If you’ve been following the Florida Panthers the past few seasons, you’ve undoubtedly members of the team saying they needed to outcompete, outhustle, and outwork their oppenent. That was usually followed up by a stinker of a game against an opponent they should have beaten. Early in this young season, that has not been the case. Saturday’s 6-0 undressing of in-state and division rival Tampa Bay was a prime example of what the team has been about this season. They capitalized on a relentless first period (outshooting the Bolts 19-9) to build a 4-0 lead and never let up.
-Damn near everything. Tampa’s net was under siege early and often. Tampa came in with a vanuted offense that was ineffective for most of the game, as they were outshot 38-29.
-V0-koun! There’s not a goaltender in the league playing better in the early stages and it looks like he’s getting a little help from the guys in front of him. Tonight, any rebounds were quickly swept away by the skaters.
-Rusty Olesz continues his fine start. He chipped in a goal and two assists, including a beauty of a pass to David Booth on a 2-on-1 to set up Booth’s second goal of the game.
-The defense was tremendous on both sides of the ice. In their end of the ice, they held Stamkos, Lecavalier, St Louis and Gagne to a shot a piece, an amazing feat indeed! On the offensive side, they tallied a goal (PPG for Wideman) and four assists (McCabe).
-Steven Reinprecht, after being a healthy scratch the first three games, suited up and scored the Cats third goal. That’s a professional. No pouting or sulking, just performing when asked to play. It’s a great example of how these guys need to act night in, night out.
-Damn near nothing! The first line continues to struggle mightily but the other guys have picked up the slack. Eventually those guys will get their games going but thankfully, the guys below have carried the weight thus far.
I feel this is a different Panthers team than the past few seasons. And yes, I know it’s early and I’m not about to start making bold predictions of playoff glory, but at the very least, this looks to be a team you can get behind as a fan. Maybe it’s an addition by subtraction (Horton and Ballard), maybe it’s a group of guys who see a plan for their team and want to be a part of it’s future. Who knows? But if this is the way this team is going to play the remainder of this upcoming season win or lose, it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch for the first time in a long time!
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