Florida Panthers: Goaltending Remains a Huge Concern

 The Florida Panthers have gotten off to a sputtering start. What could be one of the main causes of the issues that this team is having so far?

Before the season began, so many had high hopes for the Florida Panthers as they tried to build on their stellar finish to the previous season.

While those high hopes still exist, the Panthers have struggled to perform well since the start of the season. As they head to Europe, the Panthers hope that they can continue to play better, and climb out of the bottom of the standings.

While it may be frustrating to see the Panthers already stuck in the cellar of the standings, you must remember that it’s still quite early, and the Panthers (if they get rolling) will be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference.

One of the biggest issues and concerns that the Panthers have faced so far has been their goaltending.

Although the Cats had great net play in their season opener – since Luongo left that game – the Panthers have struggled to find any sort of consistency with either James Reimer or Michael Hutchinson.

To put it lightly, it’s been a really rough stretch for both goaltenders as they try to help the Panthers win some games before Luongo returns.

In the season opener, Luongo looked like an All-Star netminder. Making big saves against one of the most talented offensive teams, Roberto had a shutout before he was forced to leave with an injury.

When Reimer stepped in, he looked great as well. He shut down most of the Lightning’s chances and only let in one goal.

Obviously, the Panthers dropped that game in the shootout, but it seemed as if the Cats were going to be just fine rolling with Reimer until Luongo came back. Unfortunately, that wasn’t quite the case.

Immediately, Reimer began to struggle immensely. While the Panthers were playing far from the level that they were capable of, Reimer didn’t help his team out as he imploded in his first start of the season.

He allowed 5 goals on 32 shots in a loss, and a late goal to give the Blue Jackets the win. In his next game, Reimer performed slightly better but still allowed 3 goals to a rebuilding Canucks team in yet another loss.

All of a sudden, the Panthers were staring at a 0-2-1 start to the new campaign, and Reimer was staring at one ugly, ugly start to the season.

In hopes of getting their first win of the year, the Panthers stuck Michael Hutchinson in net for his first start as a Panther. Needless to say, It couldn’t have gone any worse.

After a solid 1st period against the Flyers, Hutchinson and the Panthers’ defense opened the floodgates and allowed 5 goals in one period.

Hutchinson ended the night allowing 5 goals on 26 shots. Miraculously, the Panthers got out of that game with a point.

As the Cats continued to roll along in their schedule, the goaltending continued to stay at the same level. Easy goals were allowed, and rarely could Reimer or Hutchinson come up with a big save for the team.

The Panthers went three straight games with dismal goaltending as the Panthers’ goalies allowed a grand total of 13 goals.

In the Panthers’ second win of the season, they got their second best goaltending game of the year as Reimer helped the Panthers by only allowing 2 goals on 22 shots.

Hopefully, Reimer has turned the corner and can help the Panthers manage their schedule until Luongo’s return.

Looking ahead, the Panthers can look eagerly to the return of Luongo. While Lu is aging quickly, he is still a much better goaltender in comparison to both Reimer and Hutchinson.

It’s also vital that the Cats begin to look for their future No. 1 netminder. Reimer has gotten plenty of chances in his time here in Sunrise, and he still hasn’t proven that he can be a true starter.

Regardless of how this season turns out, the Panthers need to take care of their goaltending issues if they want to book a ticket for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.