The Florida Panthers had two choices coming into Friday night’s contest against the Buffalo Sabres. They could either continue to wallow in the apathetic 6-3 loss to Carolina on Tuesday night, or take the message delivered from head coach Joel Quenneville after that game. They wisely chose the latter, giving a pretty solid full-game effort in a 3-2 overtime loss to the home team. The Cats looked like a different club, skating and working hard enough to come back from a 2-0 deficit and send the game to a shootout thanks to a huge Mike Hoffman wrister with about 10 seconds left in the third. Unfortunately for the Panthers, the Sabres were the only ones to score in the shootout, giving them the win and a 4-0-1 record to start the season.
Florida’s season is not starting as they had hoped to this point, but you could potentially mark this game as a bit of a turning point for the team. The Panthers seem to be feeling their way out under Quenneville and it seems like not only are the lines gelling a bit as we progress, but the players expectations are changing. It remains to be seen if the lineup continues to work as hard as it did in this game, but this kind of effort is what the coaching staff is going to demand.
If you feel so inclined, check out the bad guys point of view over at Die By the Blade, and make sure you tune in tomorrow at 7 PM EST as the Panthers take on the New York Islanders, who find themselves struggling equally as much as Florida to this point. Should be a good one.
- The Panthers showed another side of themselves in this game, working hard in both zones, moving their feet the entire game, and not showing any quit late in the third. After a bag skate practice following the 6-3 loss to Carolina, the message seems to have been received. Let’s hope the Cats keep this up moving forward because they’re actually competitive like this.
- I’m glad to be typing this: Mike Matheson had a pretty darn good game.
- The Panthers should’ve had about five calls go their way. Not sure what the refs weren’t seeing that the rest of us did.
- The Sabres look much better under Ralph Krueger this season, playing a very structured game defensively, something they seemed to lack last season. After a torrid start in 2018-19, they cooled down quite a bit, but I don’t think we’ll see that happen this season, giving the Panthers yet another contender for a wild card spot.
- Evgenii Dadonov scored for the second straight game, something I think most of us were not expecting against the Sabres since it looked like he was demoted to the third line. He did start the game there, but as the clock wore on he found himself back on the top line. With his history on that line, he should probably stay there.
- Sasha Barkov still looks, well... not quite himself. I’m not sure if he’s playing with an injury or what, but something looks off. He’s not his normal dominant self, stripping the puck from the opposition at will and setting up or scoring goals like last season. Hopefully he’s just getting his feet under him and it’s nothing serious, but the Panthers need him to be at his best to have success as a team.
- Florida’s fourth line is probably one of the best they’ve had in awhile. Noel Acciari is doing everything as advertised, and Dryden Hunt has been filling the role the coaching staff wanted since training camp as a tenacious forechecker. Now they just need to pot a few more goals for their efforts.
- Mackenzie Weegar was paired up with Aaron Ekblad on the top pair, and did not look at all out of place. I’m not sure if this is going to continue but the way the defensive pairings are set up seem to be playing on the strengths of the guys on the blue line.