Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!
After losing five straight games and failing to put together a complete effort in most recent games, the Florida Panthers finally put their foot on the gas and gave fans what they had been waiting for all season long. While the Panthers played far from a perfect game, it was still the best all-around effort that we have seen from the Cats in weeks and a good way to revitalize both the team and fan base.
The Panthers got off on the right foot early on during Thursday night’s game, scoring three goals within 2:00 minutes of play. Peter Mueller and Tomas Kopecky each netted beautiful wristers, but the real highlight came when the Flyers’ Kimmo Timonen dragged down Jonathan Huberdeau on a breakaway, thus giving way to Huberdeau’s first career NHL penalty shot – and he did not disappoint.
Huberdeau’s spectacular penalty shot should flood highlight reels across sports media stations – minus ESPN of course if there were dunks in the NBA on this night – and really cemented the fact that the Florida Panthers would not go quietly into the night. Along with Huberdeau, Peter Mueller and Drew Shore rounded off another impressive statistical night for the Panthers’ “kid line” as the three talented young skaters were able to combine for 8 points (4G 4A) on the evening.
After a string of bad games and top goalie prospect Jacob Markstrom now breathing down his neck, Panthers’ backup goaltender Scott Clemmensen put together his best start of the season on Thursday night. Clemmensen stopped 32 of 34 shots on the evening and carried a shutout into the middle of the 3rd period. With the Panthers’ now juggling three goalies, each start will mean more as both Jose Theodore and Clemmensen fight for a place on the roster.
Not to be lost in the team’s offensive efforts was the play of the Panthers’ defensive unit. Although they fell victim to some mistakes that you will see on the ice most nights, the Cats’ defensive squadron was solid throughout the entire game. The defensemen were physical and punishing, most notably Erik Gudbranson and Dmitry Kulikov who combined for 8 hits on the night and helped keep Clemmensen’s crease clear of any Flyers skaters.
Now the Panthers will have the tough task of trying to find some consistency as they look to put together a string of wins that will be needed to help them climb the South East Division standings. In their last six games the Panthers have put up goal totals of 5 – 0 – 5 – 0- 5 -0, so if they can managed to put even a pedestrian offensive effort in their next game then I will consider it progress.
The Panthers’ schedule gets very rough in the coming days with two games against the Pittsburgh Penguins and one against the Boston Bruins, both of which are considered Stanley Cup Contenders at this point.
- George Parros had the type of game tonight that I would love to see from him every night. In roughly 8 minutes of ice time, Parros had 5 hits and a fight with the Flyers’ Nicklas Grossman. The type of physical play that he showed on Thursday night is exactly why the Panthers picked him up this offseason.
- After being called up on Wednesday, top goalie prospect Jacob Markstrom is set to make his first NHL start this season against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night. Considering the Penguins’ impressive offense, Markstrom is clearly being thrown into the fire early to see just how effective he can be.