Florida Panthers Outlast The Buffalo Sabres


Oct 15, 2015; Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers right wing Jaromir Jagr (68) celebrates his goal against the Buffalo Sabres with teammates in the first period at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Panthers did what they needed to do Thursday night — beat an inferior Buffalo Sabres squad at home.  By a score of 3-2, the Panthers squeezed by despite looking a little out of sorts for much of the game.  But a win is a win is a win, and the Panthers are still off to a great start this season.

Time to look more closely at what went right and wrong:


Ugly is beautiful.  The Panthers didn’t do very much well in their second home game.  They struggled to get smoothly out of their end, they couldn’t generate many rushes through center ice, and they couldn’t connect on passes when they got to the Sabres’ zone.  Compared to the pin-perfect Opening Night game against the Flyers or in certain portions of Tuesday’s game against Carolina, the Panthers had a tough game.  But the great teams win even when they aren’t playing well.  And considering the three bottoms lines and the three defensive pairings all went silent, the Panthers really needed to grind those two points out.  As Jaromir Jagr said after the game, “We were more lucky than good.  We have to play better.”  But speaking of Jagr…

Jagr and the top line still have it.  Right when the Panthers really needed it, the Barkov/Huberdeau/Jagr line came through in a huge way.  Jagr scored twice, and had the primary assist on the third goal.  Aleksander Barkov provided a goal and assist of his own.  Jonathan Huberdeau did nothing to slow those two studs down.  The Panthers’ offense was scuffling outside of this line all game long, but the mythic Jagr led the team through this period of darkness.

Special teams rules the day.  Neither team could control themselves in this match-up: the Panthers committed six penalties, and the Sabres committed five.  But the Panthers held control of the special teams battles, and most likely won the game because of it.  The Panthers went 2/5 on their power play chances, and the Sabres went just 1/6.  Jagr picked the Sabres apart on the man-advantage, but the Sabres couldn’t find the same seams the Panthers could.  The lone goal for Buffalo came off a Tyler Ennis slap-shot through a screened Roberto Luongo in the third period, but it was on their sixth and last power play.


Sloppy seconds.  Thankfully I don’t mean in the Sean Avery way, but the Panthers continued to struggle in the second period.  Against Carolina, they were outshot 8 to 5.  And tonight against Buffalo, they were outshot 12 to 6.  The Panthers started both of those games strong in the first period, but their focus lapsed in the second.  Luckily, each game only saw the Panthers give up one goal.  But against a high-flying, offensive team like the Dallas Stars (who the Panthers play Saturday), the Panthers will have to play a complete game to expect a win.  The one-goal periods could turn into three-goal periods in a flash.

Unbalanced efforts.  The Panthers’ top line carried them in this match, no doubt about it.  The fourth line that was great in Raleigh went quiet in Sunrise.  Florida defensemen weren’t that effective moving the puck along to the forwards.  The second and third lines were also quiet.  It’s reasonable that sometimes a team will have to lean on its star players, but the Panthers shouldn’t make that a consistent strategy of winning.

Too many penalties.  They held up for the most part, but the Panthers put plenty of undue stress on the penalty kill corps.  The Panthers’ six penalties consistently kept the puck in their own zone and made it difficult to sustain offense in the other end.  A more disciplined game would’ve allowed the Panthers to put the game to bed earlier, and perhaps could’ve got all four lines into more of a rhythm.

Next: Florida Panthers: 3 Keys to Making the Postseason

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