After dropping a home contest to the LA Kings, the Florida Panthers squandered a great opportunity to keep pace with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs.
You can blame COVID and the powerplay, but when you have two consecutive games against teams you should beat, you have to take advantage of the opportunity given, especially at home.
One of the lone bright spots of the game was the first-career goal from Matt Kiersted, but the Panthers had a few opportunities to capitalize on their early 1-0 lead but ultimately fell short.
It was Sergei Bobrovsky‘s first loss at home this season, although he may have just gotten out-dueled by future Hall of Famer Jonathan Quick. However, despite Spencer Knight‘s struggles two days prior, the issue does not lie with the goaltending.
The issue for the Panthers is that they are not taking care of business at home at a time in the season when it is critical to take points. The pandemic is becoming more of a problem for every team in the NHL, and the Panthers are getting hit at the worst time.
Florida has matched up against Buffalo, St. Louis twice, Arizona, Colorado, Ottawa, and Los Angeles in their last seven games. In those games, the Panthers are 3-3-1. It simply is not good enough.
The Cats are down a handful of regulars at a point in the season where the schedule becomes unrelenting. Coming up on the schedule for the Panthers is Minnesota (39 pts) Chicago, (24 pts) Nashville, (35 pts), Carolina (39 pts), New York (41 pts), and Tampa Bay (40).
You can make the argument that five of those six teams on the upcoming schedule are legitimate playoff contenders. However, you cannot keep dropping critical points to teams like the LA Kings and the Ottawa Senators.
It could be a case where the Panthers need to adjust to playing shorthanded, but they will need to rely on their youth to get them through a critical stretch of games. First place in the Atlantic Division means more this year than in years past.
As fun as the Panthers, Lightning series was last postseason; Panthers fans everywhere should be hoping and praying that Tampa is not the first team they see coming out of the regular season.
The Panthers will look to bounce back on Saturday when they travel to the Central Division-leading Minnesota Wild. Hopefully, they won’t be playing two men short.