The Florida Panthers have started the proverbial Markstrom Era on the right foot, and all it took were solid contributions from each player on the ice. With a pair of injuries that will likely see the end of two players campaigns with the Panthers, so whether GM Dale Tallon likes it or not; the reins of the team have been forced into the hands of the young blood in every position. For a season that has mostly gone down the drain, the saving grace was that the rookies would get their chance to stake their claims to roster spots; not only have they met the minimum requirements, but they have excelled in them. As the old is phased out, the new is surging in. It's as much Jacob Markstrom's era as it is Jonathan Huberdeau's, Erik Gudbranson's and Drew Shore's.
In the Panthers 4-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets, not only did the important players show up, but the smaller guys stepped it up after two forgettable losses to Carolina. Players like Shawn Matthias, Mike Santorelli and Marcel Goc all added contributions in a night where every player wanted the win from the opening faceoff. Maybe a sign of good things to come or just a big night against a division rival, either way it's an important boost for a team missing a laundry list of important players.
- Jon Rheault would make his NHL debut at 26 years of age, a long journey from humble roots in the ECHL. #52 didn't stand out much, but give him a few games to find his role.
- Tomas Kopecky is making me eat my words with his 9th goal of the year. How he manages to score goals on a regular basis escapes me, just like the puck escaped Ondrej Pavelec on a low percentage shot from the far side of the faceoff dots. I do love how excited he gets when he scores, whether by beating on the glass or beating up his lockout practice goalie.
- If you ever want to know why Dale Tallon isn't going to throw a teenage CHLer into the NHL, no matter how good he looks in camp, just watch Alexander Burmistrov. For a player with so much skill, he just can't produce in the NHL and really doesn't look like he belongs. Atlanta was desperate, and the Jets must have thought they could salvage him; but I doubt it's going to happen. That extra year in the minors makes a big difference.
- Marcel Goc is working himself back into scoring form coming into the game with 5 points in his last 4 games and adding an assist on Kopecky's goal. Like most Panthers Goc has had trouble staying healthy in his time with the Panthers, but subtracting a brief period after making his season debut Goc has been a valuable secondary scorer who quietly puts up points. His name has been included in some trade talk as the deadline approaches, but I imagine Tallon is happy with his contributions offensively and defensively when in the lineup.
- With Stephen Weiss out for the season, it'll be interesting to see how Kevin Dineen redistributes the icetime without a clear first line to eat minutes. If it means a little more rookie ice time and more of Matthias-Smithson-Skille, I'll be a happy man.
- I like these Jets games where I get to watch James Wright be bad at hockey. I have a feeling he was about as highly touted of a prospect in the Tampa Bay system as Michal Repik was for the Panthers.
- Something I've noticed from the Panthers opposition on any given night is that they're very willing to throw stretch passes up ice for a streaking teammate, probably because the Panthers' goaltending is so easy to score on and the consequential icing call if the pass doesn't connect doesn't pose much of a threat since Florida's offense is so prone to turn it back over. Florida is the perfect team to cherry pick against.
- Slick move by Matthias dekeing out Mark Stuart on the rush and wiring a goal over Pavelec's shoulder. Robak with his first career assist. A few minutes later Jonathan Huberdeau would put in a great shift and draw a penalty shot as Byfuglien tripped him on the verge of scoring on a sprawled out Pavalec. Of course Huberdeau would score on it, that's what he does.
- Jacob Markstrom played a very good game with some help from the defense. Only one major breakdown when a sure goal was broken up by Tomas Fleischmann, and the goal that did make it past him started due to a horrible line change that left one defender in front to help out. Marky was there when he was called upon, making 30 saves.
- Mike Santorelli scored...is this the real life?
- Colby Robak is the answer to the Ed Jovanovski disaster. Lookin' good kid.
- The Huberdeau-Mueller-Shore line doesn't ever look like they want to take a line change, every time the Panthers start a new breakout from the defensive zone they'll see it through even if it's nearing the end of their shift. Don't see many dump ins when those players are on the ice.
- Find some Winnipeg Jettery over with the divisional brothers at Arctic Ice Hockey.
Cats are back in action Thursday as they take a quick one game trip up to Washington, who are also not winnin' for McKinnon. Funny how the Panthers and Capitals fought it out tooth and nail(not really) to win the division last season, but have both been relegated to cellar dweller status, fighting for that 15th position in the east. Shoulda never fired Bruce. Panthers at Capitals, 7pm.