I want this team to win just as much as everyone else does. Saturday’s game was a fantastic sampling of what these rebuilt Florida Panthers can deliver. Tuesday is going to be a real test of their preparedness, when they take the ice at the
Mellon Arena Consol Energy Center to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins are still without Sidney Crosby, but are still a very dangerous team that has made the playoffs for five consecutive years, with two Stanley Cup Finals visits, hoisting the cup 3 seasons ago in 08-09. Crosby has been a big part of that, but certainly not all of it.
There are many things to be positive about Saturday’s effort. The new additions, especially Brian Campbell, bring excitement to a team that hasn’t had that much to cheer about for over a decade. What is most interesting, to me at least, is that the Panthers’ goals came from players who have been here for awhile. Stephen Weiss tapping in a Brian Campbell shot that ended up through Al Montoya‘s five hole and between Montoya and the goal. Weiss found the puck and skated well enough as to quickly push it in.
Jason Garrison has always been a hard working defenseman. My favorite kind of goal scorers are those who always work hard and sometimes go unnoticed. I like snipers and goals like Richard Zednik’s leap over the defender (also against the Islanders and absolutely brilliant), but it’s good to see those often ignored players get the spotlight. This is what I’m getting at, this season is going to take hard work. Fans are going to see this the Panthers do remarkable things, but single goals and single games won’t get us to the playoffs alone.
This isn’t a rain on any parade. I’m trying to be realistic, if the Panthers don’t work hard throughout the course of the season (especially in the notorious month of October), there will be no hockey in South Florida after April 7th. These next few games are critical. The Panthers have had awful starts to the season over the last several years. I believe this is the most physically fit Panthers team to take the ice in a long time. That is a big part of what GM Dale Tallon wants, strong team, with the endurance to play 60 minutes without tiring out.
The next few games are not going to be easy ones. The first against the Penguins will be a strong test, but the home opener against the Lightning starts a three game set against the Southeast division. Home and away against Tampa, then a trip up to D.C. to visit Tomas Vokoun and the Washington Capitals. If that isn’t enough to hammer this point home, after the Capitals, the next game is the Buffalo Sabres at the Bank Atlantic Center.
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