It's a lot easier to win games when you force an opponent lacking confidence into a complete breakdown, and that's exactly what the Florida Panthers did in their win over the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night. Winnipeg has had success on their eastern road trip, but all season long the Jets have lacked an identity and have been easy to roll over. Florida did so with an offensive outburst from the blue line and strong play all around, earning one of their more dominant (if few) wins of the season. Don't go planning the parade, but it's nice to see Florida beat an opponent having major difficulties in their own end.
Florida pretty much did everything they should have done tonight against a beatable team. When they went down early on a bad goal, they got right back up and scored a few of their own instead of letting the deficit grow. Instead of allowing Winnipeg to cycle the puck for long periods, Florida broke up the play and sent in the other way. The defense was actually Thomas' friend tonight instead of his enemy. Instead of making ceaseless fancy passes, they put pucks to the net on a weak goaltender. And they won. Now do it in Detroit.
- I'd love to remark about how great it was to get rid of Keaton Ellerby essentially for T.J. Brennan, but after the Panthers ended up with AHLer Bobby Butler at the end of the trade tree there's not much to laugh about. I never thought it would be possible to downgrade from Ellerby, but Tallon really outdid himself on the free agent market (by the way, three of his signings this summer were benched tonight). Tough times right now.
- Michael Frolik and Olli Jokinen also play for the Jets, both of whom are having good production early in the season. Outside of the two on the Red Wings, there aren't many former Panthers in the league who aren't finding some measure of success this season. Even ol' David Booth is helping his team these days.
- One of the little issues that created bigger problems last game was that Florida couldn't offer any resistance to the Sens as they flew through the neutral zone at every chance. This game the forwards fixed that problem at times, but the Jets were still having too easy a time gaining the offensive zone.
- Dylan Olsen would score his first NHL goal on a 4-on-2 rush after Gudbranson laid a big hit behind the net. For once, it's the other team that looks absolutely helpless in their own end.
- Flash had a pretty frustrating cold streak going through the month of November, but he has 3 points in two games including a goal and an assist tonight. Florida really needs his offensive production, so hopefully the point streak will continue into the next few games.
- Outside of a bad turnover that led to a goal, the Panthers defense was pleasantly decent for most of the game. And the forwards were tying up lanes and applying pressure all over the ice.
- Kulikov looked much better after his night off, maybe a little one-on-one lawnchair time with Cap'n Ed was worth more than just comedy value.
- Don't look now, but the power play has resulted in goals over the last two games with a pair last game and one from Bjugstad just as a good power play expired. Everything is turning upside down!
- Olli Jokinen scored on his birthday, waffles all around!
- See Arctic Ice Hockey for the Winnipeg perspective.
Next up: Florida heads to Detroit to face old acquaintance Stephen Weiss, who's wearing another shade of red this year. Weiss is really lighting the lamp for the Red Wings, with a grand total of 4 points in 23 games (he had that many in 6 less games last year with an "injury"). Mikael Samuelsson is also back wearing the winged wheel, but at least he has age to blame for lack of production. Panthers at Red Wings, Saturday at 7pm.