Alert the national media! The Florida Panthers are on a bona fide winning streak after beating the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 on Sunday and have looked more like the team we expected going into the 2013 season rather than the team we had seen thus far.
After going down 3-1 in the second period, the Panthers could have easily folded and accepted their fate as it seems they had done on so many other nights during the previous blowouts this season. However, these apparently are not the same Panthers that started this season on a 1-5 skid, as the team was able to compose themselves and tackle their adversity head on.
Just one game after being a healthy scratch, forward George Parros came out like a man possessed and showed Panthers’ fans why the team brought him in during the offseason. After firing up the Panthers’ bench with a fight against the Sabres’ John Scott early in the second period, Parros went on to net his 18th career goal, keeping the Panthers in the game. It’s reasonable to say that George Parros accomplished more in 7:18 on the ice Sunday than Stephen Weiss has the entire season thus far.
The Panthers’ line of Drew Shore, Peter Mueller and Jonathan Huberdeau once again stood out as the Panthers new “go to” line when the team needs some magic to happen on the ice. Rookie forward Drew Shore continued to impress me and Panthers’ fans as he recorded his first NHL point with an assist on Peter Mueller’s game tying goal at the end of the second period.
Speaking of Peter Mueller – Wow! This guy has been better than advertised and has quickly become the Panthers’ deadliest scoring threat while recording at least one goal in each of the team’s last four games. In a more safety conscious NHL, it is safe to think that Mueller’s concussion wary days could be behind him and this could be the start of the second chapter of his once promising career. Currently playing on a one-year contract, you have to think General Manager Dale Tallon is already thinking about locking Mueller up for years to come.
Panthers’ defenseman Brian Campbell netted the game winning goal on the power play midway through the 3rd period and the team never looked back. Campbell has been an impressive on-ice leader for the team thus far, eating up big minutes and running the team’s power play. Campbell has already reached his goal total from last season and in 72 fewer games. With the departure of Jason Garrison, Campbell has gone from a power play facilitator to a player that is not afraid to take the shot and it is paying off in a big way for the team.
Two games is far too small a sample size to know if this is really who the Florida Panthers are, but with more players returning from injury, it is safe to assume that the Panthers are on an upswing. The Panthers will look for their third straight victory on Tuesday against the Winnipeg Jets at 8:00 p.m.
- Defenseman Ed Jovanovski will reportedly miss the entire Panthers’ road trip while nursing an injury. Considering how well Tyson Strachan has been playing, it will be interesting to see who is scratched when Jovanovski does return.
- Tomas Kopecky had two assists and played an overall fantastic game on Sunday. While Kopecky struggled early on this season, he should now start to find his groove while playing on the team’s third line where a player with his skillset is much better suited.
- Shawn Matthias scored his first goal of the season on Sunday off of a faceoff win by Jerred Smithson. Both Smithson and Matthias have been some of the hardest working players during the team’s early struggles and it was nice to see them finally be rewarded for their hard work on the ice.
- Defenseman Mike Weaver continues to make sloppy mistakes and is becoming a liability for the Panthers. Although the team is playing sub-par defense as a whole, Weaver’s errors are standing out and continuously put the Panthers in tough situations.
- After being the Panthers’ early season MVP, goaltender Jose Theodore has fallen back to earth and looked rather human during recent games. The once stalwart Theodore has now become vulnerable and has allowed at least one soft goal in each of the last three games. With Jacob Markstrom waiting in the wings, Theodore doesn’t have room to make these kinds of mistakes.