With about two minutes left in the game, the Florida Panthers looked like a team that could compete with any team in the league. In the other 58 minutes though, Florida was always a step behind the Nashville Predators who unsurprisingly found their offensive pulse against the stumbling Panthers. Maybe, just maybe, if Florida could show up in the first 2 minutes and set a pace for the rest of the game, I wouldn't have to keep finding new ways to say they lost. The key is sustaining pressure, not just playing hard in two minute intervals each period to tie the game. Sure they tried to make amends as the book closed on another loss, but if playing catch-up is the best the Panthers can come up with; we're in for a long season indeed.
I can't blame a goalie for a losing outcome when he's surrounded by atrocious defense and selfish, apathetic forwards, but it would have been nice to have some key saves through the course of this game. If Markstrom wants to have a job in the NHL, he needs to earn it. Of course the whole foundation of the Panthers roster is based on some elusive, unquantifiable thing called "potential" that justifies the existence of players like Markstrom, Matthias, Kulikov, Versteeg, Gudbranson and Kopecky on this team. If it weren't for the outrageous contracts some of these players signed on to, they'd be out the door. For the other ones, trades are out of the picture since they have too much potential to throw away now. Since...you know, actual results obviously mean nothing in the NHL these days.
- Nick Bjugstad would make his season debut in place of Scottie Upshall, who'd be scratched. I really didn't notice him besides his first period penalty, but I guess that's what happens when you only play around 10 minutes. I say send him down to San Antonio until the team needs an injury replacement, at least in the AHL he'll get some real time to develop on a team that can win.
- Nashville experimented with yellow ice before the season began to the ire of many, but if the NHL ever embraced that thing called "having fun" I'd be a supporter of a yellow rink.
- Florida has two power play systems: Give it to the defenseman to shoot (who are terribly inaccurate) or try to feed it cross-ice to Kris Versteeg to shoot from the only place he's actually effective. Those are the two grand schemes, leftovers from the 2011-12 season and the bygone days of Jason Garrison. For a team who does a decent job of setting up in the zone during the man advantage, I really wish Kevin and Craig had another trick up their sleeve.
- One thing the Panthers did lose with Stephen Weiss was a center solid at the face-off dot. As one of the few things Florida has done proficiently over the years, it was sad to see the Cats enter this game 30th in the league in FO% at a measly 42.2%. That number should increase as rookie center Alesander Barkov gains more experience, but even veterans like Goc and Gomez have struggled. Not that Florida hasn't immediately cough up the puck soon after winning the few face-offs they have, but it would be a step in the right direction to get that stat straightened out.
- Not only do the Panthers make every goalie look like the reigning Vezina winner, but they make every opponent's forwards look like the best forechecking squad in the league.
- Jonathan Huberdeau is the only player on this team who can make scoring look easy. It's kinda surprising that other teams haven't glued themselves to him. In related news, Mike Weaver is still being awesome.
- Seth Jones and Barkov would be matched against each other tonight, with Jones picking up an assist. If I were Tallon this offseason, I'd have taken Jones due to his ability to step right into the NHL and contribute, though the same could be said for Barkov. The difference is that Jones is doing it on defense, an area Florida struggled with tremendously last year and has shown deficiencies in this year. No matter where you stand on this old and already decided issue, it's good to see Jones proving doubters wrong.
- Twice in two games, Brian Campbell has taken a line change right as the opposition gains control of the puck forcing his replacement to skate all the way to the far side of the ice to defend the on-coming rush, a virtually impossible task. Soupy has easily been the worst Panther this year, and that's saying something profound on this team.
- Matt Gilroy is everything people said Tom Gilbert would be, an offensive minded player who doesn't need training wheels in the defensive zone. Other Panthers defensemen, take some notes.
- Head on over to one of SBN's best, On the Forecheck for a country fried Nashville recap.
Next up: The Boston Bruins come to town bringing in a 3-2-0 record and 2 full days of rest. Meanwhile Timmy Thomas has had a bunch of days to rest his groin after straining it in Philly, but whether he'll be suited up play against his former team remains unknown. Whether or not they'll have the Thominator in net, Florida will likely have their hands full as their tough schedule continues. Boston at Florida, 7:30 EST.