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Gameday Caterwaul: Florida Panthers Open Forum

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The Panthers travel to the Mile High City to face a reeling and desperate Avalanche team.

The Panthers will need to crash the Avalanche net and start digging for goals.
The Panthers will need to crash the Avalanche net and start digging for goals.
Joel Auerbach

Fans of hockey analytics spent last season warning that the Colorado Avalanche could not sustain their level of play and make the playoffs with the poor possession numbers they were putting up. Until the Av's fell to Minnesota in the first round of the playoffs, Coach Patrick Roy and company thumbed their nose at all those math folks. But enter the 2014-15 season and the Panthers arrive in Denver to find an Avalanche team that is looking up at the Cats in several critical categories. This includes goals-against-per-game, with the Panthers 9th in the league and the Av's 24th; shots-against-per-game, with our Florida boys 8th in the league and Colorado 28th, and that critical measure of possession, the mighty "Fenwick Close %" finding the Panthers 18th in the league and the Rocky Mountain wonders at 28th.

The Avalanche returned home after a Saturday night loss in Montreal which concluded a four-game road trip where they beat Boston, 2-1, but suffered losses at Toronto in overtime 3-2, and at Ottawa 5-3. They lost back-to-back games to Minnesota to open the season by a combined score of 8-0. To put it bluntly, the Av's are struggling to score nearly as badly as the Panthers are (the two teams are 28th and 30th in the league in goals per game respectively).

Here is an eerily familiar portion of the pregame write up for the Avalanche game vs. Montreal from our friends at Mile High Hockey:

The offense hasn't clicked yet, and only Florida has scored fewer goals per game than the Avs.  Couple that with intense chemistry issues, rapidly rotating lines, an unusually high number of neutral zone turnovers, poor puck support, bad defense, stupid penalties, a sputtering power play, and an absolute collapse of both offensive and defensive systems late in the third, and this could get very ugly very quickly for the Avs.

Colorado's troubles begin in net, as both of their NHL level goaltenders, including last season's darling Semyon Varlamov, are injured. The Panthers will face either Calvin Pickard or Sami Aittokallio in the opposing net. If you knew who either of them were before the season you earn a gold star. Nonetheless, Pickard has reportedly played well in this fill-in role, and we are all aware of the Cats ability to make opposing goaltenders look like world-beaters.

Update: Reto Berra is healthy again and is expected to get the start tonight.

In theory, this has all the attributes to be a competitive game between two teams that are struggling to find offense. On paper, Colorado's defensive struggles suggest that if ever the Panthers are going to find their offense, this is as good a place to start as any. Of course, we could have said the same before the Buffalo game, but lets go with the glass half full for this one.

Another thing to keep an eye on is the "Killer B line." George Richards, of the Miami Herald, reported that the mighty Bergenheim, Barkov, Boyes line has finally been reunited by Coach Gallant, with Jussi Jokinen moving to the 3rd line with Brandon Pirri and Tomas Fleischmann. It will be interesting to see if this line change jump-starts the non-existent Florida offense.

Pay a visit to the good folks at the aforementioned Mile High Hockey to get the Avalanche outlook.