Florida Panthers Gameday #15: Something Better Change


Jan 9, 2015; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames left wing Mason Raymond (21) and Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad (5) chase after the puck during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

After a three-day break, the Florida Panthers have another chance to right the ship this season.  They’ll need to do it soon, and it would be nice to do it against the Calgary Flames.

The Flames are struggling themselves this year, after an unexpectedly successful last season.  The Flames snuck into the playoffs by finishing third in the Pacific Division, then turned even more heads by defeating the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.  Although they couldn’t deal with the high-powered Ducks in the second round, the Flames had plenty of momentum heading into this season.

But somewhere along the way, the momentum petered out.  The Flames are off to a 5-9-1 start, a far way off their 97-point 2014-15 season.  The problem seems to lie in their defense and goaltending, who have let in an NHL-worst 58 goals to this point in the season.  The Flames have gone with Karri Ramo, Jonas Hiller, and even Joni Ortio in goal, but none of the goalies hold a SV% of higher than .889.  That being said, the Flames have won 3 of their last 4 and are not missing any key players due to injury, so the team is still as dangerous.  Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Jiri Hudler will look to get space in the offensive zone to work their magic, and Dougie Hamilton and Mark Giordano are very dangerous options from the blue line.

Since Hiller has a lower-body injury for the Flames, Karri Ramo will get the start between the pipes.  He has that .889 SV%, coupled with a 3.53 GAA.  If the Panthers can muster any sort of offensive push, Ramo will have his work cut out for him.

The Florida Panthers will turn to the ole faithful himself, Roberto Luongo.  After a rough start in Los Angeles, Luongo holds a ‘mere’ .931 SV% and 2.30 GAA.  By almost any metric, Luongo is still among the best goalies in the NHL.  But if the defense in front of Luongo doesn’t shape up, the statistics won’t reflect that for too much longer.

With Dave Bolland coming back in the line-up tonight, hopefully that will lead to better Panthers defense up the middle.  With the exception of Derek MacKenzie, there isn’t another center on the Panthers’ roster that can be considered “defensively minded”.  It’s in the Panthers’ best interests to start MacKenzie and Bolland in the defensive zone to free up Nick Bjugstad, Vincent Trocheck, and their lines (if they decide to actually read what I’ve written).

Hopefully the Panthers will get looks at the net against Calgary, considering their porous defense and goaltending so far this year.  And that will be paramount for the Panthers, considering this nugget from Alain Poupart of NHL.com:

"Florida is 5-0-0 when scoring three or more goals, 0-6-3 with two goals or less."

Is there a more stark statistic?  #Operation3Goals is upon the Florida Panthers.

Regardless of what the final score might be, this is a massive game for the Panthers, and it’s upsetting that it has to come against a Western Conference opponent, so early in the season.  The Panthers have fallen apart since their October 30 loss to the Boston Bruins, and have not won since a relatively easy match-up against the Colorado Avalanche two weeks ago.  It’s about time the Panthers snap out of their funk, get serious, and play to win the hockey game.  With a long homestand coming up, it’s high time for the Florida Panthers to start their winning ways once again.

What beer are we drinkin’?  This one is out of left field, but it’s not too bad: Ben & Jerry’s Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale, by New Belgium.  What makes this beer good is actually that it’s not very sweet, which makes it more of a brown ale than a “melted pint of ice cream”.  The slight amount of salt flavor really helps make the beer more savory than it ought to be.  Is it all-natural?  Unless brownie flavor can be replicated in nature, I’m not so sure.  But it’s for charity, so it’s worth a try.

What song are we singin’?  Something Better Change” – the Stranglers.  This is an awfully pleasant-sounding song from a band often labeled as “old, hairy misogynists”.  I can’t speak to the accuracy of those claims, but their heavy keyboard use and rough vocals give the Stranglers a Doors kind of sound.  Maybe they’re just misunderstood.

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