The Panthers’ improbable playoff run continues tonight when they face off against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final.
This is yet again another round where the Cats will play the role of the underdog. To say I’m nervous for this series would be me sounding like a broken record because I have been nervous about each series thus far.
This one carries a bit more nerves, though. This is due to the fact that it’s the ECF (obviously) and it’s against the Hurricanes — a team who has been a proverbial thorn in the paw of the Cats for a while now.
While both non-traditional market teams have gone through their own stretches of “dark days,” Carolina has a Cup under their belt (2005-06) and have experienced steady success the past number of years. Through savvy drafting/dealings, and bringing in Rod ‘The Bod’ Brind’Amour, the Canes have seen both regular and postseason success all while gaining legitimacy in the league along the way.
This trend has continued into this season, where Carolina finished No.1 in the Atlantic Division with a 52-21-9 record. Their offense has been great these playoffs, amassing 40 goals so far. To add to that, their defense has been solid. Led by Burns and Slavic, the Canes have allowed 28 goals and have done a good job suppressing shots from the opposition.
Adding to their postseason success is the play of goaltender Frederick Anderson, who has a .931 SV% and 1.80 GAA after facing 140 shots.
The Catnip for Success
The Cats took a bit of a step back in Games 4 and 5 of the second round (in my opinion). Prior to these games, Florida felt like they were leaving it all on the line and playing a dangerous game of hockey. Since most people didn’t believe they had a snowball’s chance against Boston and Toronto, I felt they played with a “we’re gonna show them” attitude, until it came time to closing things out against the Leafs. It was at this time that it looked like they blinked, so to speak. Games 4 and 5 of that series saw they play a little bit more conservative and rather then bring the pace and the game to the opponent, they found themselves backing up at times and having it taken to them.
They lost that maverick spirit amongst a sea of over-passing and the fear of losing.
I believe the only way to play Carolina will be getting back to that high octane, physical hockey. Look to Tkachuk, Bennett, Lomberg (if he’s back), etc., to lead the charge in this department.
Bob will have to continue be very sharp because a lot of rubber will be coming his way. Florida’s defense would do right to try and contain the high-powered offense of Carolina to the outsides and clear the goalmouth in order to give Bob the best chance to see the puck all night. They will have to be active offensively, too.
Conversely, the Panthers’s offense needs to continue their trend of getting pucks on net and make sure there’s a ton of traffic out front.
Cliche? General stuff, right? Yep. But that’s what works! Don’t overcomplicate things. Play the game that has been giving you success; that’s a strong forecheck that forces the defense to make mistakes, taking the body and striking when opportunity arises via natural or manufactured means.
Cats can set the tone with a big win tonight!
Just for Fun
I hope this AI is wrong…
Big game. Huge moment. GO PANTHERS!