They Ain't the Isles; Panthers Simply Outworked vs. Penguins

I hate making excuses to pardon a loss, but before we get too far lets get them out there and out of the way. The Pittsburgh Penguins, though star-less they may be, are still a very good team. The Panthers players are still getting used to each other. Jose Theodore had sub-par (at best) defense in front of him. Add it all up and guess what; the Panthers lost. The way I see it, the Panthers are never favorites when matching up with the Penguins, especially when they meet in Pittsburgh, meaning this was probably going to be a loss regardless of the previous result against the Islanders. If anything, this game was meant to be a convenient benchmark for the Florida Panthers to measure up to.

Subtracting out a few untimely mistakes, Florida played surprisingly well to the final horn against an elite team, second game in, on the road. Had this task been given to the 2010-11 Panthers and the result would have been much more painful. It wasn't a great game in terms of coach Kevin Dineen's puck possession coaching style (still in its infant stages) but the team showed remarkable resiliency when a game like this could have been decided in the first period, not the final 10 minutes. The offense wasn't anything to gawk at, the defense was downright bad at times and Theodore did about all he could. Despite this, nobody gave up and let the Penguins have their way with a blowout. For a new team, that's a very good sign to see early on. In the end, it's only game two--the Panthers (and Dineen) will need to learn from this game and react accordingly.

Scattered thoughts:

  • With three days to rest PRACTICE before the home opener on Saturday, don't expect the Panthers to come out so flat when faced with an equally tough opponent in the Tampa Bay Lightning. Dineen will be taking full advantage of the break to fix whatever he sees on the tapes.
  • The Penguins must have known the Cats were experimenting with the defensive lines because they took full advantage of the defense whenever possible. The Penguins gave Erik Gudbranson some trouble, Dmitry Kulikov got caught in a few tough situations and Mike Weaver jumped into play at some inopportune times. The final 4-2 score was more of a reflection of defensive breakdowns and turnovers than mistakes by Jose Theodore.
  • Speaking of Theodore, if he continues to play like he has in the previous two games the Panthers may just surprise the experts. Theodore isn't great, but he might just be good enough. Ice a solid defense and give him some scoring support and everything will be fine.
  • How about that Jack Skille? Skille must have signed away his soul to Dale Tallon for that one way contract because he's been playing like a man possessed. Skille was all over the ice last night and led to the Marcel Goc goal to cut the score 2-1.
  • Per George Richards, Tomas Fleischmann has 23 points in 24 games spanning from last season. Its great Flash has kept his hot hands even after his unfortunate condition--of the big guns on the ice, Flash is definitely the most dangerous.
  • The Panthers went 0-4 on the powerplay, Pittsburgh went 0-5 but great forechecking gave them a short handed goal. That one hurt.
  • Somebody give Kris Letang a haircut!
  • Still holding out for Ryan Carter to make an impact other then handcuffing his team with stupid penalties.
  • Before heading to Sunrise for the Panthers home opener, the Lightning face the Islanders on Thursday. Lets just hope Dwayne Roloson continues the shaky play he exhibited against the Capitals.

Beating Tampa Bay has historically never been a huge accomplishment, lackluster Panther teams have outperformed the Bolts on many occasions, including a 6-0 blowout in last year's home opener. Unfortunately, I don't think it will be so easy this go around. Tampa has their eyes on a big shiny silver trophy and cant afford many losses to in-state rivals, meaning it will take a mistake-free defense and an orchestrated offensive showing to take out the Lightning. It will be very interesting to see how Kevin Dineen rallies his club following their first loss.