Florida Panthers: Defense struggles again in difficult loss

With the Florida Panthers and the Philadelphia Flyers meeting on Thursday,  the Panthers needed to put together a strong showing to remain in the playoff hunt. On home ice, they had a perfect opportunity to put themselves right in the playoff mix. Instead of winning, the Panthers were defeated 6-3.

This was a game the Florida Panthers completely squandered on home ice. As they took on the Philadelphia Flyers, they got into a hole and  could never dig themselves out. in what is becoming a common theme, the defense was flat. They played on their heels for a majority of the game, and that did not bode well for a win.

Florida Panthers fall behind early

It started with three straight goals in the first frame. They were never able to fully put together a comeback. Jonathan Huberdeau finally scored for the Florida Panthers 33 seconds into the third frame. However, by that time, the Florida Panthers already put themselves in a four-goal deficit. Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov scored their 20th and 17th goals on the season. However, the late comeback was still not enough.

Thursday night, defensive play was the Achilles’ heel again. It’s been a problem throughout most of the season. Once again, they left the goaltender hung out to dry. Thursday night, Sergei Bobrovsky  had another rough affair. After giving up three goals on nine shots, he was pulled at the end of the second frame.

Sam Montembeault struggled in relief. He gave up three goals on 19 shots in 40 minutes of ice time. No matter who the Florida Panthers put out there, the Flyers were able to find ways to score. Both goaltenders had a rough night, but it also spoke to the fact that the defense was not up to par. The goalies could only do so much, and they struggled containing Philadelphia’s offensive attack.

James van Riemsdyk had a huge game for Philadelphia. He scored a goal and two assists. Scoring the opening goal at 4:24 in the first frame, he set the tone early.

Now, the Florida Panthers take on the Oilers Saturday looking to take back some momentum. One thing is becoming apparent. Florida needs to quickly address the defensive woes as we get closer to the playoffs.

Florida Panthers: Sergei Bobrovsky has little room for error Thursday

It’s not too often that a goalie can be the focal point of the game, but such is life with Sergei Bobrovsky and the Florida Panthers. Bobrovsky has struggled over his past couple of outings, and the Philadelphia Flyers will be a tough test for him on Thursday night.

Bobrovsky has not won a game since February 3, losing three decisions in between. One of those was to the Flyers. In that contest, he gave up three goals on February 10 in what was a 4-1 loss for the Panthers. Ivan Provorov, James Van Riemsdyk, and Travis Sanheim each scored goals against Bobrovsky.

Bobrovsky in rut for Florida Panthers

Bobrovsky is in a bit of a rut right now. He has struggled for much of the 2020 calendar year, and he has a tough road from here on out. Some of it has to do with the defense of the Florida Panthers . However, a lot of it can be traced back to Bobrovsky’s play. He has not looked comfortable in net, and that is especially apparent during his three-game losing streak.

He is definitely going to be challenged Thursday. This is a Philadelphia Flyers team that is on a bit of a roll right now. They did lose to the Islanders by a 5-3 score on Monday. However, they have won two out of their last three games. This includes beating Washington 7-2 last Saturday.

The Eastern Conference is in the midst of a close playoff race. A win on Thursday for the Panthers could help them inch closer to the eighth spot in the conference.

Prior to Thursday’s game, Florida is in the 10th spot with 66 points. Toronto holds the eighth spot with 68 points.  Philadelphia is clinging to the seventh spot with 69 points. There is not much that separates these two teams from switching places.

Bobrovsky needs to have a solid game on Thursday. He needs to be alert and ready. Philadelphia has a balanced scoring attack. Bobrovsky found that out the hard way the last time these two met. If he can have a clean first period and withstand the initial rush from Philadelphia, he should be in much better shape than he has been the past three games. He needs to be on top of his game Thursday as each game becomes more important for the Florida Panthers.

Florida Panthers: Fourth line comes up huge in win

The Florida Panthers beat the New Jersey Devils by a 5-3 margin on Wednesday night. That was due largely to the play of the fourth line. They were flying all over the ice, and getting themselves involved in every play.

They had their hands all over this game. Mark Pysyk had a goal and two assists on the evening. Michael Matheson had a goal and two assist to his credit as well. Not to be forgotten, Noel Acciari  had a goal and an assist on the evening.  The Florida Panthers were able to get production from somewhere else besides the top line. This is certainly a positive development for a young organization that is looking to get a winning streak going come playoff time.

