Florida Panthers Gameday #6: Take Them Down, Little Suzy


Feb 22, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) skates with the puck ahead of Pittsburgh Penguins center Nick Spaling (13) during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Panthers lost a tough one to the Dallas Stars Saturday night, which I couldn’t watch because I was too busy watching the Florida Gators lose a tough one to LSU.  It was an emotional night, and I hope the Panthers have recovered emotionally better than I have.  I could use a bye week from these painful losses.

But on the bright side, if the Panthers are going to blow a two-goal lead, then a third period lead, at home, and end the game with a regulation loss, then at least do it against a Western Conference team.  Losing a game to the Stars doesn’t break me up as much as a loss to the, say, Pittsburgh Penguins.

Luckily for the linear logic of this post, the Florida Panthers are indeed playing the Penguins tonight at 7:00 to kick off their three-game road trip.  The Penguins are finding their form again after starting the season 0-3, and have now won two straight coming into the matchup.  Leading the way is Marc-Andre Fleury, who is looking good through five games with a .937 SV% and 1.82 GAA.  He’s a good bet to get the start for the Penguins, but if head coach Mike Johnston wants to give Fleury a rest, Jeff Zatkoff would be the starter.  He only has 21 career NHL starts, so the Penguins won’t figure to turn to him too much over the course of the season.

A big part of the noise surrounding the Penguins is Sidney Crosby and his lack of production.  He has no goals, no assists, seven shots on goal, and is in the midst of the worst scoring slump in his career.  And with elite linemates like Phil Kessel to pass to, it’s a wonder why the NHL’s best skater looks so mortal.  It’s something to look at during the game, because Crosby will have to bust out of this slump sooner or later.

The Penguins have plenty of other weapons to draw against the Panthers, however.  Evgeni Malkin scored three goals in three games against the Panthers last season.  Kris Letang is racking up more than 27 minutes per game from the blue line.  David Perron, Patric Hornqvist, and Chris Kunitz all are dangerous next to their starring linemates.  Quite simply, every Panther needs to kick ass on defense.

The Panthers will likely go with Roberto Luongo in net, which is not a surprise.  But it was a little surprising to see Shawn Thornton in the lineup against the Stars instead of Connor Brickley.  It’s tough to guess when Gallant will play one or the other, but I imagine Brickley will get the nod tonight.  The team needs four lines of offense more than… what Thornton brings.

Regardless, the Panthers will need a three-period performance to beat the Penguins.  Pittsburgh has too much offense on too many lines for the Panthers to be on their heels.  But if Crosby continues to struggle and Luongo stands on his head, the Panthers could squeeze out two points in a hostile rink.

What beer are we drinkin’?  Kona Brewing – Big Wave Golden Ale.  It’s the fruitiest beer I can think of, but it’s not even a bad fruity.  It’s very easy to pick up the pineapple and citrus notes, but maybe it could use a little more hops on the back-end to give it an extra bitterness.  But hey, hops are expensive.

What song are we singin’?  “Dead Flowers” – The Rolling Stones.  Marc-Andre Fleury’s nickname is “Flower”, of course.  So it would be great if the Panthers could metaphorically kill him in this next game, by scoring a lot of goals against him.  Any extra violence, I would not tolerate.

Next: Florida Panthers: 3 Keys to Making the Postseason

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