The Panthers returned to action on Thursday night following a five day hiatus from play. This extended break came on the heels of one of the most physically and mentally exhausting weeks in team history. A week which saw a head coach fired and replaced, as well as three games in four nights.
Without delving into the whirlwind of that week, suffice it to say the Panthers went into their abbreviated BYE week with a few more questions than before.
Thursday’s win against the Capitals helped answer many of those questions. The Panthers defended home ice with a 5-4 overtime victory. That final score may not jump off the page, nor should it. In this case, statistics will not tell the whole story. What fans should take away from this game is the composure this team exuded when they were met with adversity.
This game could have slipped away from the cats several times over. It could have slipped away when Sergei Bobrovsky left the game with an upper body injury. The game could have slipped away when Spencer Knight let in a breakaway goal one minute into the second period. It could have even slipped away when the Capitals scored three unanswered goals to tie the game. The Panthers, however, refused to let that happen.
A staple of the Quenville era of Panthers history has been their composure. During his first season as coach, the team earned the “Comeback Cats” nickname for their numerous late rallies. Over the past three years, that resilience in the face of adversity has only grown stronger. Whether it be playing from behind or holding off late rallies, this iteration of the Panthers never seem to get rattled.
Following Quenville’s dismissal from the team, it would be fair to wonder if the Panthers still had that composure in them. After all, having a veteran, Stanley Cup winning coach would give any team that confidence.
Last night showed their fans and the rest of the league these are not the same old Panthers. The Washington Captials, led by a scorching hot Alex Ovechkin, currently sit at third in the Metropolitan division and have a 0.700 points percentage. They have been dangerous all year and could have easily stolen this game from a less prepared team.
Despite playing with their backup goalie for the majority of the game, despite missing two starting defensemen, (Nutivaara and Gudas missed the game due to injury) and despite having to deal with Ovi’s blistering shooting all game, the cats pulled it out. Interim coach Andrew Brunette deserves immense credit for instilling the team with the same calmness as his predecessor.
This game was not perfect by any means, but the team showed the league they will still have a built in edge over any team they play. The Cats will need to build off this game if they want to make a deep playoff run. For now, Brunette and the rest of the staff showed they are more than capable of getting it done.
Other Quick notes from the Panthers game
- For now, it is clear Sergei Bobrovsky is the number 1 goaltender. Spencer Knight is a serviceable backup for now but certainly needs more time to grow into the clear cut starter we know he can be. Hopefully the Bob injury is not too serious
- The defense did not look very sharp tonight in front of Knight. This can be just that they were missing two starters, but it is worth keeping an eye on.
- While they did blow the lead rather quickly, getting a 4-1 lead was pretty impressive and seemed almost easy. Keeping that offense going while improving the defense will be paramount going forward.
- The Power Play is looking better and better by the game. Credit to the coaching staff for continuing to try new things
- Congratulations to Chase Priskie for making his NHL debut tonight. Hopefully the first of many for the Broward native.
The Panthers will play the Hurricanes on Saturday night at 6 P.M. in sunrise. This will be a matchup of the two best teams in the league. Absolutely must see TV for any fan of hockey.
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