Florida Panthers Have Hit Rock Bottom; But What’s New?

MONTREAL, QC - JANUARY 15: Shea Weber #6 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Florida Panthers in the NHL game at the Bell Centre on January 15, 2019 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - JANUARY 15: Shea Weber #6 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Florida Panthers in the NHL game at the Bell Centre on January 15, 2019 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Florida Panthers were flat-out embarrassed in the last forty against the Montreal Canadiens. It felt strange to watch, yet not the least bit surprising.

The game started out so well for Bob Boughner’s team. After one, the Florida Panthers led 1-0 and were seemingly doing everything right.

The new forward lines all had a fair split of the 16 first period shots, the defense was holding tough, limiting the Habs to just six shots (which James Reimer made easy work of), and Mike Hoffman had just scored a brilliant goal.

Everything was clicking, it was positive, a nice change of pace as the Cats looked to end this wretched road trip with a win.

Then, the second period begins, I blink, and Montreal have tied the game. That’s basically how the rest of the game went.

There was absolutely no positives I can point out after that first period ended. Dominated on faceoffs, turnovers galore, all over the place at the back, horrendous on the man advantage (that includes the extended amount of time with the empty net), just all around awful.

One thing that the Panthers were very impressive with was their shot totals. Unlike the previous game, where the Panthers were held to just 24 shots on goal.

The Panthers actually doubled that number, and more, putting up 53 shots on goal this game, a season high and a very impressive number that should put a team in a very promising position to win.

Only one problem with that ideology, his name is Antti Niemi. The former Florida Panther made 52 saves, beating out his career high of 47 saves, propelling Montreal to victory.

He made stellar stop at every turn, glove saves, kick saves, and butterfly moves so elegant you would have thought Patrick Roy came out of retirement.

Niemi deserves credit where credit is due, he made some absolutely incredible saves worthy of the Vezina Trophy last night.

Inside the opening minute, you could tell he wasn’t there to mess around, denying Aleksander Barkov’s odd-man rush opportunity just 47 seconds in.

He saved his best for last, preserving the Habs’ two-goal advantage with a stunning save, sprawling out to deny Henrik Borgström’s opportunity in the slot.

He easily won first star of the game, for a performance that any Montreal goalie may have trouble beating for a long time.

Now for the ugly bits, the Florida Panthers were absolutely horrendous last night. No evading it, no sugar-coating it, no excuses, losing 5-1 in back-to-back games is a disgrace, and finding multiple different ways to lose in both of those games.

On all three of Montreal’s second period goals, there was no organization or design that the Panthers followed to try defending.

On the first goal, Shea Weber plays a passive 1-2 pass with Jonathan Drouin, but still has no pressure on him at the point.

He moves over to the left flank, nobody follows him, Aaron Ekblad stays flat-footed in the slot, he has the entire left side of the ice to himself, so he just smashes it past Reimer.

Very pathetic power-play goal to concede because there was nobody there trying to pressure Weber away from shooting or get a body in front to try and block the shot.

After that, it just got more and more comical. The Habs get into the attacking zone, and James Reimer is too far out of his crease.

Shea Weber tries to seize the opportunity, and flings a shot towards goal, fortunately, wide of Reimer’s net. The shot deflects off the end boards back in front.

Barkov makes a half-hearted attempt to go for the loose puck, but backs out of it, while Aaron Ekblad loses track of Phillip Danault.

To recap, there are two Florida Panthers players in the area, and only one Montreal Canadiens player, surely one should stay with Danault, while the other goes for the puck.

These are fundamentals, communication should be one of the first things emphasized by a team at any level. Instead, Ekblad misses it, Barkov can’t get to it, and Danault scores his eight on the season to give Montreal the lead.

The third goal saw Ian McCoshen fall into Reimer’s path, which prevented Reimer from getting across his crease to stop Max Domi from scoring.

For McCoshen, it’s almost unfortunate this incident happened to him. He had a promising first game back, making some good interceptions and putting some nice shots on goal from the blue line, but Montreal were showing no mercy last night.

Somehow, Mike Matheson’s name hasn’t been mentioned yet. Don’t worry, later in the third, as the Panthers tried to pull a goal back, Matheson gets skinned by teenager Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who toe drags around Reimer to finish the game off.

Credit to Kotkaniemi, it was a really nice goal, but when there are players at the college level that defend better than that, can you really give it too much credit?

Montreal would add a fifth on the empty net, which brings me to the next issue. The Panthers’ usage of the man advantage tonight was awful.

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0/4 on the power play doesn’t even begin to explain the difficulties this team had to create anything. Ekblad and Yandle were extremely scared to shoot, Evgeni Dadonov took the night off, Jonathan Huberdeau couldn’t hit the side of a barn this game, and Barkov looks like he needs a rest.

The Panthers now stand 14 points out of a playoff spot with the second largest losing streak in the NHL (Anaheim Ducks remain #1). The Panthers also broke a franchise record last night: longest losing streak in a season.

Yes, this team is somehow worse than those with Brad Boyes on line one, Tomas Fleischmann as the best forward, and when Tom Rowe was head coach. That might be more impressive than Antti Niemi making 52 saves.

The fans are more down in the dumps than ever, people have moaned for weeks that the season is over, that the people behind the bench need to change, even that the GM should be fired.

I’ve remained optimistic throughout this year, every win I hoped would turn a corner, but there ultimately just seems like there’s nothing left anymore.

I don’t think there’s enough in the tank for another late season playoff push, and even if there was, is it worth it?

Steve Goldstein made a serious point about talking about a possible return of Vincent Trocheck after the All-Star Game on last night’s broadcast.

If it’s up to me, don’t bring him back this season, don’t risk any kind of re-injury, it’s not worth it, shut him down.

Some people are even saying that the Panthers need to sell at the deadline and offload Hoffman, Dadonov, or a mixture of both.

I think that’s just panicking, Hoffman has been our best winger this year, and Dadonov is having a rough stretch of games.

In terms of team staff, they all shouldn’t be around after this year. Boughner, Jack Capuano, and Dale Tallon should all be lucky if they’re anywhere near this organization next season.

This is one of the biggest wastes of talent in the NHL this season, and this could possibly go down as the most disappointing Florida Panthers seasons ever. Way to celebrate 25 years of Panthers hockey, am I right?

Next. 2019 NHL Draft Prospect Rankings. dark

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