Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Panthers 3 - Penguins 4 (SO)

You know that feeling you get when you get a birthday check from your grandparents? It's usually a lot more money then anyone else gave you. You didn't really do anything to deserve it, and you feel kind of guilty for taking it. But you know you need it and certainly aren't giving it back.

That's kind of how I felt last night after stealing a point in a shootout loss to the Penguins. The Panthers didn't derseve a point. They didn't deserve to be on the same ice as the Pens. Out shot 50-21. Fifty shots against. 5-0. Twenty-one for. Ugly. Now the Panthers are not strangers to giving up high shot totals, but usually they do a good job of keeping the shots from long range and clearing rebounds. Not tonight. It looked like the Penguins had a 45 minute power play (they actually had 6 PP's. If you're looking for something positive other then Vokoun's play, it was the penalty killers going 6 for 6 against a very potent Pittsburgh power play). There were brief stretches of pressure for the Cats, and they somehow scored 3 goals on 7 shots in the 2nd period. But Vokoun earned them the point. And in the end, that's all that really matters.

Faceoffs are another area that Florida is really hurting. Pittsburgh won 36 faceoffs, compared with just 27 for Florida. That's not an awful disparity, but it's the important ones the Florida seems to lose most often. Losing an offensive zone draw and allowing an easy clear. Losing the defensive zone faceoff and letting Pittsburgh set up right away. Only Stephen Weiss had a winning percentage in the circle. There was a reason Jacques Martin was looking for a center at the trade deadline...

One last thing before I start remembering the positives. It looked to me that Pittsburgh was simply walking across the blue line every time they controlled the puck. No backcheck pressure from the forwards, no high pressure from the defense. The Penguins rarely had to dump and chase, Florida just let them in the zone. On the other side, Florida couldn't get into the Pens zone to save their life. Save for an end to end rush from Keith Ballard or a rare turnover by Pittsburgh, Florida never seemed to set up their offense. Passes were being caught by players standing still. Movement off the puck was non-existant. Give credit to Pittsburgh, but Florida made it so much easier then it should have been in a "playoff-type" game.

Oh wait, one more thing. Florida still hasn't figure out that whole shoot out thing...

Almost forgot. Florida did get a point last night, a very important point. It was also nice seeing Nick Boynton make the most of his opportunity, getting a goal and an assist. Also nice to see Kamil Kreps step up and add his 4th goal of the year. The Panthers are now tied with Carolina for 7th\8th in the east. Pittsburgh moves ahead into 6th all by their lonesome. Montreal, overtime winners last night, is back in solo 5th. The NY Rangers are a point behind the Florida\Carolina spot. The Cats' next opponent, Buffalo, is 4 points back in 10th. Florida has to, has to, come out firing on all cylinders if they hope to get a W against a desperate Sabres team that is struggling to stay in the playoff picture.

The Panthers, like myself, have to focus on the positives, put this game behind them, and focus on getting the next 2 points tomorrow. Until then...

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