Friday, October 31, 2008

Off-day Notes

Jassen Cullimore has made it through customs and was able to practice with the Panthers today. Considering the oft-talked about injuries on the blue line, Cullimore should get plenty of ice time starting tomorrow in Nashville. We need him, too. With our top defensemen averaging over 25 minutes a game, it's starting to show in the 3rd period. Fatigue this early in the season can't be good. We need those fresh legs!

Speaking of tomorrow night, Craig Anderson will get the start. Vokoun played admirably against Ottawa, stopping 27 of 29 shots. I'm sure Vokoun will start Sunday on the Sunday night.

Shawn Matthias was sent back to AHL Rochester after playing just over 7 minutes in his debut on Thursday. He didn't play poorly or make any mistakes, but Cullimore needs a roster spot.

Stephen Weiss and Greg Campbell will not play this weekend due to their nagging injuries.

The Panthers kick off a 5 game road trip tomorrow that will take them through Nashville, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Anaheim. The next home game for the Cats is November 12th against their cross state rivals Tampa Bay Lightning. The Panthers should be better then Phoenix and L.A. If they can steal 1 from Nashville or Anaheim and get the big win against the in-division Thrashers, it'd be a good trip. 3-2 is do-able.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Senators 2 - Panthers 1: Lots of Guts, No Glory

The Florida Panthers lost consecutive games for the first time this season, falling to the Ottawa Senators 2-1 tonight. Dany Heatley and Chris Kelly scored the goals for the Sens, while Keith Ballard got the tally for Florida.

The game was highlighted by strong defensive play from both teams. Much of the night was spent mucking through the neutral zone, fighting for loose pucks along the boards, and skating from end to end after numerous icings. The Panthers struck first, on the power play of all things. A 5-on-3 power play, true, but a special teams goal, none the less. With Rostislaz Olesz screening the Ottawa netminder, Ballard picked his spot and let loose a twisted wrister to the far post.

Much of the 2nd period was spent in between the blue lines. Only 2 real chances for both teams. Nathan Horton clanked the iron with a quick wrist shot, and a bad turnover behind the net by Nick Boynton led to a theft by Tomas Vokoun.

The 3rd period belonged to the Ottawa Senators. They were able to tie the game on the power play, after a somewhat confusing delay of game call on Cory Stillman. In any case, Dany Heatley took the opportunity, came out from the corner, and snapped off a wicked shot, beating Vokoun to the short side. Then, the inevitable happened. After Vokoun stopped a wrap around attempt, a scrum ensued, and sure enough, there was Chris Kelly to score his first goal of the year while the Panthers looked on. You could have fit all 6 Panthers into a 5 foot circle, yet Kelly wandered through the crowd untouched to poke home the loose puck before Vokoun could cover it. A last second chance for the Panthers went by the wayside when Cory Stillman's stick snapped on a one timer after a great effort by the Cats to set up the 6 on 5 with Vokoun out of the net.

Quick Hits
  • Just like their first meeting with Ottawa, the Panthers started strong, and faded late. Although they weren't outshot 26-3 in the final period, they were outplayed and outchanced.
  • The most threating Panthers are the defensemen. Keith Ballard is tied for the team lead in points, and Jay Bouwmeester appears to be one of the more confident skaters with the puck. We knew goals would be hard to come by this year, but the forwards are going to have to pick up the pace if we hope to make a playoff run. Horton, I'm talking to you!

  • Not to completely deflate our offense, there were a couple bright spots. Radek Dvorak and David Booth continue to grind. Both players tonight were aggresive on the forecheck and fearless in the corners. They both only officialy accounted for 1 shot on goal each, the effort was there.

  • There were also low lights. Nathan Horton continues to lack the goal scorers mentality. One play that stuck out; after a strong fore check from Olesz created a turnover, Horton and Stillman joined Olesz on a 3 on 2. Horton dished to Stillman, then meandered his way to the net as Stillman took the shot. You have to crash the net, take a defender with you, do something to create an opportunity. That's just one play, I know, but it's the mindset.
  • Shawn Matthias' 2008 debut was uneventful. He had one fleeting chance, but his shot missed horribly. Michael Frolik has yet to register a point through his 6 games played.
The Panthers have Halloween off before kicking off a 5 game road trip in Nashville Saturday night. To take a phrase from EA Sports' NHL 09, the Panthers have too many "grinders," not enough "snipers." The effort is there, the work ethic is there, they just don't have that player to go to when they need to finish.

