With 25 games remaining in the season, and a 2-5-1 record over their last eight games, the Florida Panthers knew that every game counts at this point in the season as they fight for third in the Atlantic with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Based on their performance on Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers, that urgency doesn’t seem to have set in yet.
After yet another very slow start for the Cats in the first period, one in which they managed only three shots on goal during the first ten minutes, the Panthers mostly sleepwalked en route to a 4-1 loss against the Oilers at the BB&T Center.
Edmonton opened the scoring in the final five minutes of the first, as Adam Larsson scored his first of the season after blasting the puck from the point through a screened Sam Montembeault. The Panthers had very few quality chances in the first and the Oilers would carry a lead into the first intermission.
After a scoreless second, the game would move to 2-0 Oilers only 13 seconds into the third period as Leon Draisaitl potted his 33rd goal of the season. Four Panthers were caught puck watching and Florida’s defense did as little as it could to help Montembeault out as Draisaitl got free in front with a rebound chance.
The Panthers did manage their now-trademarked third period push to pull things within one, as Jonathan Huberdeau scored about halfway through the period to make Edmonton sweat a little. However, as it’s been for the last handful of games, it was far too little and far too late to ensure the Panthers would finish the game with any points. After head coach Joel Quenneville pulled Montembeault for the extra attacker, the Oilers would score two empty net goals to finish the game off with a 4-1 final.
There should be a lot of questions about the current leadership group of this team, as even a player’s only meeting after an ugly loss to the Flyers hasn’t seemed to pull the collective group out of the now-standard slow starts and apathetic puck pursuit throughout. The team does seem a bit snakebitten at times but they’re also making their own difficulties with a lack of intensity and compete. They do not look even remotely close to a playoff club right now.
Florida will try to regroup and right the ship on Monday as they start a long road trip out west. The first opponent is a bottom-feeding San Jose Sharks team helmed by former Cats head coach Bob Boughner. The Sharks just lost Erik Karlsson for the season, so if there’s any team the Panthers can hopefully top, it’s the Sharks. In the meantime, send Connor McDavid some “Get Well Soon” comments over at The Copper and Blue.
- After a torrid pace for much of the season, the Panther’s top line has been mostly impotent for quite some time now. Over the nine games since the ASG, Huberdeau has five points while Dadonov has two assists. Barkov, who missed three games, has just two points in his last six. When the going has gotten tough for the Cats over the last couple of seasons, that top line has been delivering when they really need it. They’re really struggling to do so as of late.
- Montembeault looked good in front of a defense that was caught puck watching for much of the evening. He’s looked solid in terms of positioning and his confidence seems to be coming back. It’s good to see considering Chris Driedger is likely out a couple more weeks, and the Panthers are going to need Monty.
- Josh Brown had a good fight. Yep. That’s all I got.
- The defense-to-forward connection seems very disjointed, and it was quite evident against Edmonton as the Panthers D seemingly didn’t have any outlet passes more than a few times during the game. Forwards were cheating hoping for the quick outlet pass out of the zone but the Oilers did a great job taking away lanes and the Cats seemingly not changing their breakouts to compensate.
- Speaking of the forwards, they’re often taking long distance, low percentage shots and its greatly affected the possession game. The Panthers are firing the puck plenty but because they’re not retaining possession and cycling as much, the shots are far lower quality and they’re really struggling to make much of it as many forwards are skating past the net or below the red line.