Florida Panthers: Bob Boughner’s Power Play Needs Tweaking

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - OCTOBER 06: Tampa Bay Lightning center Anthony Cirelli (71) celebrates his short-handed goal to tie the game at 1-1 during the third period of the opening night game between the Florida Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning on October 06, 2018, at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL. (Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - OCTOBER 06: Tampa Bay Lightning center Anthony Cirelli (71) celebrates his short-handed goal to tie the game at 1-1 during the third period of the opening night game between the Florida Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning on October 06, 2018, at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL. (Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The Florida Panthers’ 2-1 shootout loss on Saturday night was extremely frustrating, outshooting the Tampa Bay Lightning in both regulation and overtime.

What makes it especially frustrating was that the Panthers were the architects of their own downfall.

To start, despite the result, the Panthers’ performance was absolutely brilliant on the defensive end. Both Derek MacKenzie and Roberto Luongo – two reliable options the Panthers have at protecting their own net – came out of the game with injuries.

Despite that, the Panthers played faster on defense than Tampa did, saving their energy for controlling the puck in the Lightning’s zone, only to be stopped by a stellar Andrei Vasilevskiy 42 times.

Take overtime away, and the Lightning really didn’t have a lot of high-quality opportunities. Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov struggled to create opportunities, J.T. Miller was circling the entire night, and Brayden Point couldn’t keep his shots down.

Yet, somehow, the Lightning got themselves on the board through Anthony Cirelli midway through the third.

What’s wrong with this debacle was how soft Cirelli’s goal was: an odd-man rush, a poor pass bounced back to him off the chest of James Reimer, stuffing the loose rebound in.

Not to mention the Panthers were playing one of their better stints of the night after the first period and were looking like they could’ve doubled the advantage with Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad having good efforts denied by Vasilevskiy.

However, the most aggravating part of this sequence was simple; the Panthers were on the power play when Cirelli equalized.

It could be called a taste of our own medicine, as Aleksander Barkov – last year’s league leader in shorthanded goals – was caught defending a 2-on-1 that wound up in a shorthanded goal for Tampa Bay.

Yes, Barkov was the last man back. Aaron Ekblad, Keith Yandle, and Mike Matheson were nowhere to be seen on the play. And It’s because none of them were on the ice at that time.

Bob Boughner ended the preseason trying out five forwards on the man advantage, rather than rolling with Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad like last season.

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The idea wasn’t a total failure, the Panthers went a combined 1/4 across the two preseason games with this method, with Mike Hoffman netting the lone goal.

Both games were against the Lightning, so I commend Boughner’s ‘go for it all’ ideology and enforcing this idea in a 1-0 lead against Tampa. The one problem with this logic is that 1/4 stretch was preseason, and this is where it matters.

The ideology is to play a mix of Mike Hoffman, Vincent Trocheck, and Aleksander Barkov across the blue line, with Jonathan Huberdeau and Evgeni Dadonov creating space on the wings.

This is used to try to give the Panthers an edge on the power play, which has been an immense problem over the last two seasons. These are the kinds of situations where the young Panthers have to learn the hard way that this method can’t work at hockey’s highest level.

The play begins when Hoffman hits the puck around the boards looking for Dadonov, but the puck deflects off his skate, settling in the corner.

At this point, Dadonov is behind the net, Hoffman and Trocheck are in the faceoff circles, and Huberdeau is sitting in the slot.

Once Ryan McDonagh recovers the puck for Tampa, three Panthers converge on him, leaving the boards wide open for the defenseman to hit Cirelli on the fly.

Hoffman on the other side was skating more casually, oblivious to Alex Killorn making a run up the left flank.

Cirelli brings it into control, Killorn turns on the afterburners, and Barkov is caught out like a deer in headlights.

He does well to read Cirelli’s intentions to pass, even spinning to block the dish to Killorn. The puck takes a home bounce off Barkov’s right skate and deflects off the body of James Reimer, bouncing back to Cirelli’s stick, and he pots the goal:

It’s such an inexcusable goal for a team with aspirations like the Panthers to give up a goal like this.

If three forwards are going to try to press to win the puck back without considering what’s behind them, and the right-winger doesn’t give enough hustle to get back on defense, this is going to be a goal any day of the week, against any opposition.

The Lightning may be one of the best counter-attacking teams in the league, but any NHL team can create a chance like this, Cirelli just gets fortunate with the bounce.

If Bob Boughner wants to get risky on the power play, he has to play either Jared McCann or Colton Sceviour rather than Huberdeau or Dadonov.

There need to be at least two forwards who are better at getting back than the two wingers previously mentioned. Bob Boughner spoke on the unit after the game in his press conference:

"“It was a bad bounce. [Trocheck] was right in the area and was reading it, and it came around the boards and it hit the ref’s skate and it popped out. No matter if I were to have two defensemen out there with a bounce like that, I think that it would have been a 2-on-1. Again, they got a bounce on that, it hit Reimer or [Barkov] or something. You know, it is what it is. Any time you play with five forwards, you’re going to play with a bit of fire.”"

If the ideology is as sure as writing it off, then there’s a lot of things that Bob Boughner might let slide in these early stages of the season.

After last year, it feels like we all should know that a team has to start well, as the Panthers missed the playoffs by one point after a stunning second half of the season was weighed down by a lackluster first half.

These kinds of results, bad bounces, and deserving of two points but only coming away with one can’t be accepted anymore. This game was totally winnable, but one bad roll of the dice really killed the Panthers in game one.

dark. Next. Florida Panthers Fall in Shootout; Drop Second Point to Tampa

This idea of five forwards on the power play has to be tweaked. Boughner was positive about the chances created, but there should be no excuses for giving up that goal. Because in the end, that could cost the Panthers later in the season.