The Florida Panthers opened the season with a 4-2 win on Thursday night against the Dallas Stars, a rare road victory that can hopefully set the tempo early for the Cats' season. A lot of things went well for Florida; the main storyline being solid goaltending and resiliency late in the contest to not only force a comeback but seal away two points. However, it's far, far too early to say things have changed for a team that stumbled into 30th place last season. Florida was dominated early in the game, and without the top-notch goaltending Tim Thomas provided the Panthers would likely have fallen into the same old pattern as last year.
Things will need to improve for the Panthers to prove themselves in their new division, and it starts with lifting some of the weight off the back of their 39-year-old starting netminder. The Cats need to keep pace with the offensive production they found late in this game and apply it early in the next. As it stands right now, the defense needs to improve their fluidity and forwards need to force more efficient breakouts. The good parts of the Panthers play obviously led to the victory, but the bad traits need to be addressed as quickly as possible to prevent dooming the Panthers early if the goaltending support isn't there.
- It probably wont ever happen, but if Tim Thomas went back to that white and gray mask he had with the Bruins during his glory days, I'd highly approve.
- Since I'm on the topic of aesthetics, I'm really disappointed by the new Stars logo on the great new green jerseys. Did the designer notice that the logo is probably 20% smaller than the other 29? That's not exactly how you represent big old Texas.
- I hate the fact that Tim Thomas was the only Panther who made an impact early in the game. I do believe that Dallas has improved over the offseason and will be knocking on the playoff door, but they are hardly an insurmountable force that the Panthers made them look like. Florida showed some intensity midway through the first with a slew of fights after the Stars zeroed in on Thomas after the whistle, but very little sustained energy or presence occurred outside of that in the first period.
- Florida's gameplan was obviously to lull the Stars to sleep, and it worked. The fourth line of Shore-Gomez-Upshall was able to catch the Stars' defense sleeping and grind in a goal. Too bad DidGomezScore.com has been abandoned.
Old CodgersVeteran additions: Ryan Whitney- The only time I saw #6 was during a lazy clearing attempt that lead to a great scoring chance for Dallas. Jesse Winchester- who? Scott Gomez- Obviously the breadwinner of the night with a goal. Brad Boyes- Looked a whole lot like Peter Mueller. Sure he'll set up some goals for the kids on his line, but will he be able to finish any goals himself? Tom Gilbert- Looked fine for the most part, and actually looks competent playing with Campbell. A possible high five to Dale Tallon for not shelling out 8 million to find a defenseman who could accomplish this, though he still has 81 games to go. Tim Thomas- Awesome. Florida's best player by far.
- I'm happy with Dineen's decision to give Goc the first line center spot, because I believe that he has the awareness and passing skill to sufficiently replace Weiss. Of course nothing is set in stone for Goc, but despite his quiet on-ice presence his skill-set fits the mold of 1C better than the rookie Barkov and individual-effort Matthias. Goc has struggled with injuries during his two years with the Panthers, but he has been nothing if not consistent when he has played.
- Youngins: Huberdeau- Had a good game overall, if this game is an indicator for the rest of the season Hubs will be using his speed to play a more north-south game against opponents. Barkov- He certainly wasn't overshadowed by anyone on the Panthers, but didn't particularly stand out to me. And yes, I know he scored a goal. Shore- Tied up a key Dallas player during the play leading up to the Gomez goal.
- Scottie Upshall was injured, again. In a strange, wholly unexpected turn of events, he'd return!
- It would be a difficult stat to keep, but if the NHL was somehow able to keep tabs on the time of possession for each team, it would be eye-opening for the Panthers. In this game, Florida was able to pass the eye test as far as keeping up with Dallas with scattered pressure throughout the game, but Dallas really seemed to control the game.
- Florida got burned for a shorthanded goal as the defensemen pinched on a rush that resulted in a turnover, and the forwards conveniently forgot to backcheck. These kinds of plays can happen to any team, but after watching Florida's problem with backchecking last season it's not exactly out of character.
- Barkov became the youngest NHL player to score since 1967 with a dirty, but timely game-tying goal. These season opening games have treated the Panthers rookies well over the last two years.
- The fact that Nichushkin fell to #10 in this summer's draft is a sad example of the league's stigma against Russians, but I'm sure no one in Dallas is going to complain.
- Head on down to the magnificent Defending Big D for a Stars perspective on tonight's tussle.
Next up: Florida heads up the road to take on the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night, 8 Eastern. Ryan Whitney was passed up by the Blues after training camp, will he have any tricks up his sleeves for his return to Scottrade?