My apologies to my readers. Between a voluntary high school softball practice where I’m assistant coach, holiday shopping, a high school hockey game, and battling the “flu”, I’ve been a bit out of it. I’m going to cover both Panthers’ games from this weekend here, so bear with me on the coverage.
First of all we’ll start with Friday Night’s game in New Jersey.
Scott Clemmensen got the start Friday against his former team the New Jersey Devils where he won 25 games last season filling in for an injured Martin Brodeur. Clemmensen who was applauded nicely in the pregame introductions was not expected by the hometown fans to be the better goalie of the night as Brodeur was looking the set an NHL record with his 104th shutout of his career. The victory by a 4-2 score for the Panthers was positive on a number of fronts.
Clemmensen needed the win for a confidence boost and to show his teammates that he was capable of winning a game like this. The Panthers needed the win for the points, confidence as a unit and to believe themselves that they can beat a top team when they play hard for 60 minutes.
The key to this game was an early goal by the Cats less than four minutes in by defenceman Jordan Leopold putting Florida up 1-0. The Cats were outshot 9-4 in the period, but kept themselves out of the penalty box, allowing themselves to utilize all four lines. Two quick goals in the second period by Michael Frolik and Shawn Matthias put the Panthers ahead 3-0 for a lead they would never lose.
The Devils would make it close and get the score to 3-2 when Dean Mcammond scored his first goal of the year just past the opening minute of the third to give the Devils life and give the Panthers fans reasons to worry. However we were all pleasantly surprised when Michael Frolik scored on a breakaway after getting a nice pass from Nathan Horton giving the Panthers their two goal lead back. The Devils continued to apply pressure, but the Panthers stuck to the game plan and Clemmensen made the necessary saves to give the Panthers the upset victory. Florida played another disciplined period as they stayed out of the penalty box again picking up win number twelve for the year.
Doesn’t matter if the Devils were taking Florida for granted or not, the Panthers played a solid game and earned the victory. Scoring early against New Jersey took the Devils out of their game plan, as they had to be more offensive. Something that must have made head coach Jacques Lemaire a bit uncomfortable.
Then on Saturday night the Cats took on Cindy Crosbitch and the Penguins in the Panthers final game at Mellon Arena.
In three previous games this season the Panthers have finished the game even up in all three, and ironically the scores were all the same after three periods; 2-2. However, overtime and the shootout haven’t been kind to Florida when they play crybaby Sid and the Pens as the Penguins have prevailed in each game to take all three by a score of 3-2. The only difference is that instead in Cindy scoring the winner, Evgeni Malkin got the winning goal, shortly after overtime started. Oh, by the way it was a powerplay goal as Jordan Leopold was called for holding when Jordan Staal was closing in on Panther goalie Tomas Vokoun.
Now I’m not complaining about the call as the picture above indicates it’s pretty obvious that the call on Leopold was right, but there was at least one call that the refs missed last night that hopefully the Panthers send to the NHL for review. Shawn Matthias was struck in the face by the stick of Penguins defenceman Sergei Gonchar drawing blood from Matthias. No call. Draw your own conclusions about whether the NHL gives the Penguins preferential treatment at times. By the way, when the hell is Malkin going to learn to speak english? I saw an interview of him after the game, and it hurts to watch almost as much as watching Jay Bouwmeester. And Jay can speak english!
All in all it was a pretty decent two days of hockey for Florida. Getting 3 out of four points against New Jersey and Pittsburgh, on the road, back to back is a move in the right direction. Or at least a way to build some confidence. It could be that both the Devils and Pens might have taken these games a little too lightly, but be that as it may. The Panthers kept up and and played hard enough to win both and showed come pretty decent composure.
A lot of work ahead, and by no means are we to be satisfied, but knowing that they can do what they did with the pasted roster that they have is impressive. Isn’t it? Just alittle?
Next up John Tavares and the New York Islanders Monday night. Hey, who designs the schedule anyway? This game should have been switched with the Penguins game right?
Thanks for reading.