Senators vs. Panthers: Preview

The opponent: Ottawa Senators. The Sens are 3-5-1 on the young season, although they are coming off of an good showing in a 5-2 win in Buffalo on Monday. The top line of Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley, and Jason Spezza is an impressive offensive unit. They combined for 3 goals and 7 points in their win on Monday. Alex Auld will get his 2nd straight start in net for Ottawa. Auld actually came into the NHL with the Panthers, who drafted him in the 2nd round of the 1999 entry draft.

Meanwhile, the Panthers are 4-4-0 and coming off of their worst performance of the year; a 4-0 shutout in St. Louis. The Cats special teams have been the talk of the town through the first 8 games, albeit for all the wrong reasons. 0 for 14 in the last 4 games, the powerplay has struggled to find any kind of flow. The penalty kill is 25th in the league at 75%.

With all the injuries on defense, the Panthers signed Jassen Cullimore on Tuesday. He is still stuck in Canada, thanks to some sort of immigration issues. So the thin blue line (pun intended) may get some help from winger Wade Belak. According to the Sun Sentinel, Belak has spent the last 2 days practicing as a defenseman. "If I'm on 'D' it's fine — I'm comfortable back there," he said. "It doesn't really matter. I've been [switching] my whole career." Add another "B" to the Killer B's on the "B"lue line.

Another addition to tonight's game; the highly anticipated debut of Shawn Matthias. Through 8 games played with AHL affiliate Rochester, Matthias has just 1 goal and 1 assist. We'll see what kind of action he gets tonight, if any.

The Panthers did take the first game in the series earlier in the year. Despite being outshot 26-3 in the third period, Craig Anderson stood tall and the Cats won 3-1. Martin Gerber was in net for the Senators. Tonight, 2 different 'tenders will be 'tween the pipes (Auld for the Senators, Vokoun for the Cats). Game time is 7:30.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Blueline Bolstered - Cullimore Signed

According to; The Panthers have reacquired the services of Jassen Cullimore. The 35 year old defenseman played in 65 games for the Panthers last year, and averaged over 18 minutes of ice time per game.

Definitely seen as more of a "defensive defenseman," this move shores up the injury riddled blue line for the Cats. Jay Bouwmeester, Keith Ballard, and Nick Boynton have been moving the puck into the attack very effectively this year. Noah Welch and Karlis Skrastins have been vying for ice time, and they should start seeing some on Thursday. Jason Garrison was called up for the game in St. Louis, and played admirably, even seeing some power play time. Now, adding Cullimore into the mix makes for an interesting balance on the back line.

I'm interested to see what coach DeBoer will do with his defensive pairings. He's kept the ex-Coyotes (Boynton and Ballard) together lately, and they have been playing well. Bouwmeester could see some time with Cullimore or one of the younger players (not that Jay is exactly old, but he is much more a veteran than Welch or Skrastins). Or we could see Ballard and Boynton broken up to allow for an attack-minded D-man with a more patient, defensive minded guy in each pairing. In any case, for a team that has been so weak defensively over the past 3 or 4 or 8 seasons, this seems like a nice problem to have. See you on Thursday.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Off-day Blues

The Panthers are continuing to regroup after a rigorous 4 game in 6 night stretch, that as the team go 2-2. The Cats played tough against 3 highly talented teams (Montreal, Ottawa, and San Jose) and then laid an egg against the Blues.

More importantly, though, is the injury bug that has been infesting the Panthers locker room since day 1. On opening night in Carolina, Brian McCabe went down with a back injury. He appears closer to a return, although it is still at least a week away. Since then, the blueline has continued to thin out. Bryan Allen had knee surgery today and is out indefinitely. Cory Murphy hurt his shoulder in the St. Louis game.

