Coming away with two points in Ottawa, the Florida Panthers were headed to Tampa to take on their in-state rival.
The Florida Panthers may have stolen a pair of points in the Canadian Capital, but there wasn’t anything special about that victory.
In case you were wondering what I was speaking about, I’m referring to the five goals that were given up to the Ottawa Senators.
One of the major themes of this season has been the breakdown on defense. Turnovers, lack of coverage/positioning, and simply being outworked are all traits that we’ve seen from the Panthers’ D core.
And since the very start to the season, the coaching staff (notably Jack Capuano) has done nothing to address these issues. Think, the Cats gave up five goals to the Senators, a team who aren’t exactly known for being an offensive juggernaut.
If the Panthers are giving up an average of 4-5 to offensively mediocre teams, you can imagine what occurs when they play powerhouses like the Tampa Bay Lightning. Speaking of the Lightning, what went down last night?
Unlike the Senators’ game, where the Panthers simply outscored their opponent, they were completely toyed with the entire night in Tampa. To cut it short, they were pummeled 7-3 on another lackluster performance.
More specifically, though, the defense left Luongo hanging, failing to cover their man on numerous instances. I can safely say that without some of the saves made by Luongo, the score could’ve been worse. It’s time to break down some of the defensive lapses, so let’s begin!
Mathieu Joseph put the home side on the board first off an Alex Petrovic turnover. Of course, this is a goal Luongo would love to have back as the puck squeezed through his five-hole; however, the breakaway wouldn’t have occurred if Petrovic didn’t cough up the puck.
Yanni draws three Panthers in and quickly lays off a pass to Steven Stamkos (who’s unmarked in front of goal). As Gourde lays the pass off to Stamkos, he drives straight to the net and taps Stamkos’ pass home.
Again, the defense is at fault here. Running around like headless chickens caught out of position, the Panthers get embarrassed on this play. There’s no reason why three Panthers should be attacking the puck carrier.
And because that happens, they leave Steven Stamkos open in front, with the time of day to decide his next move with the puck.
Adam Erne’s goal, which gave the Bolts a three-goal lead, was another play that could’ve been prevented with better defending.
After a few shots were taken at Luongo, there was a loose puck hanging around the slot, where Adam Erne would end up going to.
As Erne beats two Panthers to the puck, he instantly backhands a shot over Luongo and in, giving the Lightning more breathing room over the Cats.
After saves are made with loose pucks hanging in the slot, the defense needs to be there to clear it away from danger. Instead, they’re beaten to the foot battles and caught chasing rather than staying with their assigned man.
Because of this, Erne is able to glide in to fetch the puck and have enough to time to pull off a backhander.
Finally, while the fifth goal was also at the hands of the defense, I specifically want to look at the sixth goal which was more of the same issue: lack of coverage.
Ryan McDonagh was able to walk into unchartered territory unmarked, tipping in Stamkos’ initial pass. There were three guys up high (one of them being Mark Pysyk), leaving Weegar to fend for himself in front of goal.
The Panthers also had chances of their own last night but failed to cash in. Truthfully, they made Louis Domingue look like a star and no disrespect to Domingue who had a good night, but that’s a goaltender who you should be getting 4-5 past.
Regardless, three goals are more than enough to win you a hockey game, but only if you defend well and pick up your man, which the Cats have been incapable of throughout the year.
There’s really not more I can say… other than the defense left Luongo hanging. At this point, there’s only so much Lu can handle, and he’s not going to be there to bail this team out at every occasion.
If the Panthers want to get back to their winning ways from the second half of last season, then they’re going to have to figure out a way to defend better. That includes coaching, too, who have done little to address the team’s glaring concerns.