I saw things differently last night. I payed attention in a way that I haven’t in quite some time because I sat in a different seat. Behind the net, upstairs, first row. I didn’t like what I was watching. Why? Keep reading since you asked.
The conference rival Buffalo Sabres came into town last night on a hot streak as they had won seven out of their last 10 games. The Florida Panthers meanwhile were staring another loss in the face, and needed to win to stay in contention. For those that think playoffs are still possible, you might want to re-think those thoughts. With the Jack Skille era about to begin, I was hoping for a more energetic start to the game, as well as one that was played with significantly more desperation.
The Panthers were lethargic for most of the game. What I saw from where I was sitting was a team that played right into Buffalo’s hands. The Panthers seemed to play a cautious road game at home. Afraid to make a mistake, not aggressive enough to take any chances. The Panthers managed only 5 shots on goal in the first period. What? From a team that’s fighting for their playoff lives? Really? On home ice?
Marty Reasoner and Steve Bernier who scored the only Panther goals played well. David Booth and Chris Higgins also had good games with 4 shots on goal a piece, but none of them went in. Stephen Weiss was credited with three shots, but if you count tossing pillows at Ryan Miller shots then, well, there you go. I thought Weiss was poor last night. He wasn’t good with the puck or without it. He probably had a hard time sitting on the bench correctly. I don’t know if he’s hurt, nursing an injury, or just not into it. I read somewhere that he may have a broken finger. True or not, what the hell is wrong with the rest of your body. That probably explains why he isn’t taking faceoffs.
As a team, we took too long to get the puck out of our zone, our passes were off, and we skated as though we had all night to play. It was not until Buffalo’s Mike Weber scored giving the Sabres a 1-0 lead, that the Panthers woke up. But only for a stretch. The Panthers tied things up on Bernier’s fifth goal of the season, and then the teams exchanged goals tying the score at two, going into the closing minutes of the third period.
Buffalo would be happy going into overtime with at least grabbing a point. We could not afford to give the Sabres that luxury. We are chasing them, and we needed two points in regulation. I said it earlier, you cannot be happy with getting one point. That thought process must get out of your head. NOW. Especially at this stage of the season. It’s completely unacceptable to be satisfied with that. The one positive that I got from last night was the play of Jack “Crash” Skille. He played well for a guy who spent the entire night before and day, flying to get here. He made some nice checks, and at least finished them, and took a few nice shots.
Unfortunately Skille’s play didn’t rub off on everyone. When Tyler Myers scored on a slapper past Tomas Vokoun in overtime with just 4.5 seconds remaining, you felt the air let out of the building. Maybe even the city. Vokoun, who’s had to stand on his head and try not to give up more than two goals a night, because he gets no offensive support. Just stood there for what seemed to be 20 seconds. It probably wasn’t, but you could tell he was upset. He has every right to be. The Panthers as my fellow colleague Dave Lasseter said last night, keep figuring out ways to lose.
The Panthers are only six points out of the eighth spot, and some people are still saying it’s doable. Last night was doable, but they didn’t get it done. There have been too many times when the game is there for the taking, and we just can’t put together the performance required to close the deal.
I don’t know where we go from here, but good teams figure out ways to win games like last night. Good teams have the mental toughness and drive to force the issue and leave it all on the ice.
From where I sat last night, the only thing I saw left on the ice was a mess that needs to get cleaned up. We don’t need to wait until February 28th.
Thanks for reading. We welcome your comments, or rants.
Please visit our NHL main page: Too Many Men On The Site.
Follow the Rat pack onTwitter: me @TheRatTrick David Lasseter @davidlasseter and Josh Luecht @joshluecht. Also, please join our Facebook Fan Page and hit the like button, send us photos, and make some comments.
Want The Rat Trick on your Iphone, Android or Blackberry? Download the application now on your smartphone and get the best in Florida Panthers coverage.