Feb 5, 2013; Ottawa, ON, CAN; Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson (41) during a break in action in the third period against hte Buffalo Sabres at Scotiabank Place. The Senators defeated the Sabres 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Some Thoughts From The Quarter Pole

Feb 12, 2013; Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) and center Drew Shore (50) during a review of Shore

The Florida Panthers are twelve games into their season having played one fourth of their forty game season. With 10 points and a record of 4-6-2 the Panthers are fourth in the Southeast Division and 13th in the Eastern Conference. The season being one quarter over, it is a good time to look back at what we have seen from the Panthers and the NHL so far this year.

1. Goaltending:
Lets just call it what it is, the Florida Panthers goaltending this year has been pretty terrible. Florida ranks dead last in the NHL in Goals Allowed per Game (GA/G), allowing 3.83 goals per game. While the entire team is to blame for such a high number, it does not reflect well on a teams goalies to be last in the league in GA/G.
It is also telling to look at shots allowed per game a stat in which the Panthers rank 23rd in the league giving up 30.0 shots per game. This is further indication of the poor play of the Panthers goalies. While being 23rd in the league in shots allowed is not good by any stretch of the imagination, it does mean that there are seven NHL teams allowing more shots per game yet Florida still gives up the most goals per game.
For fun, lets look at Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensens‘ stats compared to Roberto Luongo‘s, a player the Panthers were rumored to be a possible trade destination for during the offseason. I’m also throwing Jacob Markstrom into the mix, because I can.
GP W L OT Sv % GA GAA SO
Jose Theodore 9 4 5 0 0.890 28 3.41 0
Scott Clemmensen 5 0 1 2 0.837 17 4.32 0
Roberto Luongo 7 4 0 2 0.943 10 1.45 1
Jacob Markstrom (AHL) 31 15 14 2 0.923 78 2.54 3
The Panther’s goaltending shortcomings are obvious when looking at the numbers. It is interesting to see Luongo doing so well especially when one of the arguments against brining in Luongo was his numbers were only marginally better than Theodore and Clemmensens’ combined 2011-12 numbers. I was opposed to bringing Luongo into Florida and I still think it was a good choice not to make a trade but his performance this year has to be making a lot of Panther fans wonder, “what if?” Jacob Markstrom has been playing well in San Antonio and while the team has repeatedly said they want him to remain in the AHL and develop, one has to wonder if he will be called up if Theodore and Clemmensen continue to struggle.
2. Even Strength Troubles:

Feb 12, 2013; Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers defenseman Mike Weaver (43) slides into goalie Scott Clemmensen (30) in the third period against the Washington Capitals at the BB

Here are some stats to think about. Florida has scored 16 goals in 5 on 5 situations which puts them 27th in the NHL. They have allowed 29 goals playing 5 on 5 which also ranks 27th. Their 5 on 5 goals for/goals against ratio is .55 which puts them 29th in the NHL. This means the Panthers are allowing almost twice as many goals as they score when playing 5 on 5. (NHL.com) This is not a recipe for success and if this trend continues the rest of the season Florida will be a safe bet to miss the playoffs. Head coach Kevin Dineen has been juggling the lines trying to find combinations that work in an effort to be more productive in 5 on 5 situations. As the numbers show, Dineen’s efforts have so far been futile.
3. Special Teams:
Florida’s power play has been a bright spot this year with the Panthers converting 10 of 51 opportunities, 19.6 %, good for 12th in the NHL. The penalty kill has struggled with a success rate of 72.9% (35-48) which ranks 27th in the NHL. A lot of the penalty kill problems have to do with poor goaltending but still, way too many Panther penalty kills have resulted in goals.
4. Schedule Talk:
With one quarter of the schedule out of the way, I wanted to take a closer look at the remaining games. The Panthers have played one back-to-back and have six more to go. Their first back-to-back was January 21-22 with games in Ottawa and Montreal. Florida lost both games 0-4 and 1-4 respectively.

