It wasn't pretty, but the Florida Panthers were able not only to salvage one point with tonight's comeback, but secure the other in a shootout against the Detroit Red Wings. This should sound familiar, because most of the game was a re-run of several other Panthers wins through 32 games. Florida fell behind early and looked mostly shut down by the opposition's defense, Thomas made countless important saves to keep the game within reach, both teams went into the locker room during the second intermission and only one came out for the third period. Florida scored two goals in the final 15 minutes of the game to force overtime, and Thomas brought it home in the shootout.
- I'm sure I'm not the only one who's noticed this, but every game the Panthers scratches are primarily Tallon's 2013 summer free agents/trade acquisitions. Maybe you can argue that the weak free agent market had something to do with it (don't take the cheese though, that's what happens when you "wait til August") but even so it's clear that Florida's GM hasn't gotten a very good return on his investments this year.
- One of the few things I like about Peter DeBoer was that his teams didn't take penalties, and when they did at least they had one of the league's best penalty kills to back themselves up. The two coaches since him haven't shared that coaching philosophy, and coincidentally their teams haven't done so well. Stay out of the box, stay out of the box, stay out of the box. Florida has the third worst penalty kill and gave up a trio of power-play goals last game...Scottie Upshall's response to that was to take a completely avoidable penalty 13 seconds into the game. Penalties are a part of every game, but Horachek needs to start taking bullets out of the chamber instead of allowing his team 5+ opportunities to shoot themselves in the foot.
- While his team was down a man, I hope Horachek took notes during the passing clinic the Wings put on. Wow.
- Florida seemed to lose every battle imaginable along the boards, at mid-ice, even on the power play. The Panthers are finally picking up some big players, but none of them will wear down the other team with hits.
- Pavel Datsyuk scored an excellent one-touch goal to put the Wings up 2-0 as he redirected a shot-pass from Jonathan Ericsson past a sliding Tim Thomas. Datsyuk doesn't get the media like Crosby/Ovechkin do, but he definitely has more skill than either.
- Dmitry Kulikov is bad defensively as we've all witnessed, but offensively he should really be chipping in more. I watched him jump up into the play a few times tonight, and it was apparent that he has to limit his offensive contribution due to his forwards avoiding their responsibility to cover his spot at the point. Kuli would later get an assist when Bergenheim tipped his shot from the point to cut the Wing's lead in half.
- Florida looked very bottled-up by the Red Wings. Every time the Panthers seemed to have a rush, an extra defender in white would show up, when the Panthers were trying to break out of their own zone there was always an extra forechecker to block a lane. The Panthers kind of looked like cattle for much of the game with the Wings herding players and forcing passes to places where they could shift the possession.
- Nick Bjugstad broke the glass behind Howard's net in the third period, and the Panthers ice crew had no choice but to put up what looked to be a plywood board in place of a plexiglass replacement. Could money be an issue for the Panthers??? I guess when you can only draw 13000+ for a game against the Red Wings, something is wrong.
- Bjugstad has had some real luck netting goals in close quarters around the goalposts.
- I almost forgot, tonight was Stephen Weiss' homecoming. He returned much like he left, without contributing positively on the ice.
- Winging It In Motown has a Detroit perspective on tonight's game.
Next up: Florida faces off against an old Southeast divisional
rivalparticipant, the Washington Capitals. Despite most matchups over the years being of trivial importance, these two teams usually combined to play entertaining games with plenty of scoring. Capitals at Panthers, Friday at 7:30.