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.
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.
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.
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.