The final game of a successful homestand so far. Point wise. The Florida Panthers will host the Tampa Bay Lightning, the third team in a row that they will be facing who played the night before. When we talk about this homestand we know that up till tonight, 10 possible points were up for grabs. The Panthers picked up eight so we should be pretty happy right? Well it depends on which camp your in. I honestly feel that all ten points could have been picked up and should have been picked up.
One little problem. Which is turning out to be the elephant in the room. Giving up leads. And doing it in dramatic and unique fashion every time. In this recent bout of “can’t hold on”, there is a pretty impressive stat. In 10 of the past 13 games the Panthers have started off with the lead. The problem is continuing to apply the pressure, and letting teams hang around and get back in the game. Something is either mentally or physically wrong. Or maybe the planets are out of alignment. No other ideas on this right now.
Here’s the TSN Gameday preview.
Tampa comes into town with an offensive unit that Florida wishes that they had. Steven Stamkos, Marty St. Louis, Ryan Malone, a now healthy Vincent Lecavalier are the go to boys. Well balanced and well coached by Guy Boucher, the Lightning are sitting pretty in the playoff race in the Eastern Conference. On top of all the scoring they’ve just bolstered their goaltending by acquiring Dwayne Roloson from the New York Islanders. This game won’t be easy and if the Panthers aren’t ready they will feel like they have been struck by Lightning.
With games virtually every other night over the past couple weeks, the fatigue and mental stress must be getting to them. Conditioning could be an issue, coupled with a few injuries on defence, it’s starting to make sense why the leads are being lost. Or is it? Under the previous Panther’s rosters maybe. This year’s version has been playing better, has been in virtually every game, and should have a better record. As a head coach once said, there’s no excuses. But there’s reason’s. Hopefully the Panthers have figured out what those reasons are.
Our leading scorer Stephen Weiss who is 30 points behind Steven Stamkos in points and David Booth are the one and two goal scorers for Florida with 13 and 12 goals respectively. That’s part of the problem. They need to score more. The defence is hurting as McCabe is out with his jaw, and Kulikov is out tonight with a rib injury. Dennis Wideman’s getting tons of ice time and needs to keep his head on straight.
Tonight’s game is no different than all the others that have been played lately. Needing to win and needing to get both points. But more importantly be physical. An element that has seemingly been removed from the playbook is allowing teams to stay in games. How many times has it been said, wear down the opponent? Fight for the puck in the corners, and finish checks. The bumps don’t have to knock anyone into the 15th row, but they need to be hard enough for them to think that each time they do go into a corner, they’ll look over their shoulder preparing for there next bump.
Strike first. Strike often. And when we get the lead, play as though we need to catch up, not hang on.
Play to win.
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