After this All Star weekend, things will surely start to get much more interesting. Points are going to become more and more valuable, injuries are going to be much more significant, and wins are going to be bigger than ever before. The Florida Panthers currently sit in 7th place overall in the Eastern Conference but are still tied with the Washington Capitals for 1st place in the Southeast Division. During the month of February the Panthers are going to be playing 14 games, 8 of which will be at home and 3 of those 14 games will be against the Washington Capitals; two here in South Florida and one back at our nations capital. A once 9 point lead in the division, quickly evaporated and the Florida Panthers are in for a dog fight.
This is why I would like to take the time to talk about 5 very important things the Florida Panthers players, organization and fans need to do for the Panthers to first hopefully win the Southeast division or secondly, at least finish in the top 8 and make the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. These 5 topics are in no particular order in importance, but all are very key to a successful finish.
#1. Dale Tallon Has To Be A Buyer Before The Trade Deadline
Now, I’m not saying that we should spend every penny we have to get one or two particular players but I think the Panthers need to do something at the trade deadline. Before the injuries started piling up I was certain the Panthers were a top 8 team in the Eastern Conference, but with so many injuries, and with the Panthers struggling to get wins, I think it’s important to sign someone that will make a impact. Who you say? I’m not sure but there are a few names out there that would be interesting to see if the Panthers would make a move for. I’m not sure that Zach Parise wants to come down here, and I don’t think the Devils will be willing to move him before the deadline since they’re in the thick of things as well. Dustin Penner, a one time 30 goal scorer hasn’t had any success with the Los Angeles Kings, but maybe he could be a guy the Panthers pull for. I also hear Jeff Carter isn’t liking it in Columbus, just saying. There are plenty of UFA available out there so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Panthers add a forward or possibly a defenseman before the deadline.
#2 The Panthers Have To Win At Least 9 Games In February
February is going to be an awesome month if your a Florida Panther fan. For the first two weeks of February the Panthers pretty much have games every other night and the first four are all against division opponents. If the Panthers can beat the Capitals at least twice at home then I think they would be in pretty good shape. We play teams that are all seemingly in there respective conferences’ playoff hunt, with the exceptions of Anaheim and Carolina. Every game seems winnable since we don’t play the Bruins, Rangers, Flyers, Penguins, and teams that are just in elite company right now. As I mentioned before 8 of the 14 games are at home and winning 9 of the 14 games seem very attainable. Again, they’re basically all versus’ teams that stand between us and the postseason.
#3. NO MORE OVERTIME/SHOOTOUT LOSSES!
This to me is the most annoying thing in the world. Every time we get to overtime I just literally begin to pray that we can manage that extra point. It really is heartbreaking watching the Panthers try to win in overtime or shootout. The Panthers have lost a whopping 11 games in extra time, 7 of which were at home. As a fan that goes to every home game, that breaks my heart. Being so close, yet so far away. It’s funny but not really how we have 15 losses (22-15-11) which is just 1 more than Boston has (31-14-2), but Boston has 9 more wins then us. I’m not one usually to play if we or what if, but really… if we would just win half of those 11 that we lost, we’d be sitting pretty with 28 wins, 15 losses and 5 OTL, leaving us with 61 points. The Panthers have lost 5 home games this year!!! If at the beginning of the season you told me we had lost 5 home games before the All Star break I’d say you were lying. 7 extra time losses hurt, they really do. I speak for many fans out there please settle for W’s not OTL’s.
#4. Tomas Fleischmann Has To Get Back In Rhythm
Fleischmann to say the least, been ice cold since the 6-1 Loss to the New York Rangers back on December 11th. Since that game, Flash has scored 4 times and has just one assist. That’s 5 points in 19 games and not to mention a -14 +/- rating, which is horrible for a player who was averaging a point a game before that. I just don’t get how he got so ice cold. There were chances where he could have broken out of his slump a number of times but just failed to tally anything. I remember in one particular instance against the New Jersey Devils, the Panthers were down 1-2 in the 3rd period and Flash had an opportunity to tie it but whiffed on the open net, the Panthers ended up losing that game 1-4. Even as recent as January 21st against Winnipeg, Flash had a golden opportunity in overtime with 24 seconds left to finish the game. Campbell played it beautifully for him in front of the net and Flash snap shot it right to Pavelec, earlier in the year Flash makes that goal. After the whistle is blown Flash shows a lot of frustration at himself yelling and skating away in frustration. Luckily, Flash scored his first goal of 2012 on a can’t miss shot against the Flyers in the last game before the break so maybe this will give him the confidence he needs to get back to his scoring ways.
#5. Stay Healthy
The Panthers really started having problems when players started getting hurt. Every team has to deal with this problem but the Panthers really need to stay healthy. During this last stretch the Panthers will be without Dmitry Kulikov for a good chunk of that time and Ed Jovanovski is still a ways away from coming back. The depth is there where they can manage to survive, the problem is that in the NHL it isn’t about surviving, it’s about thriving. Yes, Tyson Strachan played well in his first game replacing Kulikov, but he didn’t make an impact in the game that was worth remembering. The Panthers acquired Sean Sullivan today and it will be interesting to see if he will play with the NHL team or not. We have to remember that this is only season 1 of Dale Tallon’s plan, we have been spoiled with such great hockey the first half of the season that we cannot turn our backs on the team if they fail this season. Players like Sean Bergenheim, Jack Skille and Marco Sturm have to get back into the lineup and help the team push forward. Health is the main concern during the All Star break and a break is certainly what the Panthers needed. They’re still above water, but that water is quickly rising.
Thank you for reading!
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