Beware the adulations and contact high from the Florida Panthers 2-0 shutout of the Buffalo Sabres at home on Friday night. Yes, the Cats managed to secure a shutout for the first time since fire was invented, and Roberto Luongo looked solid, as did the team in front of him. Let's not forget, however, that the Panthers did it against a worse team, a team that is abysmally lost this season and recently dealt their top players before the trade deadline. I'm not trying to take away from the excellent 2-0 victory over the Sabres; rather, I'm just tempering everyone's expectations before the Boston Bruins roll into town and rough up the Panthers, Seabass style.
Florida has had a tough time dealing with the Bruins over the last few years, especially their size and non-stop forecheck. Boston is playing probably their best hockey this season and that's without Dennis Seidenberg and mostly without Loui Eriksson. The Bruins have more depth than nearly every other team in the NHL, and the Panthers can not afford to make a single mistake if they want to come out of this tilt with two points. We all know how solid the B's are defensively, and the Panthers can ill afford another two or three goal deficit in the first period.
The first game of the (second) Luongo era is behind us, and although it started on a great note, the real work has just begun.
Players to Watch
- Jonathan Huberdeau - With only three points and zero goals over the last 13 games, Huberdeau is again mired in a slump, something he's all too familiar with this season. His work ethic has improved at times, and he's fighting for the puck more, but it still appears he's ailing from his hip surgery, or never really got back into game shape yet. Another big stat regarding Huberdeau: he has less shots on goal than Dmitry Kulikov. Can't score goals if you don't shoot, and Huberdeau seems to rarely be in a position to shoot. Something's gotta change.
- Brandon Pirri - Through two games, Pirri hasn't been invisible, but he hasn't popped off the scoresheet either. He's played some decent two-way hockey and you get the sense that Pirri is feeling out his linemates and starting to gauge how offensive-minded he can be. The knock on Pirri from his Chicago days was that Hawks head coach Joel Quenneville disapproved of his defensive play but so far we haven't seen it. After taking a nasty hit from behind against the Sabres, Pirri seems no worse for the wear and will hopefully start to find more of his offensive game as the season rolls on.
- David Krejci - With a hat trick in his last game against the Panthers, Krejci is just a Panther killer. He leads the B's in scoring and Florida seems to struggle containing him or his linemates just about every game. Krejci isn't super flashy and doesn't have amazing wheels but he's just a very intelligent player with a lethal wrister. Florida absolutely has to play better defensively against Krejci and his wingers tonight.
- Torey Krug - In only his second season, Krug looks like a seasoned veteran much of the time. He's already scored 34 points this season, which is better than any player on the Panthers, and has seen plenty of special teams minutes this season. Krug is turning into a solid top-four defenseman for the Bruins and should be a part of their gameplan for a long time. If the Bruins get on the powerplay against Florida, look for Krug to make an impact, as six of his twelve goals have come on the man advantage.