Friday, December 12, 2008

Panthers 3 - Flames 2 (SO); Same Old Story...

I think I've had this deja vu feeling before... The Flames and Panthers traded goals in the first 2 periods, a scoreless 3rd, Stephen Weiss game winner, albeit in a shootout. 2 points. Love it.

The story of the night was the return of Tomas Vokoun. 35 saves on 37 shots, and most importantly, 17 of 17 in the 3rd period, and 2 of 2 in the OT. The Panthers were playing their 2nd game in as many nights, and it showed in the final period. Florida was outshot 17-4, and spent much of the period clearing pucks from in front of Vokoun. Plenty got through, and T-Vo was ready. Having not started since November 26, he was as sharp as ever. Except for a beautiful own-goal tip in by Stephen Weiss (which I'm sure made his winner in the shootout feel that much better), and a deft, behind the back, behind the net pass to Rene Borque as Nick Boynton stood idly by, Vokoun was as solid as ever. It was great to see him make the most of his opportunity and get the result he deserved. If he has anything over Craig Anderson right now, it's his shootout performance. Vokoun stopped all 3 shooters tonight, including renowned sniper Jarome Iginla.

The offense was as sporadic as ever. The first 2 periods were consistent. Lots of hard work, super aggressive forecheck, defensemen taking chances up ice, the usual PDeB style, which makes the Cats first goal that much more of an oddity. While shorthanded, Kamil Kreps intercepted a pass at his own blue line and had a clear cut breakaway from the red line. A cute little deke and backhand flip later, and Kreps finally had his first goal of the season. For a team that doesn't get many clear chances, it's nice to see someone take advantage of one. While hockey purists might not find the Panthers style of hockey entertaining, it is effective (or affective, I never am sure). Guys, or girls, who like 1-0 pitching duels, or 10-7 defensive football games, would love Florida hockey. Lots of neutral ice play, solid in their own end, dump and chase in the offensive zone. It isn't pretty. But there is nothing wrong with thriving on "ugly" goals, and right now the Panthers are playing hockey that's been beaten with the ugly stick (which is a good thing, remember?).

5 straight road wins. 7-1-2 in their last 10, 3 games over .500?? Not even a month ago, this team was living in the NHL's basement, and starting to look comfortable down there. No offense, lethargic on defense, no signs of improvement anywhere to be found. Now look where they are. 2nd in the division and tied with Buffalo for the 8th seed in the East! While I do my best to keep my hopes locked away until at least March, this team is playing well. With the possibility of one, if not a few, of the regulars returning to action on Sunday, it will be interesting to see who gets left out and how the returnees get into the system. Since Nathan Horton went out on November 26, the Panthers are 6-1-1. I'm interested, if not wary, to see who's on the ice Sunday and how it goes. Day off on Saturday, then off to Vancouver Sunday, where they may or may not see good ol' Roberto Luongo. Until then...

No comments: