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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.

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.

Sergei Bobrovsky looking for fresh start against Senators

Sergei Bobrovsky needs to be better for the Florida Panthers.

The Florida Panthers will play their first game of the new year on Thursday night against Ottawa. Hopefully, it will be a bounce-back game for Florida goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. He had a rough return to Columbus on Tuesday night.

Bobrovsky gave up four goals on 28 shots in 58:15 of ice time. This marked the third game in a row that he has given up at least four goals. He gave up five to Montréal on December 29 and six the night before against Detroit. He has been struggling as of late. Thursday could be the perfect game for him to turn things around.

The last time he faced Ottawa was on December 16. He was superb in that game. Giving up one goal on 30 shots, he saw 68 minutes of ice time.  For the season, he is first in goals allowed with 96. Carey Price is second in that category with 95.

Sergei Bobrovsky struggling for Florida Panthers

There is no doubt he is struggling. His statistics reflect that. He allows 3.29 goals per game. That is second only to Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings.  His save percentage is not exactly terrible, but it’s not where it needs to be either. He carries an .897 save percentage into Thursday’s game. That ranks 10th-worst in the league.

There is no doubt he is struggling right now, and Thursday’s game against Ottawa could be the perfect bounce-back game. The Senators  are eighth-worst in the league at scoring. They have 111 goals on the season, tied with the New York Islanders. In addition, they have the worst power play conversion percentage in the league. They score a goal on 11.2% of their power plays.

Thursday could be the perfect bounce back game for Bobrovsky. The Florida Panthers definitely need him to play better. A win against Ottawa would be a nice place to start.

Florida Panthers: Noel Acciari scoring at rapid rate

The Florida Panthers beat the Dallas Stars by a 7-4 score on Friday night. One of the major reasons why they won was the play of forward Noel Acciari.  He recorded another had trick on Friday night. In doing so , this marked his second game in a row accomplishing the feat.

Making history for the Florida Panthers

The last time a Florida Panther recorded hat tricks in multiple games, the legendary Pavel Bure accomplished the feat. He did so in a stretch from February 10-14, 2002.

In his last two games, Acciari has tallied six goals and two assists. On Friday night, he did it efficiently. He scored his first goal at the 7:26 mark of the second period. He followed that up with another tally rather quickly at the 7:58 mark. On the last goal, he took care of business himself. With the Dallas Stars on a powerplay, he scored his third goal unassisted on what was a shorthanded tally.

It’s fascinating to see him flourish in Florida. Coming from the Boston area, I got to see him a lot when he played for the Bruins. He always seemed to be able to record the timely goal, and he was a big part of the youth movement for Boston while he was there. Signing a three-year contract worth $5 million, he is proving his worth so far.

He’s not the type of player that is going to consistently record back-to-back hat tricks. He is the type of player that is going to give you a consistent  hard-nosed effort every time he is on the ice. Acciari has certainly provided that for the Panthers to this point. The way I see it, his scoring is just a bonus. Locating the puck and being actively involved in plays have been some of his strengths over the past couple of games. The statistics have showed it.

It will be interesting to see how he performs the rest of the way. If he can continue to play like this in the second half of the season, the Florida Panthers will be even more scary.

 

Panthers top Flyers, move to 2nd in the Atlantic

The Florida Panthers entered Tuesday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers with a 10-5-5 record and sitting third in the Atlantic division, two points clear of the Buffalo Sabres.

With about 2:30 minutes left in the third period, Mike Hoffman put in the game clinching empty net goal to give the Panthers a 5-2 win, improving their record to an impressive 11-5-5 and now 2nd in the Atlantic.

This marks one of the best starts in franchise history. This start is happening thanks to a high attacking offense who ranked 2nd in the NHL in goals entering play.

“We played well enough to get 2 points,” Panthers forward Brett Connolly said post game. “Guys are starting to get their roles 21 games into the season, and it’s been fun to be part of the team.”

The one downside so far for the Panthers is their big splash free agent goalie, Sergei Brobvosky, who is off to the worst start of his career. Entering play, he had a .882 save percentage, which ranked 57th in the league. He’s also allowed 54 goals so far this season, which is the most amongst goalies. Bobrovsky seems to be on the rebound after saving 35 of 37 shots faced.

The Panthers were in need of a solid 60 minute effort going into the game and after an early goal by Travis Sanheim,  the Panthers started to get the game in their control, dominating puck possession in the first and second period.

The Panthers had a comfortable 4-1 lead most of the way through the second period, until the Flyers’ highly touted prospect Morgan Frost got one past Brobvosky in his NHL debut.

The Panthers finish off the homestand Thursday, then go on the road for a couple games before coming home again for a franchise record nine-game homestand.

 

 

Panthers coach Joel Quenneville focuses on the positives from opening-night loss to Lightning. (Craig Davis for Five Reasons Sports)

Twitter’s Reaction to the Panthers Historic Comeback

 

 

The Florida Panthers had their largest comeback in franchise history last night as they shocked the Boston Bruins. Down 4-0 going into the 3rd period last night, they scored four unanswered goals to send the game to overtime.

 

The first period was close and competitive with no goals going either way. The second period Boston completely poured it on Sergei Bobrovsky. The Panthers then changed goalies to Sam Montembeault and the historic comeback began.  

 

Twitter went absolutely crazy as Bruins fans looked completely shocked. You could hear a pin drop inside the TD Garden during the third period and overtime as the Panthers took the life out of the arena.  Here are some great reactions down below from this historic comeback:

 

Surging Panthers ride Huberdeau, Barkov to easy win

Something’s happening here.

After Saturday’s dominant, no-doubt 4-0 win against the Detroit Red Wings, the Florida Panthers have now won six of their past nine games. And this seems, well, real. They’ve survived the start of the season, which typically buries them, and they’ve done it with star Sasha Barkov struggling to score and hyped goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky posting a goals-against-average near four.

Both, however, were exceptional Saturday on a night the Panthers were without several regulars, including Vincent Trocheck.

Barkov hasn’t admitted to an injury, but he has appeared hobbled at times. Not Saturday. He was everywhere, from faceoffs to the crease, finishing with a goal and an assist — and four of the Panthers’ 41 shots. Bobrovsky wasn’t tested much after the opening few minutes, but stopped all 22 shots he saw.

So now the Panthers have 18 points through 14 games, compared to 15 points through 14 games last season and 10 points through 14 games the season prior.

Most importantly, they seem to be grasping Joel Quenneville’s system. The coach was beaming about how “clean” they played in their own end — very few chances, even fewer Red Wings left unmarked on rebounds.

Here are a few of the tweets from the game, and after:

Here are player videos:

 

 

And here’s a video from Michael “Dutch” Sonbeek, who covered the game with me for Five Reasons Sports.