The Panthers had a tough 5-4 OT loss against the Capitals on Thursday night.
"Tough" not in a sense that they were outplayed, or looked bad..."tough" because they hung with one of the best teams in the league and came close to getting the win and two points - but we'll settle for one point.
Truth be told, I was really impressed with Florida in this game. There were a number of times where they were in complete control. This was especially evident in the first period. After going down 1-0 quickly, the Cats responded to tie it at 1-1 and took off from there. Washington was on their heels for a good portion of the first and it looked as though they might not have an answer for Florida's pace. I thought it was encouraging (and pretty wild) to see Holtby out of position a couple times due to the pressure applied by the Cats.
However, like good teams tend to do, the Capitals made adjustments during the intermission and came out strong in the second. From then on, the back-and-forth excitement really ramped up and unfortunately ending in Washington's favor after seizing an opportunity after an Ekblad breakaway (man was that close!) was stopped by Holtby in OT.
The major takeaway from this game to me was that the Panthers held their own against a very, very strong team in the Capitals. It would be unrealistic to think Washington would lay down and die. They're just too good of a team and have too much fire power on that roster. But the Cats went the distance with them while missing the services of two important players (Acciari and Trocheck). Props to Toninato for holding his own as the fourth line center. Once again they were a major force on the ice and they brought a lot of energy. Toninato's tenacity was very impressive and nice to see.
Each game these guys seem to be kicking up their play and the confidence is evident - both in the players and fans. But while the positives have outweighed the negatives lately, there were things that stuck out to me as being areas to focus on to really get themselves to that next level. I was pleased to see that Litter Box Cats
saw some of the same things I did.
1. The Power Play:
Florida went 1/5 on the man advantage Thursday night. According to Fox Sports
, the Panthers are sitting at 15th in the league for goals on the PP (tied with TOR and MTL). While I'm not sure where they were at this time of the season last year, it's a bit off from where they ended up - which was second in the league in that category with 72 goals. The Cats currently have had 46 PP opportunities and scored 10 times (21.7%).
It feels like this team is coming together and are slowly becoming more and more dangerous each night. If they can get this PP back to being dominant, that will give them another (huge) weapon to use and another thing teams will have to take into account when putting together a game plan - not to mention the fact that it'll put more pucks in the opposition's net...which is always a good thing!
2. Time to Hassle the Hoff:
Piggybacking off point #1, Hoffman is tied very closely to the PP. It makes sense because he's the lynchpin and has had a lot of success in that role. But I agree with Litter Box Cats...it's gotten stale. There's no secret that Florida is going to feed Hoffman the puck for one-timers while on the PP. We know it and so does the opposition.
Ironically, the Capitals seem to the do the same thing with Ovi that the Panthers do with Hoffman, but the results are much different. Obviously the Great 8 and Hoffy are different players talent-wise, but I've always been very impressed with the fact that everyone in the league knows Washington is going to get the biscuit to Ovi on the man advantage, and yet he/they still find a way to bury it.
While I'm not sure what exactly the Panthers should do with the stagnate PP, I do know they need to get it going and soon. Side note, Hoffman needs to get going at even-strength, too...
Set Sail to the Island
No surprises that the Panthers pick back up against another strong team this afternoon in New York when they take on the Islanders.
NYI has been red-hot and recently had a 10-game win streak come to an end Thursday night in a 4-3 OT loss to the Pens, so they should be pretty mad and looking to get back into the win column and possibly beak off and start another streak.
New York has worked well as a cohesive unit and they have the results to prove it. Even with injuries to players like Jordan Eberle, Nick Leddy and Leo Komarov, they're still winning. In fact, they could be back to full strength soon, as all three players practiced Friday.
Beating a team that's 11-3-1and looking to extend their point streak to 12 is not an easy task, but Florida has shown they can hang with some of the league's strongest teams. What could be timely a boost for the Cats heading into this contest is the return of Trocheck, which seems like a possibility according to Q after Friday's practice, "He looked good. We're going to look to get him in tomorrow."
Trocheck was centering the second line during practice. This bumped Boyle down to the fourth line, which, personally, I'd love to see. I liked what I saw in Toninato, I'm curious what Boyle can do in that spot - assuming he takes it over.
Keep an eye out for Derick Brassard. The guy who had a cup of coffee in Florida last year has gone on to become a leader for the Islanders and scored in five games in a row. I know he seemed to not be a favorite during his short stint here, but I liked him and wanted to see what he would have done with more time in a Panthers sweater.
Three Players I'm Watching
Sceviour, Hunt and Vatrano have been sniffing around the net lately - with the latter scoring a nice goal against the Caps. I feel like these three guys might break out a bit during this New York and Boston trip. Their energy has been great!
An early start today, boys...let's get it done!
PS - Love seeing all the cookie dusters on the ice supporting Movember.