Fourth line crucial for Florida Panthers

It’s not that this Florida Panthers team does not have depth. They certainly do, proving it on Tuesday. However, having the fourth line excel on Wednesday night speaks to the depth of the team. Especially with the Florida Panthers struggling over the past couple of weeks, having this line come up as big as they did is certainly good for the team moving forward.

As the dog days of the season are approaching, not having to rely on the top line Wednesday night was  important. The fourth line produced some gritty shifts. It was exactly the type of performance that you would expect from that line. The scoring prowess on the part of that line was just a bonus. As a result, all three players have been named the three stars of the game.

It would be premature to call them the best fourth line of hockey . However, those individuals were able to help the Florida Panthers secure a victory over New Jersey. Even more impressively, it came without a ton of help from the top line. It will be interesting to see how this line plays throughout the remainder of the season. With division races heating up, all players need to be firing on all cylinders from here on out.

Panthers Must Find Offense for Quick Home Stand

The Florida Panthers return home Thursday and must find offense in a hurry.

To kick off the second half of the NHL season, Florida trekked out on the road for three straight.

Get used to that Panthers fans, the Panthers will play seven of ten on the road starting next week.

It was an up-and-down three game set away from the BB&T Center, Florida lost two of three after a 1-0 overtime loss Wednesday at Columbus.

 

Despite taking only three out of a possible six points, the Panthers looked better against both Toronto and Columbus.

Each of those games were decided by a single goal, Florida lost a painful overtime game in Columbus 1-0 Tuesday.

Sergei Bobrovsky (20-13-5, 3.19 GAA, .901 SV%) stopped 44 out of 45 shots against the Blue Jackets.

 

His save percentage since November is .917 which is right in line with his career average (.918).

In the first half of the season the offense carried the weight, unfortunately with the improvement in net has come a decline on the other side.

Florida has endured their first two shutouts this season in the last three games.

An injury to Sasha Barkov has not helped, the Panthers captain is still day-to-day.

The Vegas Golden Knights (27-21-7, 61 points) visit the BB&T Center Thursday, winners of two out of three.

Vegas attempts the second most shots in the NHL per game (34.1) and sport a top 10 power play.

Former Panthers Reilly Smith (42 points) and Jonathan Marchessault (37 points) are among the top scorers for Vegas.

Smith is tied for the team lead with Max Pacioretty with 21 goals.

The Panthers allow 32.4 shots per game, 24th in the NHL.

Florida will need Jonathan Huberdeau and Evgenii Davodov to step up in Barkov’s absence.

Mike Hoffman has just two points in his last three games since the break after having his 10 game point streak snapped.

The Panthers will need a complete defensive effort in front of Bobrovsky to hold off Vegas.

Look for an energized team after a few days off and returning to home ice.

Puck drops Thursday at 7PM Eastern.

 

 

 

 

Panthers Lose Ugly Game, Barkov to Start Second Half

The Florida Panthers managed to lose ugly to start the second half, 4-0 Saturday at Montreal.

It was the first time this season the Panthers have been shut out.

A poor start by Florida got worse quickly with an injury to Sasha Barkov.

 

 

Early prognosis on Barkov’s apparent lower body injury is positive

Momentum from the first half of the year quickly disintegrated as Florida fell behind just over five minutes in.

Montreal would never look back.

 

The dynamic Panther power play was shut out in six attempts, despite 14 shots on goal with the man advantage.

Florida lacked energy and focus earlier as Montreal did all the little things right, winning battles on the boards and in front of both goals.

Jeff Petry had an assist on all four tallies for the Canadiens and Montreal won the face off battle 37-20, a huge disparity leading to puck possession.

Montreal goalie Carey Price stopped all 29 shots for his 47th career shutout, third in Canadiens history.

Sergei Bobrovsky was not the problem despite allowing four goals, he stood on his head to keep Florida in it early.

Bobrovsky stopped 31 shots overall, including 15 of 16 sent his way in a rough first period for the team.

His play in net kept the Panthers within range for the first half of the game until it got away in the second period.

Montreal was able to convert on 1-of-2 power plays and controlled the game from the onset.

Florida now sits at 28-17-5 and are tied with Toronto with 61 points.

The two meet Monday in a pivotal Atlantic Division game as both fight for playoff position.

 

 

Florida Panthers Look to Carry Momentum Into Second Half

The Florida Panthers hope to keep the momentum going into the second half of the season.

Florida has five games in seven nights to open the second half, with three on the road to start.

With six straight wins entering the NHL All-Star break, the Panthers are the hottest team in the NHL along with Columbus.

