Hidden in the Florida Panthers 4-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs was the overall great game defensively by the Panthers. As you can tell by the shot differential (+27 in favor of Florida), most of the action took place in Toronto’s zone, but when the action did veer towards Tim Thomas – Florida’s blueliners were there to make plays.
They got stick in passing lanes, won battles along the boards, and were physical when needed – rarely allowing the Maple Leafs any sustained opportunities. Leading the charge was Erik Gudbranson, who made noise in the offensive zone, but made the greater impact in his own end.
Offensively, Gudbranson rang two pucks off the goal post – including one that was at first ruled a goal but after review it did not pass the line the entire way. But while in his own end, not only was he physical but used his stick to break up plays and was in good position on several occasions.
It was a far cry from his last outing against the Columbus Blue Jackets, in which him being out of position led to a goal.
Only in his third year, Gudbranson has seen his fair share of struggles, nothing new for a young defenseman. There is already an incredible amount of pressure with being a young blueliner – let alone one who went third overall, ahead of players like Ryan Johansen (fourth) and Calder Trophy winner Jeff Skinner (seventh).
With two games left before the Olympic break, Gudbranson has the chance to build up some momentum to take with him into the break, and use once games get back underway.
Anthony Murphy is the Editor of The Rat Trick. You can follow him on Twitter @AMurphyTFC or contact him by email [email protected]