Panthers vs Islanders Postgame Thoughts

panthers vs islanders
(Radko Gudas following his fight with Kyle Palmieri // Twitter: @JamesonCoop)

After a four-game road trip, the Florida Panthers were back on home ice Tuesday vs the New York Islanders. The team suffered its first regulation loss of the season and only gained two out of eight possible points on the trip. Safe to say, the team was excited to be back at the FLA Live Arena where they’ve been great all season.

First Period

The second home game in a row where the Panthers went into the locker room after twenty minutes with a 4-0 lead. Against a team like the Islanders it’s crucial to control the pace of play from the start, and they did just that. Jonathan Huberdeau got the scoring started with the help of the revamped top line.

The road trip forced Andrew Brunette to make some line changes to spark the offense. One of which was reuniting Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau on the top line alongside Anthony Duclair. Ryan Lomberg got the second of the game with a great shot. The assists on his goal belong to Ilya Sorokin’s pads and Brandon Montour’s pass towards the net in my opinion.

With Huberdeau moving up, Carter Verhaeghe joined the second line alongside Sam Bennett and Sam Reinhart and immediately made an impact. Brandon Montour earned his second assist on the game here, joining the odd man rush and helping the Cats in the offensive zone.

The fourth line fittingly scored the fourth goal of the game, with Patric Hornqvist making his case for a #SCTop10 worthy play.

Second Period

While they were tasked with defending a four goal lead for forty minutes again , things changed when they lost their captain. Barkov left the game with a lower body injury sustained from a knee-to-knee hit with Scott Mayfield.

Aaron Ekblad also continued his Norris campaign with a signature blast, neutralizing the Islander’s only goal by Kyle Palmieri.

Third Period

While Frank Vatrano put the finishing touches on this one with the sixth goal of the game, I can’t stop thinking about Radko Gudas’ hit.

As the team’s enforcer, he did just that and even got Palmieri to receive a game misconduct for fighting back.

Final Thoughts on the Panthers:

To me, we have to look at this game individually and this season as a whole. Tonight, the Panthers responded in a way they desperately needed to and dominated a quality opponent. With seven of their next eight games at home, the Panthers have a chance to put that disastrous road trip behind them. They can continue to amass points early on in the season.

Of course, those next seven and presumably a few more just got a lot tougher with the absence of Aleksander Barkov. Thankfully, we received some positive news this evening, and now wait to see what further tests reveal.

With Barkov now out, this becomes a huge test for the depth of this lineup and the coaching staff. We saw Bennett, Lundell, and Luostarinen center the top three lines after he went down. I wonder if Brunette rolls with that or moves Reinhart into the 2C slot or keep him on the wing. Getting to evaluate Lundell in a top six role for an extended period of time would benefit the Panthers. That remains to be seen.

Another positive from tonight is Sergei Bobrovsky. If he’s not the current favorite for the Vezina then shame on the oddsmakers. He wasn’t called upon often, but he handled his business and continues to be a calming presence between the pipes.

Overall, I walk away from this game eagerly awaiting test results but confident in the team after the Panthers vs Islanders. The offensive production will still be there, the defense looked coherent, and the goaltending department is stable. We’re going to learn more about the fight of this team, and it’ll be exciting to watch.

Panthers vs Capitals: Win provides hope for post-Quenneville era

SUNRISE, FL – OCTOBER 9: Florida Panthers Head coach Joel Quenneville looks on during third period action against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the FLA Live Arena on October 9, 2021 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

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.

The OT winning goal for the Panthers

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.

Looking Ahead

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.

Follow Sam Schetritt on Twitter

Panthers vs Islanders: Postgame Thoughts

Panthers vs Islanders
(Jonathan Huberdeau, Sam Bennett, and Aleksander Barkov celebrating Huberdeau’s 500th career point// @FlaPanthers Twitter)

After winning their season opener on Thursday, the Panthers were back on the ice Saturday night vs the New York Islanders. In their first meeting since the 2020 NHL bubble in Toronto, the Panthers left the ice victorious, winning by a score of 5-1.

The Islanders, led by Barry Trotz, are expected to be one of the top teams in the Metropolitan Division if not the entire Eastern Conference this season. The Islanders, like the Hurricanes, are one of those teams you don’t want to play from behind against. They’re sound on the defensive end, and have enough playmakers on offense to make it a tough day at the office for their opponents.

