Observations Of The Florida Panthers After Two Games

The Florida Panthers took the day off Sunday following Saturday night’s thrashing at the hands of the St. Louis Blues by a score of 7-0.  Seven different Blues players scored, and the game ended in an ugly fashion with 15 different penalties assessed to the two teams, that included eight various misconducts, two fighting majors, and a penalty for an illegal check to the head that was given to Tomas Fleischmann.

The play of the Panthers compared to their victory over the Dallas Stars on Thursday was a total 180, as Florida looked overmatched from beginning to end.  If you read my preview, you knew that the Blues would be physical, and use their muscle to not only set the tone, but dictate the pace.  They were obviously successful.  It didn’t hurt either that the Blues penalty killing unit squashed numerous chances for the Panthers as well.  Goaltender Jaroslav Halak now sports a 8-1-0 career record against the Panthers, who must not let that get into their heads.

One wonders how the Panthers could look so efficient on Thursday, and look so deficient on Saturday, but before anyone jumps to conclusions, take a breath.  These are the first two games of the regular season, and  while the loss was embarrassing, at this point it doesn’t matter if it was 7-0, or 2-1.  TSN’s Bob McKenzie offered this advice on Twitter in the wee hours of Saturday night:  “Pay no attention to the first two weeks of the season, but 3 weeks is a trend”.  I couldn’t agree more, and as fans, you/we must have some composure this early in the season.

Here are my personal observations covering the first two games of the season:

* Tim Thomas is very acrobatic, and the defence must be aware of that. He’ll overplay some shots, and it’s something the team will need to get used to.  However, that won’t happen very often.  Tomas Vokoun played similarly and you’d all agree he was a very good goaltender.

*  Quick starts have been an issue in both games.  The Cats survived Thursdays’ slow start, but on Saturday they were stuck in first gear early, and only went in reverse afterwards.  This needs to improve.

* The Panthers need to get the puck in deep as they cross the blue line.  Passes back to the point, and east-west are getting them in trouble.

* The power play is trying to be perfect, looking for that open lane.  My suggestion is to plant someone in front of the net, and take more shots in hopes for a rebound opportunity, or a screened goal.

*  Allow me to introduce you to the one-timer.  Please try these, especially during the power play.

* The Panthers have team speed.  Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said so.  Use the speed, hold the puck longer, and play more to the middle of the ice and not the perimeter.  Crash the net more. David Booth wouldn’t like that.

* Aleksander Barkov is going to be good.  He has a nose for the net, and is a gifted passer.  His linemates need to anticpate just a bit better.

* Defensively, the team needs to be better.  Sloppy play in both games was evident, yet game one was a little cleaner.  The forwards must backcheck to help out as well.

* Marcel Goc looks very good between Versteeg and Flash.  That has been a tremendous bright spot early on.

* Jesse Winchester works hard, is good in the corners, and fights for the puck.  That should rub off on his teammates.

Scott Gomez was the Panthers best player Saturday night. He played an effective game, had a few takeaways and some solid scoring chances.

* The resiliency that the Panthers showed on Thursday against Dallas was a glimpse of how good the team can play when firing on all cylinders.  That. Is. How. They. Should. Play.

Heading into Philadelphia Tuesday night the Panthers will face a Flyers team that is 0-3-0.  The Flyers have questionable goaltending, and an aging defence.  That doesn’t mean the game should be taken for granted.  As in every game, preparation is the key, and they best be ready.

Thanks for reading.  We welcome your comments and opinions.

Follow the Panther Parkway crew on Twitter: Frank Rekas @FrankRekas, David Lasseter @davidlasseter , Paige Lewis @PaigeLewisFL, Jameson Cooper @JamesonCoop, and Amanda Land @HockeyGirl2530.  Also, please join our FaceBook Fan Page and hit the like button, send us photos, and tell us what’s on your mind.

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