A few games ago, the prolific offense of the Florida Panthers seemed to have sputtered out after a fantastic start to the season, just as the goaltending started to drastically improve.
Enter the famous line blender of head coach Joel Quenneville, and voila... problem solved.
The new-look lines of the Panthers managed to absolutely smoke the Dallas Stars on Friday night, building up a massive lead early and never looking back en route to a 7-4 victory.
The Panthers played the aggressor for most of the night, playing a tenacious forechecking game while also playing the possession-style game Quenneville has been preaching all season. Florida generated a ton of pressure in the Dallas zone shift after shift, with the new lines providing a balanced scoring attack no matter who was out on the ice.
The Stars looked like a team that was not at all interested in competing in this game, especially defensively as they allowed the Panthers chance after chance, most of the high danger variety. Dallas netminder Ben Bishop was pulled after the Cats sixth goal, likely a mercy pulling as the guys in front of him were completely lost on the ice.
Dallas got back into it late during garbage time in the third period thanks to some penalty trouble from the Cats, but Sergei Bobrovsky did the job in limiting the Stars enough to prevent the game from being close.
Defending Big D has the likely depressing Texas take, if you feel like indulging. The Panthers are back in action tomorrow night against the always-dangerous Carolina Hurricanes, and that game will be the first road game the Cats have played since just after Thanksgiving.
- Boy, did Florida come out flying in this one, scoring fairly early in the first on their first power play chance and controlling possession for much of the period. The Panthers need more starts like that as they often find themselves in a hole early and have had to come from behind to earn points, something that is significantly harder to do as the season progresses.
- Noel Acciari, apparently now known as “Cookie”, should eat a few more cookies this week because he’s on fire. He had his second hat trick in as many games, and his latest was a natural hat trick. He’s up to 11 goals on the season and is on pace to simply obliterate his career highs. He’s formed a solid role as a garbageman in front of net for Vincent Trocheck and Jonathan Huberdeau, something the Panthers really needed more of.
- The Cats played one of their best forechecking games of the season. They continually sent a second forward deep and made body contact, causing quite a few turnovers and really wearing down the Dallas defense. Maybe they read my last recap?
- Mike Matheson had an active game offensively, but still seems to be really struggling with pressure against him in the defensive zone. He has to learn to shield the puck better rather than attempting to stickhandle when under pressure, because when he does the latter it’s almost always a turnover.
- Florida also had some extremely active sticks tonight, breaking up pass after pass from the Dallas attack and also pokechecking a whole bunch of pucks away from their defense. This kept the Stars forwards to the perimeter most of the time and really limited the quality scoring chances against Bobrovsky.