Game Day: Panthers vs. Blue Jackets

                                                                   VS.

columbus

A four game road trip starts tonight in Columbus for the Panthers, their longest trip of the year, and quite possibly coming at the best time for them.  With their recent play especially at home, the Cats need something to change their luck, habits, and results.  Sometimes on a trip like this by spending more time with your teammates, you’re a bit more focused.  Your concentration and your attitude can be adjusted and become more positive.  Getting away from normalcy and getting out of your comfort zone is very often a good thing.  It works in sales, so why not in sports right?

The Panthers come into tonight’s game with a real monkey on their back.  Or is it a Groundhog?  Anyway, the third period has become a real monster for them in that they just cannot hold a lead.  While some might say that scoring isn’t the problem in the third, giving up leads is.  But you’d have to agree that when they get the lead they seem to shut down and play a much more timid style of play resulting in less chances for them and more chances for the opposition.  Learning to finish would be good.  Therefore, score more!

The Panthers currently sit at 11-13-6 for the season having lost three in a row and are 2-4-4 in their last ten games.  They currently have 28 points and are in the thirteenth spot in Eastern Conference and are 4 points out of the eighth and final playoff spot.  These overtime and shootout losses are having some negative effects and if they can find a way to finish these games in regulation their fortunes could change.

TLW last weeks second star of the NHL and St. Dominic are the “hot” players for the Panthers, while  forwards Rhino, Michael Frolik  and Rusty are scoreless in their last three games.  Also let it be known that on Coaches Corner with Don Cherry this past Saturday night, he made mention of what a wonderful week TLW had.  Prompting my daughter to come running downstairs and ask me if she heard that right.  I said yes you did and as much as I like Cherry, it doesn’t change how I feel about TLW.  Moving on, Tomas Vokoun continues to keep the Panthers in games and while he doesn’t have the won-loss record to show it, deserves a better fate.

The Blue Jackets are led by forward Rick Nash who has 15 goals and 30 points to lead the team, but is also a -11, which ties him for the team lead with Derick Brassard.  A stat that I am sure coach Ken Hitchcock is not happy with as there are rumblings that with the Jackets on a three game losing streak themselves, Hitch is starting to get pretty ornery.  Good for him, as he expects results.  I don’t think that there are many Groundhog Day’s in this dressing room lately and if the losing continues it could be more like Pearl Harbor!

Ex-Panther Krissy Useless, has been hot lately with 13 points in his last 12 games.  He has 11 goals and 11 assists for 22 points in 25 games.  Simply amazing that he is already 31 years old and still has the bad habit of disappearing in games and for long stretches at a time, and that he once scored 34 goals for the Calgary Flames.  A heck of a talented forward, but as far as toughness goes, not so much.  Drop the handbag Krissy!

Calder Trophy winner Steve Mason is having a very traditional sophmore slump so far this year and is playing very average, or hot and cold as one would say.  His save percentage is a horrible .886 for the year and he’s lost his last two starts. 

Columbus is 13-11-5 and sits at 11th in the West and are also 4 points out of the eighth spot just like the Panthers.  Columbus did make the playoffs last year, losing in the first round to Detoilet (not a misprint), and were expecting better things this year.

Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock expects his team to play with more hunger and more consistency game to game and as I said earlier, he’s not happy, nor is he making  jokes after losses!

Notes for today:  The Panthers have put The Stripper on recallable waivers and if someone does pick him up they will be responsible for half of his contract, otherwise, he could continue to spend the year in Rochester earning 1 million this year and 1.4 next.

Soup is out of the lineup for a bit after a crushing hit from teammate Bryan Allen in Monday’s game against the Oilers.  Soups father Colin Campbell has apparently decided not to suspend Allen for the incident citing that it would show nepotism.  However the Panthers have asked Allen to display this type of aggression more often, just against the opposition.

Shawn Matthias has been called up from Rochester to take Soups’ spot on either the 3rd or 4th line.  Doesn’t matter as both lines are made of up AHL players anyway.  In 11 games this year with the Panthers Matthias has one goal.  I’m not sure what his stats in Rochester are, and I’m too busy to look them up.  In 31 NHL games in his career Matthias has 3 goals, two coming in one game.  Is he the new/next Stripper?

Of the Panthers 11 wins this season, only 6 have come in regulation.

A point that has been discussed quite a bit around the blogosphere and internet is that all the Panthers defenceman are left-handed shots!  A truly ridiculous situation  to be in, as many times this defensive player is out of position for the shot, has to turn around to take it, or has been turned around while getting back into position.   

I’m not a general manager, and while I’d love to be, even I can see that is a problem.

Thanks for reading.

Cheers

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Tags: Columbus Blue Jackets Don Cherry Florida Panthers Ken Hitchcock Kristian Huselius Stephen Weiss Steve Mason Tomas Vokoun

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