teaming of these three skaters has been one of the lone things to work for Kevin Dineen this season as he has constantly had to tweak his roster to adjust for countless injuries.
While Jonathan Huberdeau may be the team’s individual MVP this season, the team’s 2nd line as a unit has been the Panthers’ most valuable weapon. Through 42 games this season, the trio of Kopecky, Fleischmann, and Goc have combined for a grand total of 73 points - the most by any line on the team. In fact, even with Huberdeau’s fantastic rookie season and Matthias’ goal explosion in March, it is Fleischmann and Kopecky that currently sit atop the Panthers’ scoring list.
Game Day Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Florida Panthers: Come Up For Air
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: 31-10-0 (62 PTS.) vs. FLORIDA PANTHERS: 13-21-6 (32 PTS.)
GAME DAY SONG: MIRACLE MILE (COLD WAR KIDS)
The Pittsburgh Penguins come into the BB & T Center tonight without Sidney Crosby, yet still possess a star studded roster, especially with their late season additions. In addition to Crosby the Penguins will also be without the services of left wing James Neal and defenceman Paul Martin. Despite the injuries, the Penguins will be seeking their fourth consecutive win in this “rubber” match of the series against the Panthers with a number of new faces since the last time these teams faced off against each other.
Added to the roster for the playoff, and Stanley Cup push were Jussi Jokinen, Brenden Morrow, and Jarome Iginla, and defenceman Douglas Murray. Talk about loading up for the the final stretch, Pittsburgh’s moves are basically has indicating that they can smell the the opportunity of a Cup appearance. The trio has combined for 9 points in the last two games, and they’ve all played an integral part in the recent three game winning streak. Jussi Jokinen had two goals and an assist in Thursday night’s 6-3 victory over Tampa, as he’s making the most of his opportunity.
“Obviously, we have a really good team and we’re missing a couple of key players still,” Jokinen said. “We have some depth on this team as well, and that’s what you need when you go to the playoffs.”
With Crosby out of the lineup, Chris Kunitz (yes that’s right) leads the team in goals with 21. The rugged left wing has 26 points in his last 22 games, and has a point in six of seven games in this series including three goals and five helpers. Of his 21 goals, nine have come with the man advantage, and with tonight’s oppenent on tap, that should have Kunitz licking his chops since the Panthers are the proud owners of the worst penalty kill in the NHL at 74.6 percent. Kunitz also has five game winning goals which ties him for the team lead with James Neal.
After having Thursday night off, Marc-Andre Fleury is likely to get the start tonight. He’s a cool 7-1-0 in his last nine games with a 1.55 GAA and a .949 save percentage. Fluery has won six straight against the Panthers with a 1.14 goals against average.
Evaluating the Florida Panthers’ Trade Assets
With a 7-16-6 record and 11 points out of a playoff spot, it’s safe to assume that the Florida Panthers may be leaning toward being sellers as the April 3rd deadline approaches. Sadly, a plethora of injuries have robbed the Panthers’ of their three best trade assets – Stephen Weiss, Kris Versteeg and Jose Theodore.
However, even with their best pieces no longer a part of the equation, don’t expect the Panthers to be quiet on the trade market. The Panthers still have several serviceable players that any playoff bound team would love to add to their roster in hopes of tipping the scales come May.
Listed below are several Panthers’ forwards and why they may or may not be moved before the deadline.
Heading into restricted free agency next season, forward Jack Skille could add some energy and talent to any team looking to strengthen their 3rd line heading into the playoffs. In recent games and throughout most of the season, Skille has been a force to be reckoned, both at even strength and on the penalty kill.
In 27 games this season, Skille has compiled 10 points (3G 7A) - including 5 points in his last 6 games alone. Clearly a player like Skille could be an important part of the Panthers’ future as a solid 3rd line skater, but the team could be persuaded to move him if the right offer is presented.
Although Skille has been a project for General Manager Dale Tallon since he originally drafted the young skater back in 2005, the time may have finally come for Tallon and Skille to part ways.
Does Peter Mueller Have a Future With The Panthers?
In the roller coaster ride that has been the Panthers’ 2013 season up until this point, there have been a few players steadily contributing on a team filled with question marks. However, during most games this season, forward Peter Mueller has been a bright spot of stellar play - even during some of the Panthers’ worst games.
After being selected 8th overall during the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Mueller’s career has been anything but spectacular as the promising young skater has had to battle an abundance of concussion-related problems since joining the NHL. During the 2010 season, a dirty hit from the San Jose Sharks’ Rob Blake sent Mueller to the ice, and set off a chain of events that would keep him from playing steady hockey up until this season. Since that first concussion, Mueller has been unable to play more than 32 games during a single NHL season and has been labeled as a possible liability due to his health concerns.
However, during the 2012 offseason the Florida Panthers decided to take a low-risk chance on the once promising young skater when they signed Mueller to a 1-year 1.725 million dollar contract - an investment that is paying off in spades. Through 12 games this season, Mueller currently has the 4th most points on the Panthers’ roster, compiling 7 points (4G 3A) thus far.
Top Ten Florida Panther Players Of 2011-2012. Number 2: Flash.
Tomas Fleischmann is the type of hockey player that every general manager wishes they had on their team. Not only is he respectful off the ice, he also shows great sportsmanship on it. Although he isn’t the prolific scorer that he once was in his WHL days (Western Hockey League), Fleischmann’s knowledge of the game and ability to perform at a high level is what sets him apart from many other forwards. With that being said, the number two player on the list of Top Ten Florida Panther Players from Last Season is; Tomas Fleischmann.
Games Played: 82
Game Winning Goals: 4
Tomas Fleischmann, in my opinion, is a great example of what a player in the NHL should be. Not only is he tough, he is also a player who respects the game and players throughout the league. After being drafted 63rd overall by the Detroit Red Wings in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, Fleischmann immediately made the move from the Czech Republic to the United States to play in the Western Hockey League. After what was a very successful WHL career, Fleischmann’s rights were traded to the Washington Capitals along with draft picks for center Robert Lang. On June 1st, 2006, a year and a half after being traded to Washington, Fleischmann signed his first NHL entry level contract. However, Fleischmann would go onto spend a majority of those first three years with the AHL playing for the Capitals affiliate teams.