VANCOUVER, CANADA - OCTOBER 11: David Booth #10 of the Florida Panthers keeps his balance after getting past a sprawling Kevin Bieksa #3 of the Vancouver Canucks during the third period in NHL action on October 11, 2010 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
There's not an enlightened soul in the hockeyverse who is criticizing the typically year-after-miserable-year Panthers' 0-2 record after outplaying Edmonton Monday only to be followed by a masterful performance in Vancouver the next evening (just don't ask the Canucks; as modesty is evidently not their forte). A 70-48 shot margin in favor of the Cats only serves to highlight the efforts of everyone's favorite sad-sack club.
A collective score of 5-3 (all goals-against being of this bizarro variety) has only heightened spirits of the faithful while withholding fuel from longtime naysayers and their annual barbs rightly directed toward Sunrise. Tomas Vokoun is everything he's supposed to be, and Gord Murphy's defense has been reliable, considering the youth involved. Coach Peter DeBoer - or was it his boss? - has lit a fire which has yet to be ignored among the troops. Good things all around, but an age-old question remains, however: who will carry the offense?
A side note: On the very day after Florida's second loss, the club announced a milestone of sorts, though given the bevy of plans available, it's difficult at best to judge these results at face value. Are we talking 10,000 individual seat holders, or were the two-fers counted as well? Doesn't matter a whiff, as long as the on-ice product continues to evolve in a positive direction. And it is doing just that, regardless of the record.
Florida's newfound effort, resolute grit, and willingness to pay just about any price for puck possession and board dominance - forgetting that indefinable and unfamiliar snarl fans have witnessed in only 120 minutes of regular season play - has resulted in kudos from around the league. Wonderful stuff, especially when you've been subjected to a decade of ridicule and scorn.
It is though, in reality, only two games.
all most observers, the Panthers are expected to struggle on offense this season. A fair assessment considering the present collection at forward: solid-but-unspectacular wingers, no traditional number-one center, castoffs, underachievers. Similar to Florida lineups of the recent past; it's just enough to limp through the year. Which, historically, has been the modus operandi in Sunrise since Gladiator graced your local cineplex.
Maybe this bunch - by some miraculous coaching and group cohesion ala last year's Coyotes - can indeed pull off something special. Tough to predict with all of those tasty expiring contracts, but "Stranger Things", and all. No matter what happens in 2010-11, the Panthers will look radically different next October.
Back to the present. The Cats are averaging 1.5 goals per game after two. Marty Reasoner (2...on four shots) and Rostislav Olesz are one-and-two in scoring for Florida. Steve Bernier is your assist leader (2).
Quick critique: pleasant as this revelation has been, Reasoner should not be any club's scoring leader, even after only two games. Rusty's another story, but one we've discussed ad infinitum.
The top line of David Booth (8 SOG), Stephen Weiss (5), and Michael Frolik (4) have combined for 1 assist and a minus-six. The power play has gone 0-8, and with the exception of a few solid moments, has looked incredibly inept through most of those opportunities. Booth has been double-shifted on a number of occassions in an effort to jumpstart what's been a pop-gun offense, which resulted in that single assist noted above. Keep up the pressure we've seen through the opening two matches and the goals will come. Well, they should come.
Everyone understands Florida is at the beginning of a massive overhaul, but a competitive team must still be iced regardless (apparently this is not an isolated problem). That said - and it's wicked early - what's the deal with the shortage of offense to this point? Strong opposition? Adjustment period for a heavily revamped roster? Assistant coach Jim Hulton showing cracks in the armor? Asking too much of the current group?