Last week, I wrote a column about how the Florida Panthers can improve their offense, which at that point was all but nonexistent. The Panthers were being shut down on home ice against teams like the Washington Capitals and Anaheim Ducks, and suffice it to say that that won’t fly. And Dineen hasn’t let it flown.
The Panthers have exploded on offense since then, scoring eleven goals in the last three games, including two shootout goals. All three games have been wins, and those wins have grown more and more convincing. Suddenly, the Panthers do not appear to be the two-goal sort of team they once were; they can blow their opponents out of the water too.
So what has changed? One big difference is Wojtek Wolski, who has done nothing but impress coaches and fans, even in his small sample size of games. His offensive abilities shine on a team that is perhaps not exactly flush with raw scoring talent. Along with his game-tying goal against Carolina, Wolski had the primary assist on Marcel Goc’s goal against the Maple Leafs. So long as Wolski continues to make plays and play responsible hockey, the Panthers will have a great scoring threat on their hands.
Another change has been the power play. The Panthers have three power play goals in their last two, with one coming from the newly-returned Jason Garrison. I don’t know if I can put the entire reason for the improvement of the power play on his shoulders, but Garrison’s presence has helped this unit somehow. The Panthers have been playing confidently without a man, beating players to the puck and cycling the puck in the zone well. But above everything, the Panthers have simply been out-working the opposition the old-fashioned way. All three goals have been the result of the Panthers crashing the net, getting rebounds and loose pucks. And when the PK can’t keep up with the Cats’ power play, the other team is crtainly affected. It’s tough to play aggressively when you know that being down a man can backfire big time.
Yet another change in the Panthers’ offense is a recent one, but a key one. Mike Santorelli had a great game last night against Toronto, as he was arguably the Panthers’ best forward. With two goals and some solid defense, Santo finally got onto the game he had last year. Maybe the passing of the trading deadline gave him some peace between the ears, or maybe he got a pick-me-up from coach Kevin Dineen. Whatever the case, Santorelli turned into the top six center we needed all of a sudden.
And with the Panthers flying over to Winnipeg Thursday to play the Jets, the Cats can’t stop generating offense now. A win would be huge in the division race, and it’s about time that our offense win us some games, not just Mr. Jose Theodore.
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