Florida Panthers need to Eliminate Bad Starts to their Games

Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo (1) and Keith Yandle (3) watch as and Ottawa Senators' Jean-Gabriel Pageau (44) celebrates after scoring the Senators' fifth goal to defeat the Panthers in the third period at the BB
Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo (1) and Keith Yandle (3) watch as and Ottawa Senators' Jean-Gabriel Pageau (44) celebrates after scoring the Senators' fifth goal to defeat the Panthers in the third period at the BB /

The Florida Panthers have been high-flying as of late, winning eight of their last ten games. However, it still doesn’t hide the slow starts the Cats have dealt with.

Last game against the Ottawa Senators, the Florida Panthers began the game off horribly, allowing Matt Duchene to score in the opening minute of the period. The bad starts didn’t stop there, as Magnus Paajarvi even scored forty-three seconds to begin the third period. It’s safe to say that the slow start to last Monday’s game was a huge reason why the Panthers came up empty-handed.

But that’s only one example! The start to last Saturday’s game against the Rangers also wasn’t the start the Cats were looking for. Sure, they didn’t surrender a goal in the first few minutes of play, but they were getting manhandled in their own zone.

Instead, their poor start to periods caught up to them in the third, when Mika Zibanejad leveled up the score in the opening seventeen seconds of the third period. The Panthers were a little lucky to escape with two points at the end of it, with Luongo completely stealing the show (shootout victory).

How about the Montreal game? The Panthers ended up thrashing the Habs by a score of 5-0, but still managed to start off on the wrong foot. The opening five minutes of that game was all Montreal. The Habs were relentless, throwing everything at Roberto Luongo. Without Luongo standing tall in the beginning of the first, who knows what the outcome could’ve been.

These same slow starts haven’t just occurred against bottom feeders. They’ve also occurred against top teams, most notably against their state rival: the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning didn’t score in the opening few minutes like Ottawa did, but they managed to wear down the Cats early, grabbing a goal around the ten minute mark. The Panthers were running around for much of the first, pinned in their own zone for quite some time.

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The Bolts did capitalize on another Panthers slow start though. Yanni Gourde potted a goal around a minute and a half into the second, giving his side a two-goal lead. The Panthers did manage to comeback and grab a consolation point in overtime, but again, it was the slow start that prevented them from getting the extra point.

If you think we’re done there, think again! The start to the game against New Jersey wasn’t an issue. Florida actually scored in the first six minutes, thanks to Aleksander Barkov. But the start to the second period was troublesome. Taylor Hall scored in the opening fifty seconds of the second, tying the game at a goal apiece.

Against a team like New Jersey who are also fighting for a playoff spot, you can’t give up a goal in the first fifty seconds of a period, expecting to win afterwards. Whether it’s a bad start to a game or period, allowing your opponent to score in the opening minute isn’t a recipe for success. If anything, it’s a recipe for disaster.

We can go on and find many other examples, but the point has been proven that good hockey teams don’t continuously start flat-footed in games or periods. It only sets you up for failure as you’re starting a step behind, forcing you to catch up. Not every team has the luxury of talent to simply catch up from a poor start.

Especially this team, considering the lack of depth we have upfront, the Cats just can’t afford to constantly start behind the eight-ball. As solid as Luongo has been in between the pipes, even he is due for a bad game every once in a while (see last game against Ottawa). Against a strong team like the Bruins tonight, the Panthers need to make sure they get off to the start they want, containing the Bruins’ offensive threats (Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak, etc.).

If the Cats think that they can begin the game tonight like they did against Ottawa last Monday, they’ll be in for a rude awakening tonight, as the Bruins are the type of team to capitalize on mistakes handed to them. Expect Florida to come out firing on all cylinders though, as Boughner likely chatted with his team, stressing the importance of preventing bad starts to games and periods.

Next: Looking at Maxim Mamin’s time with the Florida Panthers

Be sure to catch tonight’s game at 7:30pm, as the Panthers look to grab two points against the mighty Boston Bruins!