Saturday, March 21, 2009

My Heart Can't Take Much More Of This

On a night the Panthers had a chance to jump back into the top 8, Columbus ripped the rug out from under Florida's collective feet. While the Cats held onto a 1-0 lead for most of this game, that nagging feeling started creeping into the back of my mind... "We aren't going to win this game 1-0."

How right I was. With just 2:46 left in the game, Raffi "I don't sing for kids" Torres tied it up with a nifty one-timer off an even niftier saucer pass from some guy named Huselius (remember him?). Ok, fine. We'll go to OT, take the point, and pray for it to end before the shootout. Oops... Just over a minute later, with just over a minute left in the game, Torres did it again. This time, a wrist shot that never left the ice found its way between Tomas Vokoun's pads. An empty net goal later and my heart burn returned.

Florida played well tonight, no doubt. Not great, but they controlled play for good portions of time. They had plenty of time in the attacking zone, even if they didn't always get shots through. The stats say that Florida managed just 23 SOG, but they had plenty of chances. I'm not sure of the exact number of shots that missed the net or were blocked, but it's safe to say there was a plethora of them. When you face a top level netminder like Steve Mason (9 shutouts this season), you're going to squeeze the stick a little harder. You're going to try to pick out the perfect play. In reality, it's the ugly goals that get past the #1 'tenders more often then not. Rusty Olesz's goal is a perfect example. Nick Tarnasky simply threw the puck towards the front of the net, it bounced around, and Olesz was able to poke it past. The 4th line tonight had as many, if not more, scoring chances then the top lines. Why? They aren't looking to make a pretty pass (Zednik, Weiss, Dvorak... I'm talking to you). When the "talent" on this team enters the zone, they look for the neat drop pass, they look for the tic-tac-toe. When Nasty Nick gets the puck in the offensive zone, it's full steam ahead and bulldoze the puck into the net. Guess which way has been working best lately... Shoot it, shoot it again, and then shoot some more. To steal a line from my favorite movie, "You don't have enough talent to win on talent alone."

And as for the GWG... As cool and calm as Vokoun looked most of the night, that's one he needs to stop. Yes, it was a quick shot. Yes, Keith Ballard was kind of screening him. But Vokoun was ready, square to the shooter, and in position to make that save. You can't let pucks through your legs like that. Not in a game like this, at a time like that.

The only good news one could take out of tonight is that 8th seed Montreal lost again. It looks like it will be a 2-team race for the 8th and final spot. Florida, who's now lost 5 of their last 6, are trying to out-slump the Canadiens, losers of 6 in a row. The Rangers, Penguins, and Hurricanes have all found their winning ways and are starting to pull ahead. The 10th seed Sabres don't look like they have a late push in them. It will probably be between Montreal and Florida. Both teams have 10 games left. Next for Florida, Monday night against the Hurricanes. Until then.

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