That leaves Jay Bouwmeester, Nick Boynton, and Keith Ballard as the healthy, experienced defenseman. Noah Welch and Karlis Skrastins will have a chance to make a name for themselves, as they are sure to pick up increased ice time. Depending on Murphy's MRI results, the Cats may be forced to recall Jason Garrison, who played respectably on Saturday in St. Louis.

Almost all of the off-season attention went to solidifying the blueline. Now, it appears to be a good thing, although for completely different reasons. Hopefully, the team can rally around the inexperienced and come out on the other side that much stronger. The Panthers head back to practice tomorrow, with Ottawa coming to town on Thursday.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Panthers 0 - Blues 4; Oops...

Maybe I should reconsider this blog thing... The Panthers gave their most lackluster effort of the young season tonight in St. Louis, going down to the Blues 4-0. Special teams, once again, separated the two teams. The Blues officially finished the night 2 for 7 on the powerplay, but two of those man up advantages came in the waning minutes of the game. The Panthers, on the other hand, finished 0 for 5, including a 5 on 3 for a full minute, and rarely threatened to create any type of chance.

The Panthers were badly outshot tonight, 31-17. Coming into tonight's game, the Cats were averaging over 32 shots per game. Tonight, it just wasn't there. True, they played a tough game last night in South Florida. True, they were playing their 3rd game in 4 nights. True, St. Louis has the best power play in the NHL and started the tallest goaltender in NHL history (6'7" Ben Bishop). Everything just stacked up against the Panthers tonight, even before the game started. Stephen Weiss was hurt pregame, causing DeBoer to mix and match his lines all night. With Brian McCabe still out with his bad back, and young defenseman Cory Murphy injured during last night's game against the Sharks, the Panthers called up Jason Garrison from AHL Rochester. There was even a Garrison sighting on the blueline during a powerplay. Yet one more hit to the blueline, Bryan Allen will undergo knee surgery and be out indefinitely.

One small bright spot: Newcomers Nick Boynton and Keith Ballard didn't take this loss lightly. Both were scrapping all night. Actually, both were trying to scrap with St. Louis Blues agitator Cam Janssen. Wade Belak also tried, unsuccessfully, to get Janssen to go late in the game. While this is hardly a "good loss", it is reassuring to see the new guys continuing to fight to the end. Maybe that old Panther attitude is still stuck on a few of those jerseys.

Now for the good news. Coach DeBoer and the Panthers are off until Thursday. 4 days to refocus, get some good practices in, and find that fight and drive that we saw over the last week or so.

Next game: 10\30 vs. Ottawa.
photo from

Off to a Decent Start

My creation and first posting is a little late, I realize that. 7 games into the season, the Panthers sit at a respectable 4-3. Coming off of an impressive 4-3 win at home againt the Western Conference best San Jose Sharks, the Panthers travel to St. Louis tonight to try to stretch the early season winning streak to 3. ("Ok, guys. We've won two games in a row. If we win tonight, it's called a winning streak. It has happened before...")

Quick thoughts on the first 7 games: Except for a 6-2 beating from the Minnesota Wild, the Panthers have looked good. Their other 2 losses were opening night in Carolina and in Montreal in a very even game against one of the favorites in the East. A good win in Ottawa and then in San Jose shows that this years Panthers may just have that extra edge that was lacking in the last few years. Special teams have not been kind to us so far. The power play is struggling, and the penalty kill has been ineffective, at best. The addition of Ballard and Boynton have been huge, as they have carried the puck with confidence and added to the offense. Cory Stillman was also a key acquisition. It's early on, I realize, but he looks like the kind of veteran leader we never really got in Olli. His 2 Cup rings probably helps...

Craig Anderson will get his 2nd start tonight. Stephen Weiss is out, sustaining a groin injury during pre-game warmups, so we'll see what kind of line change-ups that will force Coach DeBoer to make. Check back in post-game.

This was my first posting, so there were a few things to get caught up on. From now on, hopefully, they will be much more focused.