After winning three straight games, it would have been perfectly acceptable to drop a game as the Panthers went for four in a row for the first time in years. At this point in the season, going 3-1 on a homestand is a great way to roll through the schedule as the postseason nears; extended winning streaks are nice, but they aren't necessary when you're in a position like the Panthers are in. Despite the Florida Panthers looking completely flat all game, despite the fact the Buffalo Sabres looked much more desperate for the points, the well worn cliche held; good teams find a way to win. Florida killed two birds at once, they won their fourth straight game and did it in the shootout of all places. For lack of better words, the fact the Panthers won their fourth in a shootout simply "does not compute".
So with a strategically dropped "loser point" to Buffalo, Florida sits comfortably in the drivers seat for the division and leaves a nice oil slick for their divisional pursuers. I keep preaching about the sheer lack of difficulty in the remaining schedule for the Panthers, by walking away victoriously from a skirmish with a determined Buffalo squad and from a crucial homestand with all 8 possible points, not only does Florida's schedule continue to ease up but the team itself actually looks primed to make a run for the playoffs and even the second seed in the East.
-John Madden SAVE
-Thomas Vanek SAVE
-Wojtek Wolski GOAL (finally)
-Tyler Ennis GOAL
-Mikeal Samuelsson SAVE
-Jason Pominville SAVE
-Stephen Weiss SAVE
-Cody Hodgson MISS
-Marcel Goc MISS
-Brad Boyes MISS
-Sean Bergenheim SAVE
-Derek Roy SAVE
-Dmitry Kulikov GOAL (WHAT??)
-Drew Stafford SAVE
- In case the underside of your rock has been comfortable over the past few days, let me inform you that Kris Versteeg and Dmitry Kulikov would be back in the lineup, Kuli paired with Weaver and Steeger lining up with Kopecky and Matthias.
- With that whole 4 game winning streak thing on the line, Florida would reflect back on the good old days with an early goal, as Stafford drove towards the net while Tyler Ennis slid the puck through the fivehole of Jose Theodore as he extended his pads.
- Just after the goal was announced, Versteeg and Christian Ehrhoff would drop the gloves in an unlikely matchup. I wouldn't call it much of a fight as both players latched on and lost their balance at the same time; I've put up better fights with a vacuum cleaner.
- Mikael Samuelsson maintains an incredibly enigmatic presence on the ice, I'll give him credit for the goals he scores and the plays he creates, but if the Panthers aren't scoring Sammy is invisible. You could say that for most players, but ironically Samuelsson stands out the most when he's having a slow game.
- Sean Bergenheim's father Chris has been in town for the four game homestand, it makes you wonder if the Panthers will ever organize a 'dads trip'. Probably not, but don't forget to sign up for the customized golf cart!
- Florida hadn't registered a shot on goal until 17:45 into the period, with around 1:30 of powerplay time elapsed. Coincidentally, it would be a goal from (you guessed it!)...Mikael Samuelsson. It seems like whenever I badmouth someone, they immediately prove me wrong. Hey Weaver, you suck too!
- So, from Buffalo's point of view, the fact Florida was held scoreless for 17 minutes(!!!!) and ties the game on their first shot seems pretty souring. The fact that some washed up defensive forward would put Buffalo down 2-1 just 38 seconds later sets the stage for a pretty awkward locker room chat with Lindy Ruff. After the end of 1, Ryan Miller was batting a cool .500 save percentage.
- According to my unofficial Panthers genealogy report, there are no Panthers of Irish decent on this, St. Patty's Day. Brian Campbell kinda looks Irish though.
- If only Mike Santorelli could come off his healthy scratches like John Madden did. It just goes to show you, just because you weren't moved at the deadline doesn't mean you're safe for the rest of the season.
- After Tomas Kopecky got laid out as he crossed the blueline on a transition pass, Shawn "The Avenger" Matthias would drop the mitts with Mike Weber, who hit Kopy. Again, not many punches thrown and as was the case two games before, Matthias would be awarded an instigator penalty.
- So Florida reveals their whole return of the red in June at the draft, then let the reddest haired player I've ever seen walk in July. Oh Alexander Sulzer, where did you come from and how are you still in the NHL?
- The problem with having Versteeg back in the lineup? Kevin Dineen feels compelled to reunite him with Weiss and Flash. That's a problem.
- You know what I haven't heard lately? Whining about Gudbranson/Ellerby turnovers. Ellerby of course would be shown his old chair in the pressbox for tonight's game, but after a horrible game in Winnipeg he'd kept his rookie mistakes to a minimum. Same for Gudbranson, after a benching against Ottawa he's played a mostly mistake free role with Gramdpa Ed.
- With the Panthers and Sabres headed to extra time, one clear loser had emerged: Winnipeg. Hahaha.
Chris' First Star: Regulation: John Madden for being awesome. Shootout: Jose Theodore, no question.
Chris' Worst Star: A little bit of Dineen for no firing up his boys very well, a little Matthias for skating around with Weber and still getting called for an instigator. Then again, Dineen finally went first in the shootout and Matty was defending his teammate. A sloppy and slow game yes, but no real goats to call out.
Up Next: Philadelphia. The Cats haven't been swept this season, but the Flyers are up 3-0 in the series. Hey, monkeys off the back tonight, perhaps they can break that trend on Tuesday. Panthers at Flyers, 7pm.