The best teams in the NHL are the ones who make the fundamentals into their forte. The Florida Panthers are striving since the All-Star Break and have won six of seven, four of which were on the road.
The defense hasn’t been terrible, but flaws are beginning to show; the Cats have been way too sloppy with the puck lately.
Sloppiness with the puck is a coach’s nightmare, no matter the time. Fore-checking from teams can be a nightmare to deal with if the team doesn’t have enough time on the puck, but that hasn’t been the problem.
In the last three games against the Los Angeles Kings, Edmonton Oilers, and Vancouver Canucks, the Panthers have averaged 12 giveaways a game, and the giveaways have been crucial ones. These are three examples of goals the Panthers have let in lately which are extremely frustrating for everyone to watch:
In the second period of last week’s game against the Vancouver Canucks at home, the Panthers were in full control of the game. They controlled the tempo, the effort, and where most of the game was played.
With little time to go on the power play, Michael Matheson cheaply lobs the puck off the skate of Brandon Sutter and ricochets to Markus Granlund. Granlund goes through on goal before slotting it past Harri Sateri and leveling the game for the visitors. Without this mistake, the Panthers would’ve stayed in control of the game, even if the power play concluded empty-handed.
In the Edmonton Oilers game, another power play opportunity came for the Panthers, and another cheap giveaway leads Leon Draisaitl through on a breakaway. Matheson tries to recover but slashes the winger in the act of shooting, resulting in a penalty shot.
Draisaitl would convert to give Edmonton a 2-1 advantage. Fortunately, Edmonton’s penalty kill at home is awful, and the Panthers took advantage of it and won the game 7-5. Any time a team concedes five, you really can’t consider it to be a good game all around.
This last one (above) from the Panthers’ most recent game is embarrassing for every player on the ice. Not just because Aleksander Barkov shouldn’t be making poor reads like this, not just because this was a close game, not just because it was a game against Vancouver, but this play is not the kind of mistake that playoff teams make.
Barkov deliberately has his pass-which didn’t look like it was going to find anybody-deflect off Sven Baertschi’s stick, sitting right in the goalmouth for Bo Horvat to stab it past James Reimer and put the Canucks back in front.
This is the kind of play where somebody in white has to be to Barkov’s left on the boards. It’s an easy pass to make and the zone can be cleared easily. Instead, Barkov makes a risky decision to try and sling it over everyone, which bounces of a skate and goes right into the slot, turning out to be the worst place where a puck could be. “Puck luck” or not, those types of plays need to be eliminated entirely, especially when you aren’t in a playoff position.
Thankfully, this Florida Panthers team has scored goals for fun lately, and has made up for lacks of concentration at the back. If this team wants to seriously challenge for the post season and beyond, these sort of “gimme” chances can’t come as often as they have.
Harri Sateri and James Reimer have been good in net, but they can’t be expected to stop chances as simple as this for the opposition. Straightening up basics like this can take a lot of stress off the team going forward.