Don't look now, but after a bad loss in Washington that could have spelled disaster for the remainder of the Florida Panthers season, the Cats have strung together two solid wins against two quality opponents. The latest, a 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils marks the 10th time this season the Panthers have allowed a goal in the first 2 minutes of the game, but this time Florida would have an answer. This afternoon the Panthers beat New Jersey at their own game, taking a lead and meticulously defending it until the final horn sounded. Again we saw another defensively minded game backed by solid goaltending when needed and enough offense to get the job done; it wasn't pretty, but it did work.
So where does this put the Panthers? A loss to the Devils certainly wouldn't have been a blown game, but certainly a chip off a less than bulletproof team morale, while a road win against an arguably superior opponent puts Florida in a much more optimistic position. As the schedule continues to ease up, a winning streak certainly isn't out of reach. Two big victories may sow the seeds of a genuine playoff push, or just be more of the same .500 pattern we've seen of late. Whatever the future holds, a well rounded win over New Jersey ends a 2-1-1 season series with the Devils and proves the Panthers are taking it one game at a time, as they should.
-Steve Bernier(1) at 1:39 assists to Alexei Ponikarovsky and Dainius Zubrus
-Sean Bergenheim(11) PPG at 15:08 assists to Erik Gudbranson and Marcel Goc
-Kris Versteeg(21) at 7:43 assists to Stephen Weiss and Tomas Fleischmann
-Mikael Samuelsson(7) ENG at 19:35 assist to Goc
SUPERIMPORTANT EDIT: Mike Weaver would get an assist on Sammy's empty netter, tying his points total from last year at 13. Still waiting for that goal.
- Whats with the early start times today? It isn't even Sunday, no superbowl, so why exactly did I have to stumble out of bed so early?
- Of course it's only typical to give up an early goal to a former Panther, one with a grand total of zero goals since leaving Florida. Maybe other teams know to throw garbage shots on goal early in the game since Florida doesn't wake up until the second period.
- I'm all for shuffling the top line again, maybe replacing them with the Euro line. I don't see how it could hurt, especially since none of our top scorers are able to break into the zone.
- It's pretty good to score a powerplay goal against the second best penalty killing team in the league, especially with our sputtering man advantage. I'm usually one to yell 'PASS' rather than 'SHOOT' on the powerplay, but sometimes winding up from the point works too. Either way, I'll take it.
- With 11 goals in 33 games, you have to wonder if Sean Bergenheim would be leading the team in scoring if he wasn't fighting off injury earlier in the season. The team just seems different when he's in the lineup, the penalty killing and team speed seem to improve improve tremendously.
- Though no one ever talks about them, New Jersey does have their fair share of 'stars' in Patrik Elias, Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise. Add in a very promising(though injured) defenseman Adam Larsson and its no surprise how well the Devils have played this year. Even David "Never heard of him" Clarkson has 21 goals.
- OK, maybe I wrote off the top line a little to early. It was a fluky goal to take the 2-1 lead, but all three linemates contributed to put the Panthers up by one.
- The second period would be noticeably better than the first for the Panthers, they kept the Devils chances limited while closing the gap on the once 10-1 shot deficit.
- Jason Garrison wouldn't be on the bench for the third period, word on the street is a lower body injury. HNNGGGGGGG.
- Believe it or not, Mikael Samuelsson would fill in for Garrison as the sixth defenseman. Cant we find a less skilled player to fill in, Kevin? *coughBarchcough*
- Nice marching band, New Jersey.
- Come to think of it, I like hockey games that end while the sun is still shining, even though the Cats are usually terrible in matinee games.
- Pete DeBoer has shown his true quality with the Devils. As we all knew last year; despite his shortcomings and lack of emotion, Petey was a good coach playing a style his roster wasn't built for. His roster wasn't built for anything, actually. Given some high end talent in New Jersey, he's made the most of it. Good for him, I've never been one to hate on someone who didn't deserve it.
- No matter how well Kovy plays, I will always snicker when he shows frustration. That's just how it is.
Chris' First Star: Gotta go with Scott Clemmensen, he allows a goal 1:39 in and shuts the door for the next 58:21. 26 saves for the Clemm versus his old team.
Chris' Worst Star: No one really stood out as having a bad game, so I'll just throw this out for today.