Luckily for the Panthers, today was not one of those days.

Panthers vs Islanders Recap

The Panthers struggled to get themselves going in the first period but did take a 1-0 lead into the locker room thanks to a Sam Bennett tap in off a Radko Gudas blast from the top of the zone.

In the second period, you could see that the Panthers were playing with more intensity. I’m sure they got an earful from Q during intermission, and it’s what they needed. Bennett continued his scoring with a beautiful wraparound goal to make it 2-0 (props to Owen Tippett for his work near the crease before the goal) and we can’t tell the story of the second period without talking about the Hail Duke.

This play doesn’t happen without the awareness and pass by Mackenzie Weegar, but man that finish by Duclair was filthy.

Once we got to the third period, it felt like the Panthers were going to coast to an easy victory as long as they kept themselves out of trouble. Outside of a power play goal by the Islanders, they were able to do just that.

Benny finished off the night by taking everyone in the arena’s hats with him, bagging his second career hat trick with a beautiful shot to make it 4-1 Panthers.

Of course, the Captain wanted to get in on the fun and net his first goal of the season, and first since his extension last week.

Quick Thoughts:

  • Was awesome to see Huby get his 500th NHL point, I had the privilege to be there when he scored his first NHL points, and I hope to be there once he scores his 1000th NHL point (hopefully still with the Panthers)
  • Lundell continues to impress early on, and shows why the team has so much faith in him. Getting huge penalty kill minutes and 4 v 4 time with the big guns will only help him gain confidence
  • Bob has been a whole different Bob so far this year, and that’s a great thing for the Panthers. 72 getting back to his Vezina roots elevates the floor of this team, especially the goalie room. With an improved Bob and a young star in Spencer Knight who will get better with every start, the Panthers are looking at having the top goalie tandem in the league.
  • Sam Reinhart learned what it’s like to play for Joel Quenneville tonight. After taking a delay of game penalty in the second period, he and Duclair swapped lines. Reinhart saw limited minutes on the fourth line for the rest of the game while Duclair was reunited with his line mates for most of last season. Reinhart should be back on the top line on Tuesday, but he learned he will be benched for poor performance on the ice.

Overall, a very solid game for the Cats. The Panthers weren’t forced to play from behind vs the Islanders which was part of the game plan. Next up for the Panthers, a quick trip across Alligator Alley for the first edition of the 2021-2022 Sunshine State Showdown vs the Lightning. If you have plans for Tuesday night, you better cancel them because this will be must see television.

Until next time, we move 🤝

Panthers vs Penguins: Opening Night Recap

Panthers vs Penguins
Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images

What a way to start the season! The Florida Panthers begun their 2021-22 cup campaign with an overtime win vs the Pittsburgh Penguins. After getting the first two goals of the night, the Panthers found themselves down by two with less than 10 minutes to go.

A couple quick goals from Aaron Ekblad saved the say, however. In overtime, Carter Verhaeghe sealed the deal with an overtime snipe. The team played far from perfect, so let’s take a look at some of the key takeaways from opening night.

Penalties, Penalties, Penalties

While it may have been opening night for the Panthers, the referees seemed to be in midseason form. FIFTEEN total penalties were called, with 9 against the Panthers and 6 against the Pens. Some could argue that such a high penalty count points to timid and elementary refereeing. I would argue this falls more on the teams themselves, specifically the Panthers. Truthfully, the team played without discipline at times, making bad situations worse.

For example, Mackenzie Weegar received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after arguing with a referee about a previous call. This forced the Panthers to play shorthanded for over five straight minutes. The Panthers must clean these up if they want a chance to succeed this year.

Special Teams not quite as advertised

Something else worth noting about the penalties is the overall poor special teams play from the Cats. The Panthers failed to capitalize on any of their six power play chances. More so, they failed to even generate much of anything during those opportunities. The Penguins on the other hand, looked extremely sharp, converting on two of their nine chances. According to MoneyPuck, the expected goals for the game were 7.6-4.16 favoring the Penguins. If you just look at the 5-on-5 play, the expected goals were 2.82-2.42 favoring the Panthers. The Cats won the 5-on-5 battle, but the special teams woes changed the narrative on this game.

Aaron Ekblad how we missed you

In his first game back since March 28, the mystery media members of the night awarded Aaron Ekblad the First Star of the Game. Deservedly so, as his heroics saved the Cats from an embarrassing opening night loss at home. After giving up four unanswered goals, all hope seemed lost for the Panthers. But Ekblad refused to go down. He first took advantage of a loose puck in front of the net following a dog pile to cut the lead in half and restore the team’s vitality.

