Two players really set the tone for the Florida Panthers to bust out of a 5 game winless streak. For Jonathan Huberdeau, tonight was a look into the future of what kind of player he can become. While we've all seen some spectacular games from the young rookie, his 4 point night against the Philadelphia Flyers marks an offensive outburst that stemmed from simple hard work on every shift. As we've seen too often in Florida, the skilled players who have the potential to achieve great things aren't always the ones to take each game at 100%. Perhaps it's just rookie enthusiasm now, but I truly believe Huberdeau doesn't know what laziness is. For Huberdeau, the NHL isn't looking too far removed from the QMJHL any more.
For Scott Clemmensen, tonight was a test. With goaltending being less than spectacular for the Panthers over the course of the season, a little competition was needed to find out who head coach Kevin Dineen will roll through what could be the remainder of the year. Tonight was Clemmensen's turn to prove his worth, and he stepped it up for his first win of the season. The plot thickens for the Florida Panthers netminders, and nobody can complain tonight after a 32 save performance and a 54 minute running shutout.
Outside of these two individual efforts, the Panthers seemed to play as a winning team once again, taking an early lead and extending it without ever looking back. If it's too late to think about playoffs, at least games like this going forward will help the team walk away with a little more pride and unity, which is all I can ask for at this point.
- Drew Shore has switched numbers from 50 to 15, which he last wore in Denver. Last Panther to wear 15 was Jack Skille before switching to 12. Welcome to the full time NHL Shoresy.
- The Panthers started the game looking like they had their legs back, and outside of a penalty kill thanks to Kopecky. traded chances with the Flyers pretty evenly. To start the game Dmitry Kulikov nearly had his first of the year after his shot off the post ricocheted off of Ilya Bryzgalov and trickled towards the goal line before Bryz recovered.
- When the Panthers are hot, they're hot. After getting upended by Toronto and a nobody goalie, the Cats jump out to a 3-0 lead in only about 10 minutes as Peter Mueller snipes a beauty, Kopecky makes up for his penalty with a breakaway goal, and Jonathan Huberdeau breaks out some magic on a penalty shot. Stick tap to Mike Weaver, who assisted on the first two goals.
- This probably doesn't need to be said, but if you missed Hubs' penalty shot, watch it. Probably the best penalty shot goal I've ever seen, and coming from a 19 year old rookie makes it that much better. Someone must have forgotten to tell him that Panthers players aren't allowed to have skill.
- Not that he's been incredibly noticeable, but Erik Gudbranson has played very solid on the blueline since his super sick wakeboarding wipeout. We saw it towards the end of last season and in the playoffs, but solid defense has been a staple for the new Guddy. Hard to argue that he hasn't been the most consistent defenseman for the Panthers thus far.
- This has to be the first game I've ever seen the Panthers win battles for loose pucks.
- Shawn Matthias would receive a nasty check from behind as he turned around to face the boards as Luke Schenn boarded him. Though a penalty was called, I wouldn't really consider it a dirty hit, just that whole 'reckless' thing we keep hearing thrown around to cover the grey area between clean and dirty. The fact is, Matty turned into it at the point when Schenn had committed to the hit. Matty headed to the locker room after being checked by the trainer on the bench, but would return shortly after.
- Kevin Dineen has heard our pleas for throwing the rookies out on the powerplay, and they produced tonight. A muffed point shot from Gudbranson would float to Shore who'd tap it over to Huberdeau whose second effort to tap in his rebound would result in his second of the night.
- Though he hasn't gotten as much talk as he deserves, Huberdeau is really taking some momentum in the Calder race as he moved up to 1st in rookie goals and 2nd in rookie scoring. Though it'll take some crazy games for Shore to get consideration, he's also creeping up the stat sheet and is now 9th in rookie scoring.
- Since the beginning of the year, I believe a lot of the Panthers defensive problems have been a trickle down effect from the forwards' lack of backchecking and positioning, which adds pressure on the defensemen and often leaves the goalies out to dry. Tonight the forwards showed up on the other end of the ice and things went much more smoothly, even against a hot Flyers offense. I hope that's in the game plan for tomorrow night.
- Scott Clemmensen wants to keep his job. That's about all that needs to be said about his performance tonight.
- Broad Street Hockey has your view from the Flyers side of the game.
Florida completes the Pennsylvania back to back tomorrow in Pittsburgh when they face the Penguins, who lost to Philadelphia on Wednesday. Triangles are fun! If Dan Bylsma knows anything about beating the Florida Panthers, he'd know to play Tomas Vokoun in net. On the Cats side, expect Jacob Markstrom to get the start, meaning a possible showdown of the tandem-that-would-never-be. Penguins vs Panthers, 7:00pm.