If there’s a must win on the calender for the Florida Panthers, it’s tonight against the Washington Capitals here at home. The Panthers on a bit of a tailspin now after sniffing a playoff position are falling back and in the midst of a three game losing streak that must end. The three loses which by the way are all against division opponents have dropped them 17 points behind the Tampa Bay Lighting. You read that correctly. Tampa Bay Lightning.
The telling tale about the Cats and their recent backwards results is that they have had a lead in four of the five games that they have lost. Combined with the leagues’s worst power play which is clicking at a whopping 8.8%, you can see why they are slipping. During the last 10 games the Panthers have only converted 2 of 32 power play opportunities. Clearly not able to score has proved costly.
They have played hard, and have pushed the envelope as much as they can, but they don’t have a wide margin for making mistakes. With the recent schedule that they have had to play which includes 6 games in 10 nights, including 2 sets of back to backs, fatigue is playing just as an important role as the powerless power play.
Having been off since Saturday’s loss to these same Caps will hopefully result in regaining some of the energy that they displayed before this losing streak began. While they hung in with Washington, they couldn’t keep up for 60 minutes. Washington ultimately was just too much in the third period Saturday as they pulled away with a 3-2 victory.
The Capitals have won six of eight and are licking their chops as they have had recent success in Florida winning five of the past six games. Bruce Boudreau shuffled his lines on Saturday breaking up Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom who have been stuck in slumps. Alex scored the go ahead goal Saturday giving the Caps a 2-1 lead. It was only Ovie’s third goal in the past 13 games. If Ovie gets hot, it doesn’t bode well for the Panthers, as they need to keep him off the scoreboard. Another bad omen is that Washington has killed 33 of it’s last 34 short handed situations, including 27 straight.
A must win game is something that you never want to hang your season on with 42 games to go, but Florida can’t afford to fall further behind the pack. They must get two points tonight. They need to have the toughness both physically and mentally to get the job done against a division opponent.
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