Game 1: Panthers 3-6 Predators
While Florida got off to the much better start, they faltered after the halfway point in the game, as Nashville scored five unanswered to take game one. Breaking it down line-by-line, pairing-by-pairing, here is how each and every Panther played in game one.
The first line for Florida, consisting of Joel Lowry, Denis Malgin, and Brett Connolly featured Florida’s best player by far. Connolly’s first goal as a Panther came 6:20 into the first period, without a whole ton of help from his forwards.
Sceviour’s line was one that I was really looking forward to watching, but really let down in the first game. Sceviour’s goal came with him coming off the bench, not interacting with any of his linemates before putting a wrist shot through the five-hole of the goalie to make it 2-0.
Rodrigo Abols, in his debut, did well to position himself throughout the game, but never really was able to create separation and didn’t get a whole ton of service. Owen Tippett, who had some lofty expectations in camp, really failed to make an impact today, but there’s plenty of time for him to develop. I was really anticipating a big game from one of the two, but both fell short.
The third line also combined for a goal, but only one of the forwards really impressed me. Jayce Hawryluk got the goal and looked the best of the three forwards, but to be fair, he does have the most NHL experience. Hawryluk’s goal came on a well-positioned wrist shot from out in front, a powerful shot as well, to beat Grosenick.
The assist on that goal went to Blaine Byron, who had flashes of impressive play, but really failed to make a consistent impact on the game. The line’s center, Cliff Pu, really struggled to impress throughout the game, taking a penalty and struggling on offense. Pu played well on special teams but really didn’t make much of an impact at even strength.
The fourth line seriously struggled throughout the game. Patrik Bajkov had a decent start, but got into penalty trouble as the game went on and wound up hurting the Panthers rather than helping. The other two forwards, Adam Rockwood and Sebastian Repo, both failed to help the Panthers’ cause. Rockwood was a -3, and Repo took a penalty and was a -2.
On the defensive side of things, there were a lot of key mistakes from new faces. Other than the top pairing, there was plenty of blunders to go around.
That top pairing, Mark Pysyk and Jake Massie, actually really impressed me throughout the afternoon. I felt both put in mature performances, not making any mistakes, not trying to do anything too challenging, just keeping their minds in defensive positioning. There’s a saying that the less you hear from a defenseman, the better, and that applied to those two.
For the other two pairings, a lot of defensive mistakes. Recently I was surprised to see Riley Stillman training with Aaron Ekblad in camp scrimmages, which set the bar high for him, but he failed to really perform. He struggled to keep up with the Preds’ speed, gave up a few goals, and laid out a huge frustration hit late in the third period, which got him into a fight. Ethan Prow, his partner, looked fine, but he couldn’t bail his partner out enough.
On the third pairing, while Tommy Cross looked great in the beginning in the attacking end, his defense fell to shreds late in the game. He was caught out twice, especially on Pitlick’s goal, in which he overcommitted to the puck, allowing Nashville to break in on a 2-on-1. Alongside him, Brady Keeper was slightly better, but still showed plenty of rust.
For the goalies, Chris Driedger really impressed me between the pipes. He didn’t make too many “impressive” saves, but he did his job and kept out 15 of the 17 shots he faced. Desrosiers really came in at a bad time, and his defense didn’t help matters. One of the goals wasn’t his fault, but the other two he conceded he could have done better.