Last night the Florida Panthers went into Philadelphia and stole a 3-2 shootout decision. You can read my recap of the game here. What follows are some thoughts and observations I had during the game. They are in no particular order, just things I came across that I though merited being pointed out. So, without further ado, here are some thoughts on last night’s game:
Why Brian Campbell is Awesome:
When watching the Panthers play, it does not take long to realize that Brian Campbell is an excellent player. He adds a calming presence to a hectic game, and he always seems to make the right pass. When Campbell is on the puck, I never worry about a bad turnover. I am confident because he seems so confident.
Last night I noticed two plays that perfectly embody the awesomeness that is Brian Campbell. The first came early in the second period with the Panthers attempting to break out of their own zone. Campbell took the puck behind the net and carried the it up the middle of the ice on Jose Theodore‘s right side. At this point, with Campbell about two feet from his own net, a Flyers player came speeding into the zone to pressure Campbell. With the Flyer cutting down the distance between him and Campbell, the man they call Soupy nonchalantly made a spinning backhanded no look pass to the corner where his defensive partner Erik Gudbranson was there to start a break. In doing this Campbell rendered the Flyers forechecking pressure moot, allowing Gudbranson time to make a good pass out of the defensive zone.
What got me about this play was how routine it seemed for Brian Campbell. He makes a play such as this look so smooth that we don’t realize the degree of difficulty that it comes with. Campbell, on this play, does about everything you would teach a defender not to do. He carries the puck right in front of his own net then proceeds to make a dangerous pass in his own zone, a pass that if intercepted could easily turn into a goal for the Flyers. If any other Panther tries to make that play, my heart probably stops. That player would be criticized for being too cute in their own zone, a place were control of the puck is paramount. Campbell has earned the right to make plays like this because he has demonstrated time and time again that he can convert them and in doing so create good situations on the offensive end.
Usually a defender pulling the spinning-backhanded-no-look-pass-in–front-of-their-own-net would be cause enough to go berserk, but for Brian Campbell, its just another day in the life of Soupy.
Second, I want to mention Campbell’s seemingly new willingness to sneak down in the offensive zone on the backside of plays. Often on the power play, but he did do it in a 5 0n 5 situation in last nights game, Campbell will vacate his point and glide down uncovered to around the face-off dot where he will be open for a shot. I do not really remember Campbell doing this much last year, but with Garrison gone there is more offensive burden on Campbell and he has come through, already scoring four goals this year equal to his goal total in 82 games last year.
Campbell’s powerplay goal against Buffalo is exactly the type of play I am talking about:
The play for Campbell is in the far corner and with all four Sabres players focused on the play, no one sees Campbell sneak in towards the net. When the puck squirts across the goal face, Campbell is there ready to pounce and he puts the puck in the open net. This can be a dangerous play because as you can see when Campbell vacates his point, the Panthers become vulnerable to an odd man rush the other way. What makes Campbell special is he understands the game so well that he can pick and choose the right moment to sneak in. Its the type of calculated risk you love seeing defenders take.
Anatomy of a Goal:
Last night the Flyers second goal, scored by Matt Read, could be seen coming a mile away. The goal is essentially a product of the Panthers inability to get off the ice and get fresh legs on. With the Huberdeau-Shore-Versteeg line out, Huberdeau led a break through the neutral zone. The Flyers, who all night had been keeping players back playing with a defensive mindset, had four players back to defend. Huberdeau tried to stickhandle into the zone and was dispossessed shortly after crossing the Flyer blue line. This was not the end of the world as the Panthers second line was relatively fresh and got back, played defense and successfully broke out of their zone a second time.
At this point, a line change is necessary. In hockey once a shift lasts longer than about one minute you are completely gassed. Huberdeau again led the charge and did the right thing by trying to flip the puck deep into the Flyers corner. While it could be argued going hard around the boards was the better options, flipping the puck deep would have served the same purpose and allowed a tired Panthers line to get off the ice. Instead, Huberdeau did not get the puck high enough in the air and it was caught by a Flyers defensemen leading to another Flyers break.
It was here while watching the game that I said to myself, this is the type of situations that lead to goals. As Huberdeau skated back to defend you could tell as he goes passed his bench that he hesitates for a split second between getting off the ice or staying out there. Thats a tough situation because on one hand you know you have been out there too long and need to get off but on the other hand it is such a terrible time to be making a change, when the opposing team is flying up the ice on a break.
The Panthers ended up having to defend with dead tired players and the rest is history. Matt Read scored his fourth of the season which is worth noting because so far all his goals this year have come against the Panthers, he scored a hat trick in the teams first meeting. Unfortunately for Matt Read, the Flyers and Panthers do not meet again for another two weeks.
This goal was a prime example of why coaches always harp on short shifts and getting fresh legs on the ice. It is hard to defend with heavy legs and those situations often lead to goals.
Taking No Chances on the Faceoff
The referees has displayed a quick hand this year in tossing centers out of the face off circle. Stephen Weiss last night even had an extended conversation with a ref on why he kept getting tossed. Getting tossed is problematic because it means a winger must take the draw which is an obvious disadvantage. Last night in the waning moments of the first period there was a face-off in the Panthers offensive end. Kevin Dineen obviously did not want a wing taking the draw so he put out a line of all centers so if anyone gets tossed, another center can take his place. The line consisted of Jerred Smithson, Drew Shore and Shawn Matthias, all strong on the face-off. It was an interesting bit of strategy but unfortunately after all that, Florida lost the draw.
Last year the Panthers struggled in the shootout going 6-11. Last night was the first shootout of the new season for Florida and some new faces stepped up and converted. Peter Mueller, who was 2 for 3 last year with Colorado, scored on his attempt. According to the Panthers announcers, Jonathan Huberdeau claims he was somewhere around 20 for 21 in the shootout in juniors, staggering numbers. After watching Huberdeau completely fool Ilya Bryzgalov, I can see why he was so successful in juniors. Quite frankly his move last night was nasty! and I cannot wait to see what else he has in store for the shootout. With the additions of Huberdeau, Mueller and Alex Kovalev, the Panthers should see more success in shootouts this year.
Here is Huberdeau’s goal, enjoy:
A Quick Complaint
With time running out in the third period, the Panthers were enduring a frantic Flyers attack. At this point in the game Florida just needed to kill the rest of the clock to ensure a road point. With this in mind, what in the world were Kopecky and Shore doing making no look drop passes at the Flyers blue line with less than a minute to go!! I am all for fancy passing plays and the likes but in that situation you just have to get the puck deep! Both Kopecky’s and Shore’s drop passes resulted in turnover and Flyer rushes the other way. Luckily the Flyers did not convert and Florida got the two points in the end.