Chris Higgins returns tonight as the Florida Panthers take on the New York Rangers in the Big Apple in game two of the eastern road trip. Higgins has missed eight games with a hamstring problem and while he hasn’t lit up the place, he was getting warm and starting to find the net on a more consistent basis. Something that has been difficult for Florida at different points of the season, but lately it’s become worse. Before he was hurt, Higgins had scored five goals in seven games and will be a welcome site on the top six, as well as the power play.
The scoring issues though go deeper than just Higgins as many of the skaters are finding it difficult to find the back of the twine. Finishing has been a problem as has missing nets that are anywhere from half open to wide open. Rolling, bouncing and spinning pucks have also contributed to lack of goals. It’s tough to shoot a puck if it’s not somewhat flat on the ice. Even a non-pro like me gets that. Although former defenceman Keith Ballard might argue that there are different ways to score.
Fellow Rat Pack comrade Dave Lasseter and I feel that the boys could use to spend some time in class honing a skill that has been forgotten. One-timers. The guys need to learn again, and utilize this unique feature that players like Patrick Sharp, Steven Stamkos and others have in their repetoir. The puck is barely on their stick for a millisecond when receiving a pass on a scoring opportunity. Of course it helps when the passer knows how to pass, so they go hand in hand, but you get my drift.
Other players that seem to be snake bitten are Michael Frolik who hasn’t scored since sometime before Christmas. Shawn Matthias scored his first goal the other day against New Jersey also for the first time in a while. I could go on and on about more, but the bottom line is they need to finish. They’re getting chances, but they aren’t burying them. Not only five on five, but the killer for them is the power play, which we are all very well aware of. No goals in seven chances Friday night against Tampa, and had they connected on one, game over in regulation. That script has been written too many times this season.
This will be the third game of the season between these two as they are 1-1 with both games being played in Florida. Should this game be tied at regulation, hold off on betting the house on this one. The Rangers have won eight of 11 while winning 5 of 6 in the shootout. Henrik Lundqvist is 5-1-1 with a 1.12 GAA in his past seven games at home, including three shutouts. Certainly not a good omen for Florida.
Big Brian Boyle leads the Rangers in goals with 17 and Marion Gaborik is the point leader with 30. Amazing with those numbers that this team has won 29 games and is 10 over .500, not counting the overtime losses. Chris Drury is pointless in his last 14 and Steve Eminger the former Panther defenceman has no points in his last 20 games.
Stephen Weiss who leads the Panthers in points with 33 has none in the last three games which included two foiled shootout attempts as well as no goals in his last nine games. Part of the turnaround that must turnaround.
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