Game Day Preview: Cats vs. Habs

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Panthers 17-19-7

VS.

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Montreal 21-21-3

Game two of the Canadian Tour tonight as the Florida Panthers take on the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre against former coach Jacques Martin. While Montreal has played well on the road, they haven’t won a game on home ice for about a month, which surely doesn’t sit well with the locals. To top that off they have lost four straight at the Bell Centre and have scored only one goal in their last two home games. Losing tonight for Montreal would almost match a seven game losing streak going back to the 2000 season.

One player that was sorely missed, but has certainly made his comeback noticeable is defenceman Andrei Markov who has 12 points in his last 9 games. Michael Cammalleri leads the team in goals with 20, and Tomas Plekancek leads in assists with 36 and points with 46.

Goaltending for Montreal has been a question mark with Carey Price, known as The Franchise Saviour (TFS) to the bloggers over at Four Habs Fans, has been erratic as has Jaroslav Halak.  Seems that neither goalie can provide a hot hand for Uncle Jack to ride for awhile. I would expect though that Halak gets the start tonight as he is 5-1 with a 2.15 GAA in his last six starts and is 3-0-0 with a 3.25 GAA in his last three games against the Panthers. Montreal is in the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference with 45 points after 45 games.

The Florida Panthers are coming off a disappointing loss to the Maple Leafs on Monday night. Starting out quickly with two goals from defenceman Bryan McCabe, the Leafs scored three unanswered goals and wound up winning 3-2. Florida’s forwards while having many chances, were not able to capitalize despite a flurry of action in the third period. Once again the Panthers appeared timid, a step behind, and at times too fancy.

One thing that has to change is that more shots need to be taken. Too many times there have been situations where a player has an opportunity to shoot, yet decides to pass, and the pass either doesn’t connect, or a shot never takes place. Shoot the puck I say! If you’re coming down with another player it’s possible he gets the rebound and scores off of that. Unless of course they have gone off for a line change. UGH.

Stevie has cooled off considerably for Florida.  He hasn’t scored a goal in his last five games, yet remains the leading goal scorer for the club with 18. Nathan Horton leads in assists with 28 and points with 42, and has had some bright moments, but sometimes looks as though he’s trying to do too much. And then he has those moments where is isn’t doing anything either, so go figure. He remains to be a work in progress.

The Panthers have dropped eight of their last eleven games on the road and have been consistently inconsistent! Having trouble starting, having trouble maintaining leads, and sporadic scoring have been some of the reasons for their problems. Interesting quote by Peter Deboer the other day, and I’ll summarize what he said.  Something to the effect of we aren’t able to play “Pond Hockey”.  Meaning if the Panthers try and play run and gun, they will not be successful. Righto Pete. I would think thought that you and your staff need to prepare your players for that style of play and put in some mechanisms to prevent that.

Not sure who gets the start in goal tonight as Tomas Vokoun is 1-3 in his last four starts, though not all his fault.  He was originally drafted by Montreal back in 1994 and is 2-2 lifetime against the Canadiens.  Backup Scott Clemmensen however could get the nod as he is 3-0 lifetime and probably needs some game action.

Florida currently is 13th in the Eastern Conference with 41 points. Two points out of 14th and four points out of the final spot. I mentioned awile back that they will have to play at almost a 70% winning clip if they think that they have a chance of making the playoffs, but with each loss that number gets higher. With the trade deadline looming, you have to wonder if they wil be a buyer, or a seller. The performance from here to the Olympic break will determine their fate. This writer thinks that it’s a longshot, but because of blind faith, I am keeping hope. Just not much.

Thanks for reading.

Cheers

P.S.  I’m still fighting somewhat with a virus on my computer that continues to come back.  So if anything wacky appears, or doesn’t appear, you’ll know why.  Hopefully by the end of this week the issue will be resolved.

Topics: Andrei Markov, Bryan Mccabe, Florida Panthers, Michael Cammalleri, Montreal Candiens, Nathan Horton, Peter Deboer, Stephen Weiss, Tomas Plekancek

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