The morning skate and news of the early day provided more energy than the Florida Panthers did last night against the Ottawa Senators as the Cats dropped their ninth game in the last 12 by a score of 5-2. A lackluster performance to say the least, which prompted me to once again take salvation in watching a good portion of the Chicago Blackhawks game, as they defeated the Dallas Stars.
The day started out on a positive note for the Panthers as head coach Peter DeBoer was named as an assistant coach to Team Canada for the World Championships in Germany this May. DeBoer will be assisting head coach Craig MacTavish in the tournament that takes place from May 7th to the 23rd. Why not, he’ll have nothing else to do.
It was however downhill from there, as a shouting match in the morning skate between Panther forward Nathan Horton and assistant coach Mike Kitchen took place, which ended up with Horton breaking his stick on the bench as he skating off the ice, yelling, screaming, and probably kicking. Apparently Kitchen was running a defensive drill and Horton thought he would add a little “fun” to the situation by shooting some pucks their way. Something that Kitchen obviously took offence to. Horton was soon greeted with a solid check into the boards by Kitchen, something he’s been known to do, for fun. Horton took exception and the “cat fight” began. The emotional outburst could be the result of a season (or career) long mounting of frustration for the enigmatic forward. From all reports the two have kissed talked and made up.
As for the game, well, even though Florida’s Shawn Matthias is playing as though he has something to prove along with a couple other youngsters, it was the veteran players of the team that coach DeBoer said he needed more from. Rightly so as the Panthers seemed as though this game was interrupting their “happy hour”.
In a season of inconsistency as well as controversy, defenceman Keith Ballard continued to show his dislike erratic behavior in front of goaltender Tomas Vokoun, as he tried to swipe a puck that was in mid air in front of the Panther netminder only to have his movement cause the puck to go directly under Vokoun’s pad and into the net. 3-1 Ottawa and the goal was credited to Ottawa pugilist Chris Neil.
Mike Underwood-Fisher had an outstanding game as he scored two goals for Ottawa in Daniel Alfredsson’s 1,000th game of his career. That was really about all the offence that Ottawa needed, however Jarkko Ruttu, Erik Karlsson and Keith Ballard Chris Neil also scored for the Sens who appear to have locked up at least the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference. New Jersey who comes to town Thursday or the Pittsburgh Penguins are the likely opponent.
Pascal Leclaire who has lost his starting job to Brian Elliott was in goal for the Sens and made 32 saves as the Panthers failed to get past the two goal mark again! This makes for the seventh consecutive game that Florida has not scored more than two. You know you’re offence is hurting when Ballard and Kamil Kreps are getting your goals. The Panthers as you may recall, or care to forget, set a team record with 14 games in a row of the goal scoring famine earlier this season.
So if we’re doing the math, that makes for at least 21 games where Florida has scored two goals or less! That represents about 25 percent of the season. Ok, a genius I’m not, but I wasn’t born yesterday. WE NEED OFFENCE!
The attendance was announced as 11,790. That would be the fifth home game of the season where the crowd was smaller than 12,000. Not a good sign, but possibly the publics way of saying, we’re getting fed up. In all honesty, if you don’t have season tickets, why in your right mind would you purposely go out and buy a ticket to watch this? Ok, maybe because you love hockey, but let’s face it, with the performance on the ice of late, save your money. Make a statement.
Coach DeBoer made his displeasure known after the game indicating that the veterans should’nt be too comfortable around here, and that people are playing for jobs, not just the end of the season. Or something like that. Panther Physician General Manager Randy Sexton confirmed that the evaluation process would include everyone. Tomas Vokoun who has unfortunately lost his seventh game in a row chimed in as well, indicating that “everyone needs to be accountable for themselves”. “You have to prepare the same everyday. It’s tough around here. It’s not fun, but everyone needs to be prepared”.
The Panthers clean out their lockers Monday. How many of them will be doing that for the last time here remains to be seen.
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