Not three minutes of game time later, Ekblad buried another one, this time a beautiful backhand above goaltender Casey DeSmith’s right shoulder. The Panthers missed Ekblad’s presence on the blue line after he went down with injury, and having him back and looking better than ever will be huge for this Panthers team.

Vintage Sergei Bobrovsky

Giving up four goals on most nights would be considered a bad game. Last night was a clear exception, as netminder Sergei Bobrovsky looked stellar. As mentioned previously, the Penguins tallied an unimaginable 7.6 expected goals last night. Bobrovsky only let in four, meaning he saved 3.6 goals above expected. For context, Bobrovsky totaled -2 goals saved above expected all of last year.

The two-time Vezina winner had to deal with teammate deflections, overtime breakaways, and nine shorthanded segments, and yet still did enough for the Panthers to pull out the victory vs the Penguins. Much of this win falls on Bobrovsky’s shoulders, something we did not say often during his first two years in South Florida. Of course, it is only one game, but if this is the Sergei Bobrovsky we get for most of this year, this team goes from finalist to favorite.

Panthers vs Lightning Round-up: Levine’s Line of Thinking

Panthers vs Lightning

If you were in the Amway Center Tuesday night, you were in for a treat. For the first time this season, the Cats and the Bolts shared the ice and it was absolutely electric. I’ve never been a big preseason hockey fan, but the first edition of the Sunshine State Showdown has me looking forward to Thursday’s encore and Saturday’s grand finale of the Panthers vs Lightning series.

1. This was just a preview of what’s to come

There really is no other way to say it; we hate them, and they hate us. There’s always been beef in the Panthers vs Lightning series, but the playoff series in May only amplified that. I mean look at the penalty minutes accumulated in the THIRD PERIOD OF A PRESEASON GAME.

Shoutout Bryan for bringing it up, but the Panthers-Lightning battles may just be the best rivalry in hockey right now. The battles are only going to get more intense as the season goes on, and if we see them in the playoffs, you better hold onto your butts. Maybe we see the modern day version of the iconic Sabres Senators brawl, but that will have to wait for now.

2. Owen Tippett is a Top 6 Forward

Henrik Borgstrom walked so Owen Tippett could fly. Tippett has continued to build off his strong finish to last season by adding two goals against Vasilevskiy on Tuesday.

Tippett’s first goal Tuesday vs Tampa

Tippett showed flashes last season alongside Jonathan Huberdeau and Sam Bennett, and I think a full season alongside them can lead to some magic from 74. We’ll see the 9-1-1 line (Huby, Bennett, Duclair) reunite at some point in the season, but right now you have to let Tippett play on the second line and evaluate him from there. On top of that, Duclair offers more stability alongside Anton Lundell than Tippett does, which is important in building confidence of the young Fin.

If all goes well, Tippett will become the most impactful first round draft pick (as a skater, Knight will earn this overall title soon) for the Cats since the arrival of Aaron Ekblad in 2014.

3. Noel Acciari’s Injury

Unfortunately a consequence of the intensity of Tuesday’s game. Acciari left the game early with a shoulder injury, and the Twitter Doctors believe it to be severe.

If Acciari is to miss 5+ months, what the team does from there will be interesting. Acciari projected to play on the fourth line and was going to figure into the teams penalty kill rotation, so his absence will have to be dealt with. Does Joe Thornton center the fourth line or do they look at giving Eetu Luostarinen the opportunity instead?

4. Knight’s Watch is Coming

With Sergei Bobrovsky being unable to play last night (Big congrats to him and his wife on the birth of their child!) it was Spencer Knight’s time to shine.

Knight continues to show that he’s ready for an increased role with the team this season, bringing a sense of calmness in between the pipes along with his elite puck tracking ability. While Bob is expected to be the main guy this season, I feel that his leash is shorter than ever. The franchise used a high draft pick on Knight (otherwise we could be sitting here talking about Panthers legend Cole Caufield) and his rapid development may force Q to make a change earlier than they expected to.

Overall, the team showed they’re ready for the regular season to start and so am I. Looking forward to being in the FLA Live Arena next week when the Cats kick off the season against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Until next time, we move 🤝

Follow Andrew Levine on Twitter

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