Where has this team been most of the season? The Panthers showed up big time for a home game against division rival Winnipeg and torched them 6-3, coming from behind twice to make it a game. The defensive play was drastically better, the offensive production was actually present, and the overall compete level of the team looked more like an NHL team and less like a nursing home flag football game. The Panthers got center Marcel Goc back for this tilt, and slotted him up with wingers Tomas Fleischmann and Kris Versteeg, and it definitely paid dividends. The Panthers were still missing Stephen Weiss, and dinosaur Ed Jovanovski missed the game due to a knee injury, but the Cats didn't need them tonight. They finally showed up for a game, and capitalized on a sloppy showing by the Jets to end a dismal losing streak that had many Panthers fans hanging their heads.
- This was the first game all season where some of the previous chemistry that Fleischmann and Versteeg have had showed itself. It resulted in a big goal early in the third period and they both looked good together for the most part. I'm hoping this is a sign of things to come for the top line's return to form, but let's not get excited just yet.
- The Panthers got Goc back from injury/suspension, and it came none too soon. He played the excellent two-way game he's known for and the Panthers benefitted greatly from having him back on the ice. Once Stephen Weiss returns from injury, the Cats have their two top two-way centers back in the lineup, and that should hopefully supplement some of the shoddy defensive play we've seen this season from the forwards.
- Another great game for Drew Shore. He looks like he's been playing in the NHL for a year or two already, and his fundamental play is starting to translate more and more into scoring chances. He still hasn't potted his first career NHL goal, but it's only a matter of time. He's dominating in the faceoff circle and it's directly leading to a better puck possession game for the Cats, something Kevin Dineen wants to do. He's been a bright star in a sea of dim bulbs for the Cats this season.
- Filip Kuba's decision-making has been spotty. He's taking a lot of bad shots at bad times, putting his defensive partner in a tough spot. His shots are also wide, weak or right into a shooting lane that's absolutely full of bodies. I'm hoping some more time to get his legs back after the lockout also fixes his offensive decision making.
- Mike Weaver has been pretty shaky this season, especially with the transition game. He's having a lot of trouble getting the puck out of the zone safely and looks like he's constantly rushing. He's still playing a good positional game for the most part, but gets manhandled by larger forwards without getting the puck out of danger, something he was very good at last year. Again, he may be another case of "getting the legs back," but let's hope it doesn't take much longer. He did flatten Evander Kane though, and I REALLY enjoyed that.
- I'm really liking the pairing of Shore and Jonathan Huberdeau. These guys are showing a little chemistry so far and a whole season together could spell big things in the future for the Panthers. They're not lighting up the scoreboard right now, but they're generating better chances than the other lines despite being rookies. It's a good idea by the coaching staff to get one of the future top centers (Shore) developing alongside one of the Panthers future scoring leaders (Huberdeau).
- He was quiet most of the game, but Scottie Upshall got the fans out of their seats in the third with a huge hit on Winnipeg rookie Zach Redmond, which resulted in the Jets' James Wright throwing down with Upshall immediately after. It should have resulted in a powerplay for the Cats (no idea how it didn't since the hit was clean), but Upshall would leave the game with a leg injury, heavily favoring his right leg while walking to the locker room. With so many existing injuries for the Cats, you gotta hope Upshall isn't seriously hurt, but it didn't look good.
- I miss Jason Garrison.
- Glad to see Tomas Kopecky get an empty netter. He's been one of the hardest working Panther players this season and deserved to get rewarded.
- The defense played much better tonight, though there were still several really awful turnovers in the defensive zone. Removing Jovanovski from the equation looks to be a smart decision, so although I don't want to wish injuries upon the guy, he can definitely take his time coming back from reviving his fossilized joints or whatever. Tyson Strachan, Keaton Ellerby and Dmitry Kulikov all looked much better in this game, and none of the three took any stupid penalties.