The offensive woes that have plagued the Florida Panthers could have/should have been resolved last night against the Traveling Willburrys Atlanta Thrashers. Unfortunately no one told the Panthers how to take advantage of a team that was supposedly “up against it” all day.
Atlanta had one of the worst travel days one could have as they spent four hours busing it from D.C. to Richmond, Virgina, that also included a minor accident on I-95 with a truck, to catch a flight home to Atlanta as the middle eastern coast was hammered with a severe snow storm. The Thrashers landed at 6:00 p.m. and the start time of the game was pushed back to 7:30, then 7: 48 to give them enough time to get to the rink and prepare.
After spending all day traveling under the most unfortunate situations one would think that the Thrashers would basically have no energy, and have no desire to come out and play a 6o minute hockey game. Wrong. Apparently they must have used their situation as a rallying cry, or as motivational inspiration and made a totally exhausting day a very gratifying one. Guess they didn’t read the script either.
Playing their first game at home without star forward Ilya Kovalchuk, who was sent off to New Jersey, the Thrashers nullified a two goal first period deficit, and turned on the afterburners in the second and third period beating the Panthers 4-2. I’m not sure what was more inspirational, they way the Thrashers played, or the way that there fans were so raucous. Maybe a combination of the two, but I have to hand it to those players and to head coach John Anderson as he certainly pushed the right buttons.
I was able to catch most of the second and all of the third periods, and almost wish I hadn’t as a two goal Panther lead easily evaporated due to the Florida Panthers lack of killer instinct. Yes, we have players out with injuries, and you probably want to use that as an excuse. Well FYI, the Montreal Canadians dressed five players from the AHL yesterday and beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, so don’t give me any crap about being short players. You find a way to make it work.
Radek Dvorak scored both Panthers goals, making the first time a Panther forward has scored in four games, but it was the first time that Dvorak lit the lamp in 15 games. While the Panthers did manage 26 shots on goal against Thrasher goalie Johan Hedberg, they continued to miss chances and find wasy to not score, rather than make life easy for themselves and get some goals. Forget about not getting bounces, these guys just can’t finish.
The PP (piss poor), was a very dissappointing 0-7! Olesz missed another open net. Dominic Moore was beaten rather easliy by defenceman Zach Bogosian in a fight that seemed to light a fire under the Thrashers rather than the Panthers.
Atlanta got on the board in the second period with a goal by Maxim Afinogenov, who buried a shot past Vokoun. From there it was all Atlanta, and all downhill for the Panthers. Bryan Little tied the game at two shortly after, and you could sort of feel a bit uneasy, yet you had to ask yourself, “there’s no way Atlanta wins this right”?
Well, the third period was no better as Niclas Bergfors (part of the Kovy Trade) put Atlanta ahead with just under five minutes to go. Then with Tomas Vokoun pulled for an extra skater, rookie Evander Kane scored due to a rule stating that when the net is empty and the defending team throws their stick at you, you will get credit for a goal, even if your shot misses the net, making it a 4-2 final. Rookie defenceman Dmitry Kulikov was the guilty party on that one.
So, here’s some numbers to think about while you watch the Super Bowl today. The Panthers have lost their third straight and fourth in their last five games. The Panthers have scored twice on their last 23 powerless play chances. The Panther’s who were in a tie for a playoff spot just last week, are now in the 12th spot, yet only two points from 8th. Which basically is kind of ridiculous based on their recent record. But Tampa is 7-2-1 in their last 10 games, and oh yea, remember Carolina? You know those Hurricanes everyone thought were completely out of it? Well they’re record in their last 10 games is 7-3, and they’re just 8 p0ints behind us! Not saying they’re playoff bound, but while everyone else is winning, we’re still trying to hold leads in games that we don’t have.
Stephen Weiss (I’m running out of nicknames) was out of last night’s lineup as he is nursing a yeast infection lower body injury that has not gone away. Another year of Weiss missing time, showing again that he is fragile, and not the player people thinks he is. He is soft, I’ve been saying that from day one of his existence in the NHL. He’s not a number one center, and would someone please tell me why he has a NTC clause?
Carolina is up next on Tuesday. Only the hockey gods know how this goes from here, but I have to, ask, how does this change? Players, coaches, scouts, management, ownership, you all have some work to do. We are still for some ungodly reason in a fight for a playoff spot, but don’t blame all the injuries and all the crap that goes along with it. We have to find some players that have some skill, grit and leadership to get us over the hump.
Otherwise, you can kiss the season goodbye!
Thanks for reading.
P.S. One last note and a sad one at that. Brian Burke’s 21 year old son Brendan died in a car crash Friday night in Indiana. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Burke family in this time of grief.