After an embarrassing, crushing defeat in what was one of the biggest, if not the biggest, games this season against Toronto, the Florida Panthers needed to dig deep and find the kind of effort and intensity required to guide them to a postseason spot, starting with a win.
Perhaps someone should get them a bigger shovel, because they need to keep digging.
The Panthers showed bursts of intensity but were not able to top the Chicago Blackhawks, falling 3-2 in a shootout, their sixth straight loss on home ice.
Florida came out hungry, controlling the puck quite a bit in the offensive zone to start the game and generating some decent chances as a result. They would catch a break early in the period as well when the red-hot Mike Hoffman tipped a Chicago pass to send himself in on Corey Crawford on a breakaway. Hoffman would easily beat Crawford to give the Cats the lead, but it would not last.
As a Chicago rush went the other way after a failed Panthers forecheck, the Hawks would find Jonathan Toews wide open in front for an easy tip in off an Adam Boqvist pass. ALL FIVE of the Panther players on the ice were watching the puck, and absolutely no one noticed the Chicago captain alone in front, let alone tie up his stick. Not good at all.
The first would end with the score tied at one, and Florida managed to keep their legs moving in the second period, and started peppering Crawford with shots but not putting any rubber past the veteran netminder. The Blackhawks were able to beat Sergei Bobrovsky though, as Toews embarrassed Mackenzie Weegar in the defensive zone, stripping the puck from him easily and setting up a blast from Connor Murphy. Drake Caggiula would get credit for the goal as his stick ended up deflecting the puck into net, giving the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead.
Florida would find themselves into a familiar position yet again, trailing in the third period at home and searching for an equalizer. Despite multiple scoring chances throughout the third for the Cats, they could not beat Crawford until the final two minutes when Mike Matheson had a play very similar to Hoffman’s earlier in the game. Matheson would tip a Chicago pass and speed down the ice, beating Crawford with a wrister to send the game to overtime.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, they could not finish the game in overtime, where they had multiple glorious chances to get the win and the points they so desperately need to stay in the playoff race. Instead, they could not capitalize and found themselves getting waxed in the shootout as both Toews and Patrick Kane would easily score on Bobrovsky.
As the season wears on, and the losses mount, at some point the organization needs to start thinking about what needs to change, because something clearly needs to. We’ve seen coaches change, we’ve seen some players change, we’ve seen some of the “core” relocated. Through all of that, we haven’t seen results, and judging by the games we’re watching, we shouldn’t expect that to change.
Dale Tallon, or whomever replaces him in the near future, has a lot of work to do.
Video Recap (courtesy of NHL.com)
- While the Panthers top line had a better game, one thing is still noticeable with their cycle: they’re rarely getting to the dangerous areas of the ice to generate high-quality shots. When they scored a lot earlier in the season, it was because the cycle was opening up the soft areas of the ice that a guy like Evgenii Dadonov could slide into. That’s not happening much anymore.
- Sergei Bobrovsky looked terrible in the shootout. His season of woes continues as he had a chance to keep the Panthers in it and couldn’t. His shooters didn’t help him whatsoever either, as head coach Joel Quenneville inexplicably sent out Frank Vatrano and Mike Hoffman over the usual shootout lineup.
- He hasn’t had the best season ever, but Adam Boqvist looks like he’s going to be a mainstay on the Chicago blue line in the future. He’s only 19 and has his best years ahead of him, but he’s already making some heady plays on both ends of the ice. He’ll be a key part of a rebuild should the Blackhawks need to go that route in the near future.
- The Panthers did themselves very few favors against Chicago, taking some pretty bad penalties several times in the first and the second period. The Cats were pretty disciplined throughout the season but as their frustrations have mounted you can see that same frustration expressed on the ice at times.
- Mike Hoffman looks like a man possessed out there at times. He’s making a real case for the Cats to re-sign him after this season. Knowing the cap situation currently, it’ll be interesting to see if Tallon and company try to keep him around. He’s going to be 30 when his next deal is signed so if they do, they’re going to need to keep the term reasonable.