Matt Bradley has 101 hits this season. Bruce Bennett / Getty Images N.A.

Despite Recent Win, Panthers Have Overtime Issues

The Florida Panthers have had 10 overtime losses this season. Which  means they have lost out on a possible 10 points. Imagine where the Panthers would be, had they earned even just 4 of those points. They would have a 5 point division lead over the Washington Capitals, rather than the current difference of just one point. They would also have as many points as the Pittsburgh Penguins (although the Panthers have played one more game). The frustration has been mounting with the lingering issues that continue leading to all to0 familiar results.

If the Panthers don’t play physically, especially while the opponent is, they will be more susceptible to tiring out later in the game. GM Dale Tallon has pointed to physicality, as one of the reasons the Panthers have had trouble holding leads in the past. Most notably, these problems were a slew of blown third period leads over the past several seasons.

Many of those reading this will be thinking, “but the Panthers have had so many injuries!” While this is true, it has been a problem with many teams. Some are able to overcome their injury problems, thanks in part, to strong contributions from the AHL. Others have to find alternative ways. The Panthers have had decent help from San Antonio, but lack the depth that many other teams have as an advantage.

This means that the players that are here, need to step up their physical play. Matt Bradley has been a bright spot for the Panthers, he leads the team with 101 hits, 18 more than the next skater, Dmitri Kulikov (83).  The next forward to make the list is Jack Skille, who has 63, for fifth best of the team. Krys Barch and Sean Bergenheim are both wanting to turn up the physical play, but each of these players need to be careful of costly penalties. Every Panthers skater needs to start bringing in the hard hat and lunch pail. Tomas Kopecky, told FOX Sports Florida before the Blackhawks game, that they must work harder than the guy across from them. Unfortunately, that is not what happened on a snowy night last week in Chicago.

How could the problem be resolved?- Hit, forecheck, intimidate, but don’t get out of position, don’t draw worthless penalties (especially in the offensive zone), and never let up. If the Jets Mark Stuart slams Kris Versteeg, who is unarguably the Panthers best forward, behind the net; the whole team should respond physically against the entire Jets team in in defence of their star forward.  Often, just the threat of a hit, becomes a more important asset than the hit itself. Hockey is a mental game, with confidence and momentum as essential puzzle pieces, which hits can jumble about the floor. Without Evander Kane and Dustin Byfuglien, the Jets still managed to out hit the Panthers, 38 to 16. The Panthers find the Jets just 4 points behind them, after the Panthers defeated the Jets this past Saturday night. The Panthers simply cannot afford to throw away points, when the Capitals, Jets, and Lightning; are all starting to find their form.

Hockey games are supposed to be exciting, fast paced battles. Often, the hardest opponent is one’s self.  Slumps that surpass 3 weeks, are extremely frustrating, but eventually something should bring the confidence back. Giving a point to a division foe, after jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first, is not good news for many players who still want to “see red” after the trade deadline. Tuesdays game against the Philadelphia Flyers, will have to be the most physical game the Panthers have played this year.

Thanks for reading!

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Tags: Chicago Blackhawks Dale Tallon Dmitry Kulikov Florida Panthers Jack Skille Kevin Dineen Krys Barch Losing In Overtime Matt Bradley Overtime Philadelphia Flyers Pittsburgh Penguins San Antonio Rampage Sean Bergenheim Tampa Bay Lightning Tomas Kopecky Trade Deadline Washington Capitals Winnipeg Jets

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