Who would have thought that at the All-Star break that the Florida Panthers would only be eight points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference? If you had asked me that at the beginning of the season, you’ll remember that I predicted a 15th place finish overall in the conference and I hadn’t even considered them to be in the playoff race.
Some of you are probably scratching your head wondering why I’m even talking about playoffs at this point. Yea, go ahead and find the Jim Mora video on You Tube and have the same thoughts that he did. However, up to right now the Panthers have a chance, albeit a thin one to make it into the post season. Can it happen? Will it happen? Am I nuts to be even considering this?
Personally I think the next three games will tell us a lot about where we’ll end up. With games against Toronto, Montreal and New Jersey all on the road the panthers will most likely determine their fortune with the outcome of those games. Six points up for grabs, and honestly if they don’t get at least five, we mihgt see any hope of a playoff run go down the tubes.
After that the schedule doesn’t get any easier with games coming up in February against St. Louis, Buffalo, San Jose, Philly and the Dead Wings among others, the test will be tough. There’s a four game homestand with a road game between a three game homestand toward the end of the month and going into March that could play a role in all this,but it may be too late.
The reasons that I’m thinking that it may be too late are because of the injuries that are mounting, and the lack of scoring depth that we are finding out about. Now we knew scoring would be an issue all along, but we are getting scoring from certain places where we didn’t expect it. Marty Reasoner has 10 goals. Mike Santorelli has 13 goals. I will bet we weren’t really expecting that.
However players like Stephen Weiss, David Booth, Michael Frolik have been dismal at best, especially lately. These are our top guns, and on many nights they are misfiring. Also, missing is scoring from Rusty Olesz, who has a whopping four goals in 32 games. Hardly what you expect form a guy making 3 million dollars per year. Thanks for that Jacques Martin.
Now couple the lack of scoring with injuries to Bryan McCabe who is out with a broken jaw, and Shawn Matthias who is out with an ankle injury, and we are starting to get to a point where unless we make a deal or two, the roster will be filled with more AHLers than we really want. That old saying of our best players have to be ur best players couldn’t be more evident than right now.
Stepping up is a must for the players who are not producing that I’ve mentioned. The other thing is that too many of our shots are coming from along the boards. I can’t remember the last time I saw a team take so many shots from such far away places, and bad angles than this year. Shots that cannot possibly get through a goaltenders crest, and or his pads. We need more traffic in front of the net for sure. We need more creativity and shots taken on the power play. But the shots actually must be of better quality. And please, stop the tic-tac-toe stuff. Unless we’re up by five goals, we can’t afford to be fancy.
The only good news that we can say is that we have only been truly “out” of about five games this whole season. The team works hard, but not always for 60 minutes. And then there’s this issue of panicking late in the game and losing leads. We can make all the excuses that we want and point all the fingers that we want, but the end result is, we need more from what we have. I’m not sure we can get it, but the players are a different bunch than we have had in the past.
If David Booth and Michael Frolik can find their scoring touch, And Chris Higgins stays healthy, and Evgeny Dadonov who has seemed to hit the wall can get rejuvenated from hanging around the All-Stars, then we just might be able to make some strides. There’s a lot of if’s there, and with time running out on a season where we are actually looking at doing the unexpected, the push has to be big.
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