The way the Florida Panthers are playing, it doesn't matter which player they'll choose at the 2013 draft; anyone will help. With a 4-3 loss to the New York Islanders the question of center, wing or defense becomes almost irrelevant; the Panthers need skill no matter which position it comes in. Last game against the Bruins, the Panthers looked outmatched. Tonight the Panthers looked out-skilled, and a young talented Islanders squad was able to have their way with Florida.
Was it a good loss or a bad loss? Through two periods it sure felt like a bad loss, but at game's end the fouled comeback effort salvaged some pride. Together it was just another reminder that the Panthers have some fight left in them, whether from new blood or guys ready for the losing streak to end. A nice deviation from the normal Panther strategy of tanking. Hey, the first goal the Panthers goalie allowed was over 14 minutes in! There's improvement right there. Next up is learning how to not get behind by three or four goals, then they can work on scoring when the game is meaningful, then boom; Stanley Cup.
Well, maybe it's not that easy.
- Skating in his Panthers debut tonight was newcomer TJ Brennan, acquired for a 5th round pick originally gained from trading Keaton Ellerby, which essentially makes this a Brennan-for-Ellerby swap for the Cats. I like the premise of the trade which gives Brennan a chance to find some success in a new environment, though nothing is promised in this low risk experiment. Brennan saw some time on the powerplay early and had some good point shots, and through the rest of the game he played pretty well defensively.
- Ed Jovanovski made his return as captain of the Panthers, though the leadership needs of the team goes beyond having a player skating around with a C on his jersey. Nothing much to say about Jovo tonight, besides the fact he was paired with Kuba far too often. Then he would get injured.
- Good on Dineen for going with the 'hot' goalie for tonight's game, and that was Scott Clemmensen. Jacob Markstrom is the goalie of the future, but he's not the goalie of the now when he gives up 3 goals on 13 shots. Everyone wants more out of Marky than what he's been giving, and starting Clemmensen in two straight might be a well timed kick in the pants for him when his next chance comes around.
- Jonathan Huberdeau would head off to the locker room after blocking a John Tavares shot which seemed to catch him on the inside of the bicep. Just a few seconds later Mueller would be dinged, showing a lot of pain on the bench and the Islanders would take a 2-0 lead. When it rains, it pours. Luckily both would later return, with Huby assisting on Brennan's goal. George Parros would not be so lucky, leaving the game with an upper body injury.
- Something that crossed my mind between these last two games: Is Shawn Matthias going to turn into Mike Santorelli? Of course Santorelli enjoyed a big year during a lean season with the Panthers and was held on to hoping next years team would be better and he's continue to bring the scoring, which never happened. Matthias seems to be a mirror image of what 10-11 Santorelli was, however I believe Matthias is less susceptible to regression since his hard work has created his goals, not just a lucky shooting percentage. The question is, will Tallon risk letting Matthias go through this highpoint in trade value untraded, hoping he can score at the same pace next year? Based on the way last years upstart Panthers have all regressed back to their normal selves, I wouldn't be opposed to a trade.
- I thought Tomas Fleischmann had a good game for the Panthers after a few quiet showings from him earlier in the month. It has to be tough going from top scorer to surrounded by plugs in a span of 20 games.
- The Florida Panthers most dynamic playmaker tonight was Jack Skille. Sadly, I don't think Skille can carry a team to victory...
- One of the excuses for the Panthers failure of a season is that with the shortened season the Cats didn't have enough time to find their way in training camp, which is ironic seeing as injuries have devolved this season into a great big training camp for various AHLers and rookies.
- Welcome to the Panthers TJ Brennan. After camping out on the side of the net on an earlier shift and missing a loose puck, he'd receive some redemption with a goal from just outside of the crease. 34 seconds later Marcel Goc would sink a pretty goal from a Flash feed, and just over a minute later the Cats would tie it up after Mike Santorelli netted the rebound as Skille drove the net. Pretty strange.
- Erik Gudbranson played pretty badly. Guds was never really on the radar until they showed replays of the Islanders goals(he was on ice for three of them), because he wasn't ever in good defensive position. His ice time would reflect this, as he was scraping along with Jovo well into the third, where it felt like he was getting benched a bit.
- Find your Islanders recap at the exceptional Lighthouse Hockey.
Come on back for Tuesday nights game, the series finale of the Panthers-Hurricanes horror show. The division leading Hurricanes have exacted a measure of revenge for a disappointing season series in 11-12 when the Panthers went 5-1-0 by dominating the last two games of the 2013 series to take a 2-1-0 lead. Expect a big night as the two teams say au revoir as division rivals, playing the final divisional match up in Raleigh at 7pm.