Game Day Preview: Panthers vs. Red Wings. Not Over Yet.


FLORIDA PANTHERS: 37-35-16 (90 PTS.) vs. DETROIT RED WINGS: 46-27-5 (97 PTS.)




I’m looking straight at the player in today’s image as the one to step up today.  All too often he’s lauded for his play, and it’s time for him to raise the bar and make a difference in one of the most important games of the season.

Beyond that, there’s not much to say here before this one starts.  You’ve read and heard all the cliche’s, and while we don’t want to sound like a broken record the Florida Panthers are faced with yet another must win game as they take on the Detroit Red Wings.  The good news is that in their last 10 games the Wings have been faltering with a 2-6-2 record including losing two in a row.  The bad news is the Wings have been faltering with a 2-6-2 record in their last 10 games.  Meaning their poor play is about to end soon, and this early evening tilt might just be when it happens.

For the Panthers they will have to play significantly better than they did Friday night against the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets, who didn’t look so lowly.  Rookie netminder Allen York gave us his best impression of Patrick Roy and was unbeatable, except for one goal scored by Tomas Kopecky, which made the score 3-1.  Other than that, York was perfect.    Not to rehash the game, but the four consecutive penalties in the middle period gave Columbus all the momentum they needed, and they used it to their advantage.

The offence is clearly sputtering and there’s no apparent end in sight.  Slow starts are also contributing to the poor play that we’re seeing of late, and this can’t continue.  Yesterday the Panthers had the day off to focus on getting some rest and  some nutrition.  I’m sure many of you felt that a “bag skate” is in order, but honestly, it’s way too late for that now.  This is crunch time, and this team is going to show it’s true colors with their response today.  While Detroit is clearly a superior team, they are beatable, and Florida can stay in the game with them.  But this is one of those desperate times situations, and the entire team needs to come out looking for blood.

The recent performances on this trip are nowhere near at the level of play that this team is capable of.  They are obviously pressing, and holding the sticks too tight, however, they are also timid.  That combination is a recipe for disaster, and while they are still in first place, the poor play has to stop tonight.

Kris Versteeg has been hustling and giving some effort, but I say again, it appears as tho he’s trying to do too much.  Not to single him out, but some other players also need to find their scoring touch soon, and it makes you wonder if they’ve even been playing lately they’ve been so quiet.  It’s a long season, and for a good portion of the year the FlashMob Line kept us alive.  Unfortunately with Tomas Fleischmann being the only contributor now, the other two thirds of that line needs to step up. The defence while adequate has made some mental and positional mistakes that have cost us.  The lack of physicality is another issue that needs to be addressed.  As for the goaltending…..I’m not hanging anything on Jose Theodore or Scott Clemmensen.  They are the only reason right now that we are where we are.  Without those two guarding the net, the Panthers would be staring another early vacation right in the eyes.

Detroit firmly holds a playoff spot in the Western conference.  Regardless of how they’ve played of late, their 30-6-2 record at home doesn’t bode well for any visitor, especially the Panthers who have to concentrate on this game before worrying about a plane ride home since being away for seven days.  Henrik Zetterberg is the leading point man for Detroit with 68.  The Wings are also blessed with 11 players who have double digits in goals, so scoring for them is not an issue.  240 goals overall places them well within the top 10 in the league, and they have a plus 45 goal differential.

Jimmy Howard mans the pipes for the Red Wings, and has had a very impressive season, despite those of us who don’t feel he’s all that good.  Is he a product of the team that plays in front of him?  Maybe.  Regardless he’s won 33 games and his GAA is 2.16, and he has six shutouts on the year.

Veteran defenceman Brian Campbell has the perspective on this game:

"“You got to trust each other and play,” Campbell said. “You can’t play scared. Nobody’s a good player playing that way.“We got four games left to pour it on. Everybody knows what’s at stake.”"

They may know it.  But will they show it?

Thanks for reading.  We welcome your comments and opinions.

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