The Florida Panthers defeated the Dallas Stars 4-2 tonight in their season opener. New Panther goaltender Tim Thomas got the start and made 25 saves on 27 shots en route to the win. Panther top draft pick, Aleksander Barkov made his NHL debut scoring a goal in the process.
- Erik Gudbranson looks vastly improved, and it seems like all that talk about his strong preseason was not just smoke and mirrors. He was crisp on his passes all night but more importantly was how comfortable he looked on defense. Despite all that, it was still a Gudbranson bad decision that led to the Stars second goal. Gudbranson got caught in-between on a pinch on the Panthers offensive blue line which resulted in a Stars odd man rush.
- Tim Thomas plays an uber aggressive style. It is fascinating to watch but it came back to bite him on first goal where he came out so far to challenge a point shot that he could not get back to his net in time to cover a wrap around attempt. We knew going in that Thomas is an unconventional goalie so we’ll take the good with the bad.
- I was impressed with the Panthers depth on offense tonight. With a fourth line consisting of Drew Shore, Scott Gomez, and Scottie Upshall the Cats have a group that can consistently be a threat to score. Its been a while since the Panthers have had a fourth line that is anything more than a black hole off offensive awfulness
- It took Scottie Upshall about 1.5 periods to get hurt, while it took Mike Weaver about 8 minutes to get bloodied up. Some things never change. (Upshall’s injury was not serious and he was back on the bench in no time).
Game 1 seems oddly reminiscent of last year’s opener. Both games saw the Panthers highly touted rookie score in their NHL debut (Barkov tonight, Huberdeau last year) and both games were full team efforts that inspired a lot of hope for the future. As we learned last year, one good game means little so we will take a wait and see approach to this years Panthers team. That being said, the win feels great and I was very impressed with how the Panthers looked.