We are about 45 days into the shortened season, which means we are nearing the half-way point of the 2013 NHL regular season. With the majority of teams already playing at least 22 games each, we’ve been able to take a good look at the players who have been showing this 48-game season what they’re made of. As usual, guys like Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos are sticking to the status quo and owning the top of the stats charts. But I’m not here to state the obvious. I’m here to give a nod to the players whom I believe have been the biggest surprises thus far.
Below are my top 7 player picks for this seasons biggest surprises:
You’d have forgiven the Florida Panthers if they came out flat in Tuesday night’s game against the Winnipeg Jets as it’s been a rough few games for them. In addition to dropping a home and home weekend series against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Cats lost Jose Theodore, Scottie Upshall and Dmitry Kulikov to injures. Eight hours before game time, it was announced that Stephen Weiss, a pending unrestricted free agent and career leader in games played as a Panther, would undergo wrist surgery and miss the remainder of the season. But, instead of feeling sorry for themselves, Florida put together it’s most complete game of the season in a 4-1 win over their Canadian division opponent.
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Amidst a 2-4-4 skid in their last 10 games, the Panthers desperately need to unlock some sort of winning formula if they still want to make a push for the playoffs, and fast. The bottom teams in the East are all separated by a mere six points, and a condensed season is the enemy to those squads trying to make their case for a postseason berth.
As we enter into the month of March, frustration looms among Cats fans who have only seen their team win on home ice three times all season. Many argue that inconsistent goaltending is the primary issue, while others offer that a shoddy defense is the the main contributor to the Panthers’ lack of success. If you’re an equally frustrated spectator, you would likely believe that it is a number of ailments rather than one pinpointed problem that has doomed the Panthers to fall below mediocrity. With that, here are three keys (while perhaps obvious) that could help provide a desperately needed surge headed into the second half of the season. Read the rest of this entry
When Dale Tallon took over as general manager of the Florida Panthers, one of his prime objectives was to acquire and develop players that would make the Panthers difficult to play against. In his quest to put together a team that would work hard, agitate just enough, and give a solid effort, Tallon went right to the well of familiarity and pulled up Tomas Kopecky from the Chicago Blackhawks. Kopecky and his rights were acquired for a 7th round draft pick on June 27th of 2011, and shortly thereafter was signed to a four year deal with the Panthers, and has quietly been one of Tallon’s best moves.
Kopecky brought with him a winning attitude, a dedicated work ethic, and a lot of heart. Not known as much for his talent or skill as a player in the NHL, Kopecky certainly may be one of the most under appreciated. That was until Tuesday night, when Kopecky and his four points, including his first career hat trick, vaulted the Panthers to a 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in one of the more exciting games that’s been played at the BB & T Center this season. It was Kopecky’s willingness to go to the “dirty” areas, and do what he does best with his grinding style that proved to be the winning recipe to prevent the Panthers from losing their sixth consecutive game at home.
Coming into Tuesday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Florida Panthers had a few of things going against them. They had lost their past five games in the confines of the BB&T Center with a 2-4-3 home record on the season. Their power play, a key ingredient in last year’s success, had only produced one goal since February 7th. And, in the Pens net was former Cat Tomas Vokoun, who won all three starts against them last season as a member of the Washington Capitals. The good news is that Vokoun would finish his night on the Pittsburgh bench as Florida rode a Tomas Kopecky hat trick to a 6-4 win over the team that beat them this past Friday.
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The NHL lockout is never a fun topic to talk about. As all of us fans continue to pray that the two sides stop being so stubborn and come to an agreement, players throughout the league are continuously signing with teams overseas. For the Florida Panthers, we have seen many of our players go across the ocean. Whether it was our great young defender, Dmitry Kulikov, or one of our veterans such as Tomas Kopecky, multiple players from the Florida Panthers have decided to go to Europe to get some playing time in untill the lockout is settled.
When a player chooses to go play overseas, they know there is a huge risk involved. The style of hockey that is played in the Eastern side of the world is much different from what they’re used to here in the states. Even with the chance of injury being there, the players still go overseas nonetheless. In my opinion, one of the biggest reasons for the move overseas is you cannot go a whole year without contact and then just play at the same level once hockey starts up again. Unfortunately with contact, there are always injuries. I never enjoy watching players get injured in any sport, no matter who the player is, or what team that player plays for. For example, it is safe to say that I am not a fan of Sidney Crosby, however, when he went down with his concussion, I knew that hit could completely change his career. In two seasons since, Crosby was only able to play a total of 63 games. Injuries are a very serious thing, and as a fan, it hurts a lot more when it’s a player from your favorite team. Read the rest of this entry
As you may all know by now, I am doing a list of the top ten Panther players from last season; of course, the list is based off of what I believe. Before we continue on with the list, let’s take a quick look back and see who number ten and number nine were.
Number Ten: Shawn Matthias; 2011-2012 Statistics: Games Played- 79, Goals- 10, Assist- 14, Total Points- 24
Number Nine: Erik Gudbranson;2011-2012 Statistics: Games Played- 72, Goals- 2, Assist- 6, Points- 8, Penalty Minutes- 78
Coming in at number eight on my list is, Tomas Kopecky.
Games Played: 80
Game Winning Goals: 2
Prior to the 2011-2012 NHL season, Tomas Kopecky found himself in a rough situation with the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks were in a place where they normally are every year, the playoffs. Entering the playoffs with the very last seed in the Western Conference, the Blackhawks needed just about every bit of power and will from their players that they can get. Unfortunately, after only the first game of the opening series against the Vancouver Canucks(seems like they’re brought up too much), Tomas Kopecky was forced to sit out for the remainder of the series with an upper body injury. Read the rest of this entry