Sergei Bobrovsky has three of those victories and for him at least the layoff was a good thing in terms of health.

Now as an important stretch approaches, the Panthers travel to the hockey mecca in Montreal to kick off the second half.

From Have Nots to Habs Again?

Montreal on the other hand has been on a roller coaster ride since late December as they lost eight straight going into the new year.

The Habs turned it around a bit before the break with wins in four of six following that losing skid.

Ageless Cary Price (21-17-0, 2.80 GAA, .909 SV %) still mans the net in Montreal. Price has won four out of his last five starts.

Left winger Tomas Tatar leads Montreal with 46 points (18 goals, 28 assists) and the Canadiens get solid scoring across multiple lines.

Montreal has seven players with at least 11 goals, including the dangerous Shea Weber from the blue line. Weber has the hardest slap shot in the NHL from the point, Florida must be aware of him especially on the power play.

The Canadiens are a middle of the pack team that doesn’t stand out in one particular phase, Florida has the better talent overall but cannot overlook anyone.

Florida’s key advantage is their 5th ranked power play versus the 23rd ranked penalty kill of Montreal. If the Cats get the man advantage they need to capitalize.

Playing in Montreal is always tough, Head Coach Joel Quenneville will certainly have the team motivated out of the break.

 

Excitement is building around the Panthers as they surged to end the first half. After starting many seasons past slowly, those early points will certainly help their playoff push.

Bobrovsky should be energized after the hiatus, if the defense can take the next step it will give the Panthers the balance they need to contend with the upper echelon of the NHL.

After Montreal the Cats will travel to face the high flying Columbus Blue Jackets on Super Bowl Sunday.

Florida Panthers: Organization to host 2021 NHL All-Star Game

The 2021 NHL All-Star game will have a Florida Panthers feel to it. The team has been selected to host the event for the first time since 2003.

This will be the fourth time that the state of Florida has hosted the All-Star Game. Tampa Bay did the honors in the 2018 season.

Florida Panthers youth movement should make for interesting event

The Panthers have a plethora of young stars. Jonathan Huberdeau, Evgenii Dadonov, and Aleksander Barkov are just some of star talent Florida has. Right now, the Florida Panthers sit with a 27-16-5 record. With 59 points on the year, that is good enough for third in the Atlantic Division. Only the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins have more.

Next season, the Florida Panthers should return the same core group. This should allow for some sustainability as the Panthers look to compete in a tough Atlantic Division. Having Florida Panthers players at next year’s All-Star game would certainly be a great thing for both of the fans and Florida hockey in general.

This is going to be just one of the major events in what should be a huge year for Florida sports. Miami Gardens will be hosting the 2021 College Football National Championship. That too should provide some excitement to the area. It will certainly be a busy time as Florida will be on the national stage with some of the biggest events in all of sports.

The Panthers are gaining more respect around the National Hockey League, and having the All-Star game on home ice is another big development. In what is sure to be a fun weekend for all involved, there is a chance that the Panthers could be well-represented. A lot has changed in the NHL since 2003, and the youth of the Florida Panthers is a representation of how far the organization has come since then.

Florida Panthers Report Card: Fast and Furious First Half

The Florida Panthers feel like a different team so far in the first half of the season.

Quietly, the recognition is beginning for South Florida’s NHL team.

A wave of prolific achievements and high scoring affairs have cast a spotlight on Sunrise.

Perhaps that light shines brightest to the Panthers’ diehard fans, but the rest of our market should be taking notice.

The Panthers have won two in a row after a shellacking of Toronto on Sunday, and they sit poised for an extended season.

 

After 45 games the Cats stand at 24-16-5, good for 53 points and a spot in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff mix.

Coach Joel Quenneville has brought a renewed energy and attention to detail which has led to more consistent play.

While the dynamic offense led by Jonathan Huberdeau continues to be the catalyst.

 

Florida’s top two forward lines are as good as any in the NHL.

With Huberdeau, along with Sasha Barkov, Mike Hoffman, Evgenii Davodov, and Vincent Trocheck the Panthers don’t let up.

Leading into the NHL All-Star break, this seems like as good of a time as any to assess the Panthers so far in the 2019-20 season.

Offense: A

This team can light it up.

After their eight goal onslaught against Toronto this week, the Panthers have scored the second most goals in the NHL (163).

Florida’s 3.62 goals per game is tops in the league as of Monday, and the prolific power play is starting to heat up even more.

After going without a power play goal in three straight, the Panthers have converted with the extra man in their last two victories.

Currently they rank 6th in the NHL at 23.4% on the power play.

