So far things have not gone swimmingly during the Florida Panthers stretch of ridiculously easy schedule. After blowing a winnable game against Carolina two nights before, the Panthers were set to bounce back facing an even more winnable game against the visiting Edmonton Oilers. The team effort would be nothing less than a misfire as the Cats forced themselves on the Oilers early and never again all whilst goalie Devan Dubnyk built up his confidence enough to stonewall Florida in the shootout. As games go, the last two have been quite forgettable for the Panthers who continue to leave the door cracked enough for Washington to burst through if they so wish.
That's the thing though, with another point in the books the Panthers' divisional aspirations are no worse for wear as the point gained in the shootout matched the Capitals point gained earlier in the evening. With that in mind, the Cats are making the Southeast turtle race excruciatingly exciting with their timely losses against weaker opponents. If the trend of sleeping on their lesser teams continue, the fact is Florida might not be marching to the playoffs as much as stumbling through the door as time runs out. For now it's back to hoping other teams can pull through to keep the Cats' rivals at bay.
-Kuli hit the crossbar. Excitement!
-Mikael Samuelsson SAVE
-Sam Gagner SAVE
-Wojtek Wolski POKE CHECK
-Jordan Eberle SAVE
-Dmitry Kulikov MISS
-Ales Hemsky SAVE
-Stephen Weiss SAVE
-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins GOAL
- For the first time all season, I could literally count the fans sitting in the lower bowl. There were 58. Get out there and fill some seats, Florida! The official count was some 16,200, but that seems a tad high.
- Krys Barch, Wojtek Wolski and Shawn Matthias would all make their way back in the lineup as Ellerby, Sturm, Smithson and Santorelli would be sharing peanuts with George in the pressbox.
- Sean Bergenheim must not have been amused with all the overpaid contract drivel from our Edmonton friends, he had three of the Panthers four scoring chances in the first five minutes. The entire Euro-line looked spectacular as the Panthers trapped the Oilers in their own zone for much of the first period.
- The Panthers' special teams, especially the penalty kill, have taken small strides late in the season to improve; with the PK regulars all back from the injury list at least the kill isn't quite as fragile as it was earlier in the season. Before the Carolina showdown, Florida hadn't allowed a powerplay goal in several contests, and a big kill late in the first would keep the game 0-0 through 20.
- People keep complaining about Karlsson and Hartnell needing haircuts. Ryan Jones anyone? Yes, Jones would put the Oilers up by one after taking a pass from Eberle on a odd-man rush and sending the puck over the shoulder of Jose Theodore. Bad play for the Cats, and the Oilers would capitalize.
- It looked pretty grim as the Cats just looked deflated after the Jones goal, but a good rush by the top line would find pinching Jason Garrison all alone for a Panthers record 16th goal by a defenseman as he ripped a shot over Devan Dubnyk. Talk about a good story, that Garrison fellow; blind squirrel Jaques Martin really did find a nut.
- FSFl showed a replay of the Taylor Hall- Cory Sarich hit from a few games ago, and by the body language of Hall after the collision, they kid is lucky to not have sustained a broken neck. Hall isn't as dainty as RNH, but he sure puts himself in bad situations and finds himself shelved due to injury more than a young 20-something should.
- Hey Dineen, can you take a hint that the Flash-Weiss-Versteeg line is flatter than a pancake and Wolski is not a third-liner? If goal scoring is the problem(which it obviously is), then forcing the top line together and blowing Wolski's point streak by giving him 12 minutes of ice-time each night is not the solution. Florida has had polar opposite coaching philosophies on line shuffling over the course of two seasons.
- Hey, talk about effective whining. Dineen would actually rearrange the line combos to start the third, and it did improve the team energy at least.
- It's incredible how the Panthers can make sub-par starting goalies like Devan Dubnyks look like Patrick Roys.
- Brian Campbell can do no wrong. Seriously, how many times has he saved a goal with a minute or two left? At this point, the outcome of Florida's games revolve around how well Campbell plays.
- With the clock running down, Florida can thank their lucky stars for securing a point in a sloppy, slow, horribly executed game. Lets see if the 'good teams find a way to win' cliche holds true.
- Nope. The extra-time disease strikes again.
Chris' First Star: All Jose Theodore does is stop pucks; in regulation, in the shootout, whenever and wherever. I wonder what a little scoring support would do for him in the playoffs.
Chris' Worst Star: Again, everyone other than Theodore. This extends to the coaching staff that couldn't build a team up to go to the bathroom.
Up Next: Florida looks to sweep the New York Islanders in the season series as the Gorton's Fishermen head to the Bank of Atlantic Center on Sunday. The last time these teams met, Evgeni Nabokov didn't like Long Island. Now he does. Who in the well stacked deck of Islander goalies will the Florida boys face? Well, you'll have to tune in to find out. Isle at Cats, 5pm Sunday.