Panther Gameday. Make Your Own Destiny.



Today’s music video is Step Out Of The Car by Boxer Rebellion.

The start of a new calender year and the start of a new decade for the Florida Panthers gives them a chance to wipe the slate clean and move forward into the future.  We’ll not sit here and talk about all the bad, evil and frustrating things that happened before.  Let’s move forward and venture into a new beginning.  A chance for redemption and respectability.  Patience.  The blueprint is in place and we must trust in this new regime that things will change for the better.

Tonight the Florida Panthers will try to start off 2011 with a victory against a New York Ranger team that is coming off an overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 2-1.  Prior to that game the Rangers had won five of seven as they now sit 6th in the Eastern Conference playoff standings.  They have gone 5-1-2 in their last 8 games earning points in seven of those games.

Marion Gaborik surprisingly is not the leading goal scorer for the Rangers.  Brandon Dubinsky leads the team with 16, but Gaborik’s fortune could turn as he has been know to light up Florida’s goaltenders.  He has scored in four of the last five games he’s played against the Panthers, and while he’s not on pace to match last year’s goal total of 42 due to missing time with various injuries, he’s still a dangerous player.

I’d be more concerned about Henrik Lundqvist who is 4-0-0 in his last four starts against the Panthers with a 0.73 GAA.  King Henri earned his fourth career shutout against the Panthers on November 26th in a 3-0 Ranger win.  Keep your eyes out for #21 Derek Stepen.  The rookie forward has six points in his last six games and has 11 goals on the year, putting him on pace for 23.  Sean Avery hasn’t caused any mayhem lately.  Let’s see if he’ll be up to no good tonight.  He’s also listed in the cold section of the TSN gameday preview, with no points in his last five games.

The Florida Panthers meanwhile will try to dust off the loss from New Years Eve against the Montreal Canadiens where they not only lost a 2 goal lead, they lost for the second consecutive time in overtime or shootout hockey this week.  But as we have too much of this season, the Panther power play continues to struggle and cost them games as they were 0 for 6 against the Habs, including a five on three advantage.  The success rate on the PP for Florida remains below 10%.

In addition, Tomas Vokoun who gets the start tonight , continues to face way too many shots.  I don’t care if you like the workload or not, 45 shots against is just too much for your goaltender to be facing.  Especially when you struggle to score goals yourself.  It spells trouble.  The results are never going to be consistently good, as the Panthers have lost leads in three of their last four losses.  Unless these two items are corrected, this pattern will continue.

On the positive side Stephen Weiss now leads the team in points with 23 and has 12 points in his last 10 games.  Other players however must start coming through for Florida to be successful.  Chris Higgins and David Booth are two players that need to regain their scoring touch.  Although Higgins has been looking for his a lot longer than Booth.  I had hoped that Higgy would find the net more often than he has, but not so.  Maybe the new year will bring him better luck.

Speaking of luck, the Panthers will need some along the way.  Sitting 12th in the East and 10 points out of a playoff spot is a lot to ask of a team to overcome even at this stage of the season.  They’ve played the least amount of games so far in the conference at 35.  That just means though the games will start to pile up, and while doing so conditioning will be the key. They are also going to have to get hot.  Very hot, and soon.  The schedule for the month of January was designed perfectly for this to happen.  But the million dollar question is, can they do it?

With players getting healthy, and the trade deadline looming in the near future, this team which hasn’t been blown out of too many games has some questions to answer.  They have some areas that need attention and some goals to achieve.  We know they aren’t an elite team.  We know they must work hard every night for 60 minutes.  They need to catch some breaks.  Things can’t continue like this forever can they?

Time to step out of our comfort zone boys.  No excuses, nothing left unfinished.  Do this yourself.  No one will be giving anything to you, as all the other teams you are chasing are striving for the same thing.  This is about you, and how badly you want it.  Only you can be in charge of your destiny.  Make it your own.

Thanks for reading.  Your comments are welcomed and appreciated.

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Tags: Chris Higging Florida Panthers Marion Gaborik New York Rangers Tomas Vokoun

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