After ten years since being the fourth overall pick in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, Stephen Weiss has shown his good and bad attributes many times in a Panthers uniform. He has shown good defensive prowess, he has good puck control, and he is a gifted passer. On the other hand, he too often seemed mentally out of it during play, seemed hesitant to shoot, and had trouble scoring goals even when he had an open shot. Weiss’ sometimes inconsistent play has garnered the ire of some fans, but this year he is different.
For the first time in a long time in South Florida, Weiss is the leader of a hockey team that is very much in the playoff hunt: as of today, the Panthers stand first in the Southeast Division and third in the Eastern Conference. Weiss’ line, nickname pending, is smoking hot. His chemistry with Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann is incredible to see. All of a sudden, an arguably underachieving center in Weiss, a talented journeyman in Versteeg, and an oft-injured forward in Flash are point-a-game threats.
This is the Weiss that Panther fans have always wanted to see, and they finally got him.
Even though Weiss doesn’t lead the Panthers in points, goals, or assists, he has been the most instrumental component of the team’s success. He has played (for the most part) really spectacular defensive hockey, and it’s showing up in the plus/minus category. Weiss is at a plus-10, Versteeg is pulling a plus-9, and Flash leads the team with a plus-11. Weiss has fulfilled his responsibilities in the defensive zone by stealing pucks and breaking up passes, and his linemates are being more aggressive because of it.
And he played his best hockey recently. He was in on all three goals in the Penguins game, and had the game-winning goal, as well. His best game might have came in the Dallas Stars game, where he logged a plus-6. Panthers play-by-play man Steve Goldstein went so far to say on Twitter that Stephen Weiss is playing his best hockey as a Panther. It is becoming tougher and tougher from game to game to argue with him.
Make no mistake, this is the best, most consistent Stephen Weiss in a long time, and he is making plays on every corner of the ice to put the Panthers in playoff contention.
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