The Florida Panthers would enter Tuesday night’s match-up with the visiting Carolina Hurricanes with hopes high, as the Cats came off its first win of this young season over a strong Tampa Bay Lightning team on Saturday evening. Unfortunately for the Panthers, someone forgot to tell them that the first period counts.
A four-goal outburst by the Hurricanes would leave the sparse home crowd booing as the Panthers looked like they were basically sleepwalking through parts of the first period. The Canes would strike for three even strength goals and a power play tally, causing head coach Joel Quenneville to yank goalie Sergei Bobrovsky during the first intermission. Young goalie Sam Montembeault would play the remainder of the game for the Cats, allowing only one goal in the second, with the Canes scoring an empty-netter late in the third period as the Panthers tried to mount a comeback.
The Panthers did not look over-matched in this tilt. However, it was evident they did not have their legs from the get-go. The slow start proved insurmountable and credit must be given to Carolina for capitalizing and putting themselves in a position to win early. Bobrovsky was the victim of some atrocious defensive play in front of him, and Carolina goalie (and former Panther) James Reimer must’ve had a wry smile on his face as he watched many of the same issues that he dealt with last year affect the Panthers new $70 million netminder.
There’s no question Quenneville had some choice words for the group either during intermissions or after the game. The Panthers did not look ready to play an NHL game from the puck drop, and that plus the defensive gaffes need to be corrected ASAP. It’s only game three, but soon it will be only game seven, and then only game twelve, and then only game twenty. The Panthers have to play complete games from start to finish every game, or the early season holes they have dug for themselves in seasons prior will start to form this season as well.
Check out coverage from our sister site over at Canes Country to hear their side of the story, and as always post in the comments below to share your thoughts about the game. The Panthers will be back at it on Friday night at 7 PM EST against the Buffalo Sabres, who are playing some great hockey to start the season. This will be a tough match-up for the Cats and they’ll need their legs moving from the start to make it a game.
- Carolina has some excellent forward depth. They were able to roll four lines pretty consistently against the Panthers and had sustained offensive pressure at times with all four. Florida still seems to be struggling against the heavy forechecking teams like the Hurricanes, with a lot of missed zone exits as players scrambled to move the puck before getting hit.
- The Matheson/Ekblad combo is.... well, not great. Take a look at the photo below, which was during the Carolina power play in the first period that resulted in their fourth goal. Yes, that’s Ekblad and Matheson down low, and yes, that’s two Carolina players standing dead center in the middle, in front of Bob, with no body pressure or sticks being tied up. It led to an easy deflection goal for Ryan Dzingel and a 4-0 lead. Can’t have that, folks.
- This same defensive pairing would later be caught puck-watching, allowing Andrei Svechnikov to get behind them both at the offensive blue line, leading to a goal by Dougie Hamilton shortly after Svechnikov’s initial shot was denied. A completely avoidable goal had one of the two picked up Svechnikov.
- Bobrovsky did not play terribly in this tilt; rather, it was the same issue as in the bullets above: the D not clearing guys out of the crease or tying up sticks. Jordan Staal’s opening tally was because he was able to stand unmolested at the top of the crease for an easy rebound goal. Hopefully the Cats can fix these issues quickly or he’s going to be hung out to dry quite a bit this season.
- The Panthers fourth line was a bright spot in the game, although they were on the ice for two goals against. They applied constant pressure on the forecheck and were able to tire out some of the Carolina D as the game wore on. If they can clean things up in their own zone a bit more, that line will give Q more flexibility as the season rolls on.
- Maybe it’s just me, but Sasha Barkov does not look quite right. Perhaps he feels the pressure of this season, perhaps he’s hiding an injury (he did miss some preseason time), or perhaps he’s just trying to do too much right now and it’s not working out so well. Whatever the case, he doesn’t look quite as dominant and the Panthers really need him to find his upper gears sooner rather than later.
- Jonathan Huberdeau, however, looks like he never stopped from last season. He’s been the Panthers best forward outside of Mike Hoffman, and once Barkov gets going, he’ll be even more valuable and productive. That top line has to start scoring soon and that scoring will go through Huberdeau.
- Mark Pysyk saw his first action of the season in this one, and finished -2 with no shots and no hits. He would’ve been the worst defenseman out on the ice for the Panthers had Matheson and Ekblad not played in the game. Florida’s defensive woes need more than just an injection of Pysyk or Josh Brown into the lineup.