Hoffman has been on a tear with at least one point in six straight, while Huberdeau has been a consistent spark with an assist in four of his last five games

Huby ranks 7th in the NHL with 61 points (18 goals, 43 assists) and his assist total ranks 3rd league-wide.

Barkov is also in the top-15 in scoring with 49 points and the Panthers have 10 players with at least 20 points.

Evgenii Davodov leads the team with 19 goals, while Vincent Trocheck brings all the intangibles.

 

He has also been on a tear during game action with six points in his last five contests.

Florida is an excellent fore-checking team that applies constant pressure, the Panthers’ 33.7 shots per game rank 5th in the NHL.

Noel Acciari has quickly become a fan favorite in his first season with the team and his energy on the second line is a tremendous asset.

Teamed up with Trocheck and Brett Connolly, who by the way is also having an excellent season, has given the Panthers two solid scoring lines.

Connolly has 16 goals in 45 games in his first year after coming over from Washington, and is on pace to eclipse his career high of 22 goals last season.

Defense/Goaltending: C

The Panthers defensive struggles have been a point of contention for a few years.

They may finally be turning the corner, or at least approaching it.

However the Panthers still rank in the bottom third league wide in shots allowed per game (32.2, 21st) and goals allowed per game (3.31, 27th).

The communication on the blue line is better but there are still stretches where the team gets blitzed and on their heels.

Clearing rebounds and keeping clean ice in front of whomever is in goal must remain a priority.

The defense must also focus on slowing high powered teams down through the neutral zone.

Penalty killing has also been an issue, currently the team ranks 21st in the NHL killing 78.8% of their penalties.

Defenseman Aaron Ekblad is enjoying a solid season, leading the team in +/- (+11) and time on ice per game (23:03).

Florida has only outscored their opponents by 14 goals despite being tops in the league in scoring per game.

The Panthers have won a lot of high scoring games and are tied for 5th in the NHL with three shoot out wins.

However they must balance the scales and keep opponents off the scoreboard more.

Sergei Bobrovsky (16-12-4, 3.29 GAA, .896 SV%) has been better of late but has not put together a string of consistent games yet.

Bobrovsky has only won three consecutive games once this season and has been prone to the onslaught in close losses.

He must find a way to gain some rhythm as the second half approaches, especially if the offense cools somewhat.

Meanwhile the Panthers actually have some depth in net behind Bobrovsky, with Chris Driedger emerging as a nice second option.

Driedger (5-2-0, 2.40 GAA, .931 SV%) has looked sharp for the most part, although he has given up four goals in two straight starts.

Coaching: B+

Joel Quenneville has brought a level of credibility and stature to the Panthers bench that has been missing.

His resume speaks for itself and the players are responding to his style tremendously.

 

Quenneville has taken a tremendous foundation of talent at the forward spots and built an offensive system that plays to strengths.

Florida has started games out with more energy and focus which has translated to the team only losing twice all season when scoring first.

The team has also avoided the devastating prolonged losing streak, with the longest being three games.

However, that has happened three times while the longest win streak is also three games – which has happened just once.

Florida could use a run in this upcoming stretch against teams such as Los Angeles and Detroit, who are both NHL bottom feeders.

Quenneville has kept the team on the same page and has the championship experience to push the right buttons.

If Florida can even things out on the blue line and in goal, the NHL playoffs should be on this year’s schedule.

Follow us on Twitter for more Florida Panthers @SportsWaveDave and @5ReasonsSports.

Mike Hoffman continues hot streak as Panthers roll over Leafs

 Mike Hoffman is proving to be a spark plug for the Florida Panthers.

The Florida Panthers beat the Toronto Maple Leafs by an 8-4 score on Sunday afternoon. Mike Hoffman was a big reason why. Hoffman has been on a tear the last couple of games, and Sunday was no different.

On his first goal of the day, it started off with Dominic Toninato creating a chance on the rush. Hoffman went stride-for-stride with Toninato and fired a wrist shot for the goal. Toninato did a nice job of finding Hoffman on the assist. Hoffman’s next goal came in the third period. Jonathan Huberdeau and Evgenii Dadonov came on the power play and he scored his second goal of the game.

This offensive explosion was nothing new for Hoffman. He has scored five goals in his past four games. He has also tallied six points in his past five games as well. Prior to Sunday’s contest, he scored a goal against Vancouver on January 9. Going back even further, he scored a goal against the Arizona Coyotes on January 7. This explosion of offense for Hoffman is certainly a welcome development for the Panthers.

