We're only six games into this young NHL season, and the Florida Panthers have been shut out twice already, this time with a pretty listless effort at home against the Buffalo Sabres, who walked out of Sunrise with a 3-0 victory. For the second straight game, the Panthers were shut out and only managed to post 22 shots on Buffalo netminder Ryan Miller. Quite often, the Panthers lacked a spark to their play or any sort of jump to their steps, and this time around the lack of rest can't be used as an excuse. The "vaunted" powerplay was kept under wraps as the Panthers only got one crack at it, but were unable to get one past Miller. All in all, the Sabres really controlled the play, and made the Cats look as though their heads weren't in this game, similar to the effort against Washington earlier in the week.
So... is it time to be concerned yet?
Both teams came out with pretty even efforts, but the first period went to the goalies, with both Miller and Jose Theodore making some good stops. The play was very back and forth and really didn't shift much until the Sabres got a powerplay off of a Stephen Weiss high-sticking call. The Cats were able to kill it off successfully, and the rest of the period the teams traded the occasional chance while trying to control play by clogging up the neutral zone.
Buffalo came alive in the second, outshooting the Panthers 13-7 and getting goals from Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek. Florida seemed to have a lot of trouble in their zone, repeatedly missing clearing attempts and having a lot of trouble breaking out past the Buffalo blueliners. A brief fight between Paul Gaustad and Matt Bradley was pretty much the highlight of the action for the Panthers, and they weren't really able to get much consistent pressure on the Sabres or really test Miller much.
Due to some scheduling issues tonight, I missed the third period, but the stats speak for themselves: When the Panthers needed to get pressure to try and tie the game up, they instead were outshot 14-6 and gave up two powerplays to Buffalo, with Vanek scoring on one to get his second of the night and put the nail in the coffin. Can't win games like that.
- There's clearly not much effort through the whole lineup from game to game. Guys are disappearing one night and present the next. Head coach Kevin Dineen is going to need to figure out how to get everyone buying in every game, and working hard every game to make sure these no-goal efforts cease.
- Interestingly, Dineen paired up rookie Erik Gudbranson with youngster Keaton Ellerby as a defensive pairing. I don't think we'll be seeing them together too often though, as they each went -2 tonight.
- Sean Bergenheim (injury), Ed Jovanovski (injury) and Shawn Matthias (illness) each were out for this game. Whether or not those three would have made much of a difference is a toss-up, though there's no question that Jovanovski's leadership would've been welcomed in the locker room between periods.
- The Cats called up Tim Kennedy and Bracken Kearns, who both played in the game. This was Kearns first NHL game at the ripe young age of 30. Congrats to him and his 6:30 of ice time.
- The Panthers seem to have a lot of issues with generating offense against teams who heavily pressure them at the offensive blueline. If they're not able to successfully carry into the zone and maintain possession, they revert to a dump and chase game, and so far that has not panned out well. They may just need more time to gain that chemistry that helps teams establish a puck possession game.
- Theodore was again great, but with no goal support he's not going to win many games. The Panthers wasted a sterling effort by Jacob Markstrom against Washington, and again by Theodore in this game.
- Both Bradley and Mike Weaver were cut pretty good, with Bradley getting gashed during his fight with Gaustad, and Weaver's face meeting a part of the net. Both were stitched right up and back on the ice in no time.
- The Panthers top line was again their best line, but seem to be the only group that can get any kind of pressure. The Panthers second line of Scottie Upshall, Booth and whichever center Dineen wants out there (Tomas Kopecky or Kennedy tonight) were yet again not only unable to put one in the net, but were a bit of a liability defensively, as Booth, Upshall and Kennedy were all -2 on the evening. Booth, as we all know, was a putrid -31 last year, but was on a terrible team. He should improve upon that this season with better linemates, but he's already a -4 and not generating the offense he's known for.