Florida Panthers Gameday #7: Take A Little Risk


Feb 24, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling (33) makes a save on Florida Panthers center Vincent Trocheck (21) during a shootout at the United Center. The Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Florida Panthers 3-2 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t look now, but the Florida Panthers are in the midst of their first “losing streak” of the season.  After falling to The Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime after losing to the Dallas Stars at home, the Panthers need to find a way to right the ship before the streak expands.  But tonight they find themselves in a tough spot to end losing streaks: in Chicago against the Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks

The Chicago Blackhawks won both of their games against the Panthers last year, winning in a 3-2 shootout at home and a 3-0 shutout at the BB&T Center.  Jonathan Toews scored in both games, but through six games this season he hasn’t found a way to score yet.  But Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin (?) are off to a hot start to make up for it, with each scoring 7 points in 6 games.

Most interestingly for the Blackhawks will be who is not on the ice.  Duncan Keith, perhaps the best defenseman in the league and most definitely a huge workhorse, is out with a torn meniscus in his right knee.  This will be the Blackhawks’ first game without him since they put him on long-term IR.  At least for now, the Blackhawks will lean on their organizational depth to replace Keith: David Rundblad will play after being scratched in five of the first six matches this season.

For Chicago, Corey Crawford will start between the pipes, sporting a .922 SV% and 2.25 GAA.  The Panthers will opt for Roberto Luongo once again, who stood on his head for most of the game against the Penguins.  Luongo and the Blackhawks have an interesting past, to say the least.  But more often than not, Luongo has had the upper hand in the matchup: in 32 career regular season games against Chicago, Luongo holds a 15-12-3 record, .929 SV% and 2.22 GAA.

Gerard Gallant won’t mess with the fourth line of Quinton Howden, Derek MacKenzie, and Connor Brickley, at least for tonight.  The line’s two 3rd period goals rescued a big point for the Panthers in Pittsburgh.  Gallant is looking to mix the middle two lines, however: during the Penguins game he swapped Reilly Smith and Vincent Trocheck between the 2nd and 3rd lines, and he’ll stick with that set-up for tonight’s game as well.  If the Panthers can get those two lines hot — or at least one of them hot — their scoring could really explode.  But as of now, the Panthers are too reliant on the top line of Barkov/Huberdeau/Jagr.  The Panthers can’t expect three goals from them every night.

The goal for Florida is to generally play the opposite kind of game as they did against Pittsburgh.  The Panthers gave the Penguins early power plays to give them momentum, chased the play for most of the game, and relied on two fourth line goals to scratch out a point.  Against the Blackhawks, the Panthers will need to play a strong 60 minutes from all four lines.  Chicago is not easily beaten at home, but especially without Duncan Keith, the Blackhawks are not invincible.

What beer are we drinkin’?  Since we are in the hearty city of Chicago tonight, we should go back to the Goose Island Brewery, Chicago’s craft beer representative.  I’ve presented their Oktoberfest multiple times this season already, so let’s go with the 312 Urban Wheat Ale.  It’s a good beer for a hot day, and is also a good wheat beer for people who don’t like wheat beers, because it has hardly any wheat taste in it at all.  Great!

What song are we singin’?  “Lawyers, Guns, and Money” – Warren Zevon.  Sub out “Guns” with “Uncomfortable Press Conferences” and you have yourself a Patrick Kane song.

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