Jan 19, 2013; Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers right wing Peter Mueller (88) in a game against the Carolina Hurricanes in the first period at the BB

The Panthers have a home record of 2-2-1 and a road record of 2-4-1. They are 2-2-2 against Southeast division opponents and 2-4-0 against the rest of the Eastern Conference. They have 19 home games remaining and 17 road games remaining. Their most daunting road trip will be March 19-26 when they play 5 games in 8 days.
Up to this point the Panthers have played games at a rate of .48 games per day. The rest of the way will be similarly paced as the team plays .50 games per day.
5. Disappointments:
Stephen Weiss: 8 GP, 1 G, 2 A, 3 Pts, -9

Weiss missed a couple games with an injury but has been largely ineffective when on the ice. Even with getting a lot of time on the power play, Weiss has only managed three points. The Panther’s success last season was due in large part to the play of Stephen Weiss, and it makes sense that the Panthers struggles this season coincide with the struggles of Stephen Weiss.
Kris Versteeg: 7 GP, 1 G, 2 A, 3 Pts, -7
Same thing goes with Kris Versteeg. Florida has relied on Versteeg to provide offense and with only three points in seven games this season it makes sense that the Panthers are struggling. Last year, Fleischmann-Weiss-Versteeg was the Panthers go to line. Were seeing what kind of team the Panthers are when you take away the productivity of that line. If the Panthers want to turn things around this season, it starts with this line.

Jan 22, 2013; Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Montreal Canadiens center David Desharnais (51) celebrates a defenseman Andrei Markov (not pictured) goal against Florida Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen (30) as defenseman Filip Kuba (17) looks on during the second period at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Filip Kuba: 12 GP, 0 G, 3 A, -8
While Kuba was not brought in to provide a large amount of offense, his three assists through 12 games are disappointing. He is not on this list because of his offensive shortcomings, he is here because of a failure to demonstrate much defensively. The -8 is not a pretty stat, but it is how Kuba seems invisible on the ice that makes him disappointing. Kuba has not made his presence on the ice felt at all this season.
6. Surprises:
Drew Shore: 10 GP, 1 G, 3 A, 4 Pts, +2
Shore is the obvious candidate to lead this list as he was expected to play most of his season with the San Antonio Rampage down in the AHL. Shore was called up early in the season due to injuries and has not looked back since. His played made it impossible for Kevin Dineen to send him back to the minors. Shore scored his much deserved first NHL goal last night against Washington and his + 2 is impressive on a team that is last in the league with a -16 goal differential. Oh yeah, Shore has also won 55.3 % of his face-offs.
Jonathan Huberdeau: 12 GP, 5 G, 3 A, 8 Pts, +0

Feb 12, 2013; Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers center Drew Shore (50) reacts to his goal against the Washington Capitals in the third period at the BB

