Jacob Markstrom the Florida Panther’s goaltender of the future made his NHL debut against Tomas Vokoun, the Florida Panther’s goaltender of the (recent) past on Tuesday night. The Panthers who were coming off an emotional and electrifying victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night, were facing a Washington Capitals team that was gunning for their fifth consecutive victory to open the season. If you put aside the first goal against Markstrom which was one he’d love to have back, and you take away the empty netter by Jason Chimera, the Panthers lost 1-0. That should tell you the tale of the game.
The excitement from Monday’s win for Florida couldn’t carry over into last night’s tilt as the Panthers seemed confused in the first, calmer in the second, but dead tired in the third. Three games in four nights at the beginning of the season might just do that to you, as the Panthers were never able to get much going against their former netminder Vokoun who made 20 relatively easy saves on the night, picking up his 45th career shutout. Vokoun who now owns a sparkly 4-0-0 record as a Capital and had this to say about his performance (source TSN.ca):
“It’s my old team, so you want to win and you want to play good,” Vokoun said. “It wasn’t like I was looking at the game and saying, ‘I’ve got to win.’ I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t happy, but when you win you’re happy every time. I was as happy when we beat Ottawa or Pittsburgh.”
The game plan for Washington was apparent at first, and carried throughout the contest. Get an early jump on Florida who might be tired (they were), force them to retrieve the puck in their zone by having the defence turn their backs and go into the corners (they did), clog up the middle of the ice so that the speed of the Panthers would be neutralized (they did), and stand up at the blueline forcing the Panthers to dump the puck in (they did that too). All of this resulted in minimal chances for the Panthers who weren’t able to find a flow, or able to test Vokoun with much intensity. Except for a brief flurry of action in the second, the Capitals with Bruce Boudreau’s new style of play, which now has a focus on defence, kept Florida on the outside with very little open space in front of the crease, or even between the faceoff circles.
It seemed to be that in the first period Florida simply wanted to survive and get out without being too far behind which they did trailing only 1-0. However with only 2 shots on net in the opening frame and 9 in the second, you didn’t quite have the feeling that something good was going to happen. The Caps just figured that if they kept the puck away from Florida, and not let them use their speed, they’d be able to control the play. Well done, as the game was a frustrating one to watch at times.
Keaton Ellerby made his first appearance for the year and like the rest of the defence last night looked out of sorts. To me anyway. While no defenceman looked overly impressive, the young trio of Kulikov, BigG and Ellerby seemed behind the pace of everyone else. There’s defintely some work to do on the back end and I’m certain that Gord Murphy will get his troops in line. The Panthers dressed 7 defenceman as Sean Bergenheim was a scratch due to some soreness.
Finally, the debut of Jacob Markstrom, the goaltender of the future for Florida, should not go unnoticed. The tall and lanky netminder had a shaky start, and who could blame him. Facing a team on a four game winning streak in front of a loud crowd may not be your ideal baptism into the NHL, but he settled in. Stopping 29 shots, the initial goal by Marcus Johannson,came from a bad angle, and the second goal from Alexander Semin (not sure if he cared) was on a wrister over his shoulder. Besides those two, Markstrom seemed to gain confidence as the game wore on. He was tested a few times, and he made some saves that kept the game close. Markstrom however wasn’t afraid to admit that he needs to work some more (source: Sun-Sentinel):
“I don’t think nervous, but so excited to finally get the first start,” said Markstrom, 21, who had 29 saves and is expected to return to the AHL once backup Scott Clemmensen recovers from minor knee surgery. “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.
“I knew they’d throw everything at the net. … [This proved] that I have to work harder.”
So we aren’t going to be 81-1-0. Fine. Is there work to be done? Sure. We need to clean up our back end, and we need to find a way to control the game better, and we also have to try to not get into a dump and chase mentality with the first sign of frustration. We’re a good team, that is going to get better. A split on the road in back to backs is sufficient, but I’m like you, I wanted more. With most likely a day off today, we face the Sabres on Thursday night at home. Don’t let this loss keep you away. No tickets? Go buy some. This team is exciting to watch, and we need to support them.
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