Hoffman proving to be clutch for Florida Panthers

Saturday, he had an even plus-minus rating and only took three shots. He recorded 19 shifts and 14:10 of ice time. In addition, he spent 1:37 on the power play. He was all over the ice on Sunday.

He is certainly a positive veteran presence on a team that is relatively young.  Hoffman scored 70 points last season after being traded to Florida in June. He has 16 goals and 17 assists for 33 points this year.  He is showing exactly what he brings to the table.

Hoffman has been heating up at exactly the right time for the Panthers. He is being that sturdy veteran presence that the Panthers hoped he would be. It will be interesting to see how he performs over these next couple of weeks as the playoff race continues to heat up in the Eastern Conference.

 

Florida Panthers Poised for Second Half Run

The Florida Panthers are in a position for a strong second half of the NHL season.

As the calendar moves into the new year, the Panthers for once are not looking up from the bottom.

After a 4-1 loss at Columbus to open a four game trip, the Panthers bounced right back against Ottawa Thursday.

 

With a new system in place under Joel Quenneville, the Cats are playing exciting and fundamental hockey.

Florida has three shootout wins so far, tied for third most in the NHL.

The power play (23%) is once again a top-10 unit, while Florida is 5th in the NHL with 3.49 goals scored per game.

Those offensive numbers rank amongst the elite teams in the league, while the Panthers are finally getting some help on defense and in goal.

Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (14-11-4, 3.29GAA, .897SV%) has steadied after a rough start and has improved every month.

 

Bobrovsky’s save-percentage in December is .917, well better than his .897 for the entire season.

He has been especially effective at home with a 11-5-2 record, to go with a 2.95 GAA and .913 SV%.

Balancing the Scales

In recent seasons the Panthers have relied heavily on their offense, while being bludgeoned on the blue line and in net.

Jonathan Huberdeau is the superstar you didn’t even realize was right here all along.

 

Huby is fifth in the NHL with 37 assists through games played Jan. 1st, while his 53 points are eighth league wide.

The league is on notice as Huberdeau was finally selected to his first NHL All-Star game.

His partner in crime Sasha Barkov is once again having an All-Star caliber season after a slow start in terms of scoring.

Along with Evgenii Davodov and Mike Hoffman, the Panthers front lines are wrecking NHL goaltenders.

Florida has won six of eight entering Friday, and in five of those wins they have scored at least five goals.

The defense is a work in progress but Aaron Ekblad is having a career year on the blue line.

Ekblad already has 18 assists in 38 games, his career high was 27 in his rookie season. If he stays at his current pace he will certainly set a new career mark.

Quenneville a Stabilizing Presence

One encouraging trend for the Panthers is their ability to get out of extended losing streaks, while being able to stack short winning runs together.

The Panthers have only lost multiple games in a row on four occasions this year, while winning at least two consecutive games seven times.

Florida’s coaching staff led by Quenneville has given the team an identity and focus that was lacking in recent years.

It will be something to keep an eye on whether Coach Q can keep the team focused during an important stretch to close out January.

A coach that has won it all on multiple occasions is an important advantage for an unproven team, one that could help them get over the playoff hump.

Rest of January Sets Up Well

The Panthers have nine games remaining starting with Buffalo January 4th in the third game of this four game road trip.

Florida closes out the trek against Pittsburgh, both the Penguins and Sabres are right in the playoff race with the Panthers.

During the middle of the month the Panthers return to Sunrise for a four game home stand which will be a tough battle.

The Panthers will need to step up against high flying Western Conference opponents Arizona (50 points) and Vancouver (48 points).

Both sit near the top of the Pacific Division, Arizona is one of the top defensive teams (108 goals allowed, 5th) while Vancouver is eighth in the NHL with 136 goals scored.

After that to close out the home stand the lowly Los Angeles Kings (38 points) make their way East. The Kings are the fourth lowest scoring teams in the NHL at just 2.6 goals per game, a welcome respite for a Panthers defense allowing the fourth most goals per game (3.35).

To end the month the Cats embark on a six-game road trip which will run into February. Florida will kick off the trip against one of the worst teams in the NHL, the Detroit Red Wings.

Detroit has just 23 points this season and a league-worst -68 goal differential. The Cats close out January with winnable games at Minnesota and Chicago. Despite both teams being at least .500, they are also both allowing more goals than they score. Minnesota is -11 while Chicago is -16, both teams are also rank near the bottom of the league in goals allowed per game.

If the Panthers can improve their uneven play on home ice, particularly against the East, the rest of January sets up favorably.