The Florida Panthers fresh off their 500th victory of the franchise, bring their three game winning streak to the high altitude of Denver, Colorado to take on the young and surprisingly good Colorado Avalanche tonight. The Panthers are coming off a shootout win over Minnesota Tuesday night in which they held the Wild to eleven shots on goal, which included two in overtime.
Quite the tidy defence and this is without the recently departed Jordan Leopold and Dennis Seidenberg who were traded at the deadline. Now getting a chance to “show their stuff” will be youngsters like Dmitry Kulikov, Jason Garrison and Keaton Ellerby. Strange isn’t how we lose or rather remove two of our better defenseman and start playing better. Purely coincidence I think.
This will be game two of a three game road trip as Florida attempts to hang on in the playoff race and their hopes are purely in the hands of goaltender Tomas Vokoun. If he continues to stand on his head, and the Panthers can somehow score enough goals to win 80% of their remaining games, anything is possible.
Ok, wake me up!
The Panthers have 14 goals in this recent winning streak as it appears that they’ve had a bit of a scoring outburst since going 15 games where they scored two goals or less. Michael Frolik is finding the net with four goals in his last three games, and Cory Stillman located the net twice against Minnesota. While Little Stevie couldn’t seem to find his arse with both hands Tuesday, he still leads the team in goals with 23. A career high for him. However the rust continues to pile up on Rostislav Olesz who hasn’t scored in 15 consecutive games. If the Panthers win tonight it will be a season high fourth in a row. They are 1-2-1 in their last four games in Colorado.
The Avalanche have been one of the best surprises of the season and have a bunch of young players to credit their success to. First round draft pick in the 2009 draft, Matt Duchene, and players like Chris Stewart (Anthony’s brother), Paul Stasny and Brandon Yip (recently injured) have been leading the charge.
Duchene has 23 goals and 24 helpers, while Stewart has 25 goals and 27 assists. This team coached by rookie coach and former player Joe Sacco is fast, talented, and fun to watch. Oh, and by the way they are winning games with this young roster and in a playoff spot to boot. Quite the opposite of what was originally expected for them. Pressure to win? Yes. Expected to win? Not this year. Guess what? They’ve drafted well, built their roster well, and developed their young players.
Alot of credit can go to former Panther backup turned starter, Craig Anderson in goal for Colorado. Anderson has 33 wins so far this year and has earned the accolades that he’s been getting, as he has seemingly established himself as a number one goalie, and probably the free agent steal of the season.
It will be intersting to see if the thin air affects the Cats and if they can actually play the way they have recently against some of the lower caliber teams. Let’s face it, Colorado is a good team. A team that is going to make the playoffs. If the Panthers have any chance of getting better, this is a game they need to win. They can continue to play the spoiler and continue to play without pressure, but no matter what, don’t let this late season surge fool you.
We’ve seen it before.
Thanks for reading.