Despite a better effort overall, the Panthers still seem like they have a long way to go until they're able to convince folks that they're capable repeating as division champs. For the second time in a week, the Panthers were defeated by the Ottawa Senators, this time by a score of 3-1. This was a game filled with spurts of the team we saw last season, but the entire 60 minutes was rife with mistakes, lackadaisical play, and some bad penalties. There's progress being shown, and it looks like the rust is shaking off a lot of players and the team in general, but take a look at the standings to see how much those things actually matter. Clock's ticking.
Had it not been for Jose Theodore, who was making big saves from the very start of the game, this could've been much worse than it was. The Panthers again struggled offensively, though not having top center Stephen Weiss (who was scratched due to a lower body injury) certainly hurt. Weiss hasn't generated much offense so far this season, but there's no question he's a catalyst for the top line as much as Kris Versteeg or Tomas Fleischmann. The injuries are starting to mount already for the Panthers and it's a real concern when your top center is already out of the lineup.
Head coach Kevin Dineen was again shuffling lines to try and find the right combination of guys, but that can only get you so far. Without a solid team effort for three full periods, the Panthers are going to struggle to do much of anything well enough to win games and dig themselves out of the early hole they've fallen into.
- I hope Craig Anderson has a bookie bet on the Sens before each game against Florida. He could be rolling around on a pile of money larger than the one he already rolls around on.
- Weiss missed this one, as mentioned, with a lower body injury. The Panthers were also missing Versteeg, Marcel Goc and Sean Bergenheim. That's 71 goals scored last year between those four players, or around 36% of the goals scored by the entire team last year. Wondering why the Cats can't get anything going offensively?
- The Panthers only really showed up for one period in this game. It almost felt like the Sens let them burn all their energy in the second so they could control the game in the third, and that's almost exactly what happened. Down by one goal entering the final frame, you'd think the Panthers would come out skating hard and hitting everything in sight. Instead they let Ottawa play a puck possession game and as a result spent most of the period watching Theodore save their bacon over and over again. That's not how you win games.
- I'm just gonna get this off my chest now: your captain shouldn't need regular maintenance as though he were the human equivalent of a 1987 Volkswagon Jetta. Did Niklas Lidstrom need regular nights off? No. Does Shane Doan need regular nights off? No. Does Daniel Alfredsson need regular nights off? No. See my point? Two of those three are at least four years older than Jovo. Yes, he offers locker room presence and veteran leadership, but the best captains lead on the ice as well.
- Dmitry Kulikov isn't in NHL game shape yet. I'm looking forward to when he is.
- Shawn Matthias had a much better game, the kind he needs to play every night if he wants to stick around not only with the Panthers but in the NHL. When he's on his game, he's fast, plays big and creates opportunities for his linemates.
- Fleischmann looked like the player we saw last year. He had a lot of speed, used his stickhandling ability to create space for himself, and scored a powerplay goal early on by doing what every Panther should be doing more of: shooting the puck. Now how about getting him some help, Dale?
- Scottie Upshall baiting Erik Karlsson into closing his hand on the puck for a delay of game penalty was pretty hilarious. We need an animated gif of that; someone make it happen please.
- Two guys that definitely won't be here next season: Mike Santorelli and Keaton Ellerby. You hear about how Ellerby needs to elevate his game to the next level, but season after season, I'm still not seeing that level. He's passable for the Panthers while they wait for Erik Gudbranson to return from injury, but once he's back you're going to see Ellerby in the press box. Santorelli simply looks outclassed so far this season by even third line opposition from the other team. He's indecisive with the puck, gets knocked off of it too easily, and it's a mystery why he was placed in Weiss' spot for the game. At this point, I think I'd rather see the Panthers give Quinton Howden a shot in Santorelli's place for a few games, just to get him a little taste of the NHL, or keep Drew Shore up.
- Speaking of Shore, I like his game. It's simple and fundamental, things the Panthers are only starting to show signs of doing. He definitely looks like he could benefit from finishing his AHL rookie season with the Rampage, but I believe he could simply stay with the Cats this season and not be too much worse for wear.