In previous seasons, the Florida Panthers’ fourth line philosophy has been stuck in the past, but this season, it looks to be changed for the better.
No disrespect to any of them, they’re all unbelievable people off the rink and I have the utmost respect for all of them, but even they know that they’re not going to be scoring many goals.
The Panthers’ fourth lines have always been near the bottom in terms of production. While it wasn’t the job of the players that played on that line to score goals, the philosophy was what was wrong.
The line’s purpose was to give the Panthers more grit and toughness, not having to force the younger players to have to defend themselves. Ultimately, the line was a liability, not giving the team much support to win.
Now, the Panthers’ fourth line isn’t just delivering high-quality scoring chances but is very well put together.
There isn’t going to just be one-fourth line, there are going to be four, five, even six or seven players that wind up playing on the line. For now, the line of Dryden Hunt, Noel Acciari, and Colton Sceviour, not only look good, but they look good together.
In game one versus Tampa Bay, one of the Panthers’ best chances of the night came early in the game from the fourth line. A breakout pass sent Dryden Hunt on a 3-on-2 opportunity in the neutral zone, and instead of dumping the puck in and allowing the lines to change, Hunt charged into Lightning territory.
Hunt did everything right on the play, the Lightning defenders were covering the pass, so Hunt went alone and shot. It was almost exactly where you’d want a shot to be, but the attempt banged off the top of the post and out, with Andrei Vasilevskiy having no chance to make the save.
In game two, they got their result. With the puck deep in the Tampa Bay zone, the Cats pressed the puck away, worked a great chance, and Noel Acciari claimed his first Florida goal.
With Kevin Shattenkirk retrieving the puck behind his goal, Acciari lays out a clean hit to force the puck free. Instantly, Hunt chases the puck down, taking it around the back before finding Colton Sceviour on his right-wing.
With Shattenkirk still down on the far side, forward Tyler Johnson has to commit to trying to stop Sceviour instead of worrying about the slot. Getting wide open in the slot was Acciari, who made a nifty move to get the backhand goal on Vasilevskiy to extend the Panthers’ lead to three.
Now, it’s only been two games, but in terms of the talent level, Florida are much improved on the bottom six. These three, Jayce Hawryluk, and Denis Malgin should all be players that fill in on the fourth line at the start of the season as Head Coach Joel Quenneville works out what his best team is.
Quenneville is also going to work with these guys to get the best out of his players. Colton Sceviour struggled immensely last season, but Quenneville wants to put him in positions where he can succeed, unlike previous bench boss Bob Boughner.
Even if it hasn’t been a full week of the season, you can tell this line looks much more determined than previous fourth lines.
These are players that are here that want to force chances, with Hunt determined to keep his place on the team, Acciari coming from a winning culture in Boston, and Sceviour looking to earn a new contract in July.
If this fourth line unit can emerge as one of the top half fourth lines in hockey, let alone just in recent Panthers history, the Cats should have a big boost in their quest to return to the playoffs.