Third Period Rally Not Enough For Panthers

After seven games to open the season that saw the Florida Panthers produce inconsistent effort from night-to-night and even period-to-period, a pleasant trend over the past three games (all at home) is the consistency in work-rate . Tuesday night in Sunrise, the Panthers battled back from a two-goal, third period deficit to force overtime and a shootout but, in the end, the defending Stanley Cup Chicago Blackhawks walked out with a 3-2 SO win.
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Game Day Preview: Hawks vs. Panthers. Everybody’s Got A Hunger


GAME DAY SONG: Prove It All Night, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

When the schedule for this season came out, the only game that was on my must see list besides opening night was this one.  As a native Chicagoan this is my game of the year here in South Florida, and yet I wish it wasn’t so early into the season.  Mostly because the Florida Panthers are still trying to locate their identity, while the Chicago Blackhawks know exactly what there’s is.

In hopes of seeing a match that isn’t one sided, the Florida Panthers may be able to build on Saturday night’s shootout win against the Minnesota Wild.  The difference between a record of 3-6-0 is certainly better than 2-7-0, which would have included a four game losing streak to boot.  Saturday’s game featured a number of different line combinations, and a number of different players who saw their ice time reduced.  Forwards like Brad Boyes and Scott Gomez both saw limited action in the final period, as did defenceman Erik Gudbranson who seemed to struggle with his decisions.  Head coach Kevin Dineen is starting to make players more accountable by limiting their ice time, and it’s ab out time.  This comment after Saturday’s game accurately describes his sentiment:

“It’s a tale of two cities with our team,” Dineen said. “I talked before the season about accountability before the season and guys who weren’t playing well didn’t see much ice in the third. I think that it’s starting to take affect, knowing this is a performance-based business. Do your job, you’ll be OK.”

In the middle of a six game homestand, things don’t get easier or simpler tonight with the fast and high-powered offence of the defending Stanley Cup champions in town.  Florida who should be rested after taking Sunday off, will need to be at their very best tonight in what will be another in a long line of tests this early in the season.  While the pace of Saturday night’s game was fit for watching paint dry, this one has the potential to be over early if Florida isn’t ready.

The Panthers who have proved that when they play a full 60 minutes, they can be a competitive team giving themselves a chance to win.  The key is playing smart, giving full effort, and creating scoring chances, while limiting turnovers, odd man rushes and taking ill-advised penalties.  One would argue that’s the recipe that every team hopes for, however the Panthers are still learning that in order to be consistent, those are the things they have to do on a regular basis.

If the Panthers decide to match their speed with the Hawks, the contest will be over soon, unless the boys from the Windy City are suffering from heat stroke or sunburn.  The best way for Florida to beat the Hawks, or at least keep the contest close is to (dare I say) slow things down.  Finishing checks, clogging up the neutral zone, and limiting shots on goal is the best method to stay in this game.  The Panthers have speed, but they won’t match the speed, and quickness of the Blackhawks, who also are extremely adept at getting out of their zone quickly and efficiently.  While I’m not an expert, I’ve certainly watched enough Blackhawks games to know that frustrating them is the best way to beat them.  The question will be can the Panthers accomplish that, and if so, can they do it successfully for 60 minutes.

The Blackhawks feature one of the best core units of players in the game today.  Captain Jonathan Toews is undoubtedly one of the best two-way players in the NHL, and often puts the team on his back.  His support comes from players like Marian Hossa, who is another solid two-way player that’s strong on the puck, Patrick Sharp, a player that besides being good-looking, has one of the most accurate one timers in the game, and is a goal scorer who is due to go on a hot streak.  Of course you’re all familiar with Patrick Kane.  Kane is a gifted player who has speed, can dazzle you with his moves, and has a habit of scoring goals in bunches, as well as in the clutch.  Should this game go to a shootout, the Hawks will present a stern challenge to Florida, and these four players are among the best in the game.

There’s speed and quick puck movement throughout this lineup, including the defence, which features a core that any team would be jealous of.  Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are usually inseparable, but head coach Joel Quenneville at times breaks them up to help them regain their focus.  Johnny Oduya, Niklas Hjalmarssen and Nick Leddy all are good at moving the puck, and Hjalmarssen is their best shot blocker.  Leddy is only 22 and his ceiling hasn’t been reached yet.  His ability to move the puck and join the rush lessens the loss of trading Brian Campbell to the Panthers more and more.  Making smart decisions is still something the youngster is learning, and yet his development improves with more responsibility.

One of the traits of Chicago is their ability to score in bunches as was evidenced in their 3-1 victory over Toronto Saturday night, which saw them score three goals in the second period.  Sometimes it’s as if they’re waiting for a moment in the game where the opposition has relaxed, or become complacent, and before you know it…..boom you’re trailing.  The one area this season that hasn’t been entirely evident is the ability to finish teams off.  The Hawks have one regulation loss and two in overtime.  All three were due to leads that were lost in the later part of the games.  Something that rarely happened last season.  If my memory is right, I believe I read that the Hawks have only trailed in games this season by a combined total of just under six minutes.

Rookie Brandon Pirri scored in his second straight game, and also has an assist in the three games he’s played since being called up from Rockford in the AHL.  In seven previous games covering three years overall, Pirri was held scoreless, so he’s trying to make the most of his opportunity:

“The puck’s just finding my stick right now, so it’s a lot of fun,” Pirri said. “I’m just trying to do the little things right.”

Corey Crawford is the number one netminder and he’s backed up by former Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Nikolai Khabibulin. Crawford who was signed to a six year deal over the summer will carry the load for Chicago this season, has played in seven of the teams eight games, and will get the call tonight facing Tim Thomas.  Khabibulin has appeared in one