Florida Panthers Gameday #10: Put It in Your Pantry


Apr 9, 2015; Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers right wing Jimmy Hayes (12) celebrates his goal with defenseman Dmitry Kulikov (7) as Boston Bruins center Chris Kelly (23) skates past in the third period at BB&T Center. The Panthers won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Panthers will play a hockey game against the Boston Bruins tonight, and it’ll be a big ‘un.  Even though we’re still early in the season, the Panthers and Bruins seemed destined to fight for a playoff spot.  The Panthers could use two big points on their home rink.

The Bruins have been a bit Jekyll-and-Hyde in their first eight games of the season.  They started 0-3, getting walloped for 16 goals against in those games.  Head coach Claude Julien, who slipped past the chopping block after last season’s disappointing finish, seemed close to being fired very early this season.  Instead, the team snapped back into shape and have gone 4-0-1 in their last five games, making them one of the hottest teams in the league.  Go figure, I guess.

The biggest part of the Bruins’ success has been their offense, and they have got simply gaudy numbers from some of their forwards.  David Krejci in particular is off to a blistering start to the season, netting seven goals and adding seven assists.  Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson have also played well, and surprisingly so has Jimmy Hayes.  The ex-Panther had a three-point performance in his last game against the Coyotes, and a four-point performance a couple weeks ago at Colorado.  He’s off to a positive start for his hometown team.

A longtime strength of the Bruins has been perhaps their biggest weakness so far, however.  Tuukka Rask’s stat-line is rough: 2-3-1, 3.67 GAA, .874 SV%.  Rask is usually an All-Star, but now finds himself 57th among all NHL goaltenders in SV%.  Part of this could have to do with the Bruins defensive corps, which is older and less formidable than in years past.  But perhaps he is rounding the corner after turning away 24 shots and shutting out the Coyotes on Tuesday.  In the meantime, the Bruins have sufficed to simply outscore their opponents while Rask works on returning to form.

The Florida Panthers are looking a little bottom-heavy heading into this match-up.  As I noted earlier today, Jaromir Jagr appears to be sitting this game out with a groin/hamstring injury.  Gerard Gallant won’t officially rule the 43-year-old winger out, but I suspect this is more to keep the Bruins on their toes and off the Panthers’ scent.  It’s not likely that Gallant will try to squeeze 18 or 19 minutes out of an ailing quadragenarian.  And since Aleksander Barkov is still on the sidelines with a broken hand, Jonathan Huberdeau is the last remaining member of the Panthers’ top line.  Nick Bjugstad and Jussi Jokinen will make up the new one.  Former Bruin Shawn Thornton and recently-added Logan Shaw will fill into Barkov and Jagr’s roster spots.

Roberto Luongo is the goalie for the Florida Panthers.  Last time he started, he was less than a minute away from his first shut-out of the season.  And considering Barkov and Jagr are out, the Panthers won’t likely dominate possession.  And that means the wicked-hot Boston Bruins will have plenty of time in the offensive zone.  Once again Luongo will have to come up big today, because the Bruins will get their chances.

It’s remarkable how important this game feels for the Panthers, despite it only being October.  Being 6-3-1 and beating the Bruins would be a heck of a way for the Panthers to start the year, though.  If the Panthers limit their penalties, get most of their possession, and pepper Tuukka Rask, they might just get to that record.

What beer are we drinkin’?  Considering the Panthers are playing Boston, it would be proper to pick a Sam Adams beer.  So I will.  And while we’re barely within the limits of October, I ought to pick Sam Adams Octoberfest.  As I’ve mentioned before, I like the Goose Island Oktoberfest better head-to-head, but that’s no knock against the Sam Adams version.  It’s less sweet and more malty, and maybe that’s more authentic for the style if you were to grab a Märzen in Germany.  But it gets a demerit for being named “Octoberfest” and not “Oktoberfest”, which is some Americanized trash right there.

What song are we singin’?  It would be easy and expected to pick a Boston or Aerosmith song here.  But I won’t.  “Mrs. Robinson” – The Lemonheads.  This song is one of the greatest covers around.  And Evan Dando!

Next: Florida Panthers Prospects Report

More from The Rat Trick