Huberdeau came into the season with high expectations so he is not exactly a huge surprise, what is surprising is how quickly he has adjusted to the NHL. Huberdeau’s knack for finding himself in scoring positions has been impressive and is second on the Panthers with 8 points. Huberdeau logged his first multi goal game Tuesday against Washington and his line (Huberdeau-Shore-Mueller) has consistently been the Panther’s best line. Also Huberdeau was straight nasty in Florida’s only shootout, displaying a sick move to completely fool Philadelphia’s Ilya Bryzgalov.
Brian Campbell: 12 GP, 4 G, 3 A, 7 Pts, -8
Campbell is another player that is hard to consider a “surprise” as he is always expected to be a game changer for the Panthers. As expected Campbell has been on the ice all the time, 25:50 per game, and been an offensive catalyst for Florida. What is surprising about Campbell’s season so far is his four goals. Campbell scored four goals in 82 games last season, and it is clear he has taken up the scoring load vacated by Jason Garrison, who by the way has only two points this year (1 G, 1 A).
7. Reassessing the Southeast:
In my pre-season Southeast division preview, I was somewhat bias in prediction the Panthers to finish first in the division. I had Carolina finishing second, Tampa Bay third, Washington fourth and Winnipeg last. At the quarter point in the season the Southeast appears as follows: Carolina 15 pts, Tampa Bay 13 pts, Winnipeg 11 pts, Florida 10 pts, and Washington 9 pts.
After our brief view of what each team has to offer, I think Tampa Bay should be the favorite to win the division. They have so many talented forwards and the addition of Anders Lindback has been huge. Carolina has been impressive and it is clear their off-season additions of Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin went a long way in improving their team. I said in my preview that I think three teams from the Southeast could make the playoffs and I am optimistically predicting the Panthers to finish third in the division. Washington has been a mess so far this season but I think they will be better than Winnipeg.
8. Alexander Ovechkin:
The story of the demise of Alexander Ovechkin seems to be every NHL writers favorite story. It is a pretty fascinating tale of a fall from grace, a tumble from the summit. The thing is, in Ovechkin’s worst years he is still a thirty goal scorer. The problem for Ovechkin is that he set the bar ridiculously high with some of his earlier seasons. Why Ovechkin’s scoring has dipped recently is anybody’s guess, what I am interested in is how his scoring has changed over the years. Here is a look at some of Ovechkin’s numbers and how his 2013 compares with the rest of his career.
Season GP G A P G/GP A/GP P/GP
2005-2006 81 52 54 106 0.64 0.67 1.31
2006-2007 82 46 46 92 0.56 0.56 1.12
2007-2008 82 65 47 112 0.79 0.57 1.37
2008-2009 79 56 54 110 0.71 0.68 1.39
2009-2010 72 50 59 109 0.69 0.82 1.51
2010-2011 79 32 53 85 0.41 0.67 1.08
2011-2012 78 38 27 65 0.49 0.35 0.83
2012-2013 13 5 5 10 0.38 0.38 0.77
It looks like Ovi is in line for another stat dip this season, continuing his downward trend. The season is still young and Ovechkin has been heating up after a slow start. He is in the midst of a five game point streak in which he has logged 7 points (3 G, 4 A) so it is certainly possible that Ovechkin at the least has a more productive season than he did last year. Ovechkin’s is a fascinating story and it is something we will keep an eye on as the season progresses.
9. Quarter Season Awards:
There is no better way to celebrate the quarter season mark, than to prematurely hand out the NHL end of season hardware. After the minuscule sample size of 12 games here are the players who take home the hardware:
Vezina Trophy (leagues top goaltender):
And the winner is…. Craig Anderson! This one hurts for Panther fans. Who would have thought that Anderson, back when he was a backup for Florida from 2006-09, would develop into an elite goaltender? Well the Ottawa Senators for one. Anderson has been stellar for Ottawa this season recording 2 shutouts, 7 wins and a goals against average of 1.36.
Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP):
Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek takes this one easily. Vanek has been on a ridiculous scoring pace, leading the NHL in points, with 11 goals 12 assists and 23 points. It seems to easy to just give this award to the points leader but Vanek definitely deserves it. The struggling Buffalo Sabres would be lost without Vanek who has been involved with 59 % of Buffalo’s goals this season.
Calder Memorial Trophy (Rookie of the year):
Cory Conacher of the Tampa Bay Lightning gets the nod here even though I desperately wanted it to be Jonathan Huberdeau. Conacher has been a huge surprise for the Lightning leading all rookies with 12 points (5 goals, 7 assists). He has even solidified a spot playing alongside Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis.
James Norris Memorial Trophy (Best all-around defenseman):
I’m going with Kevin Shattenkirk as my Norris Trophey winner. In addition to his stingy defense, Shattenkirk also leads all defensemen in assists with 12 and is tied for most points in the league for defensemen with 13.

That’s all I have for now. Stay tuned for more Panther’s related news and follow us on twitter at @fansidedtherat!

Tags: Florida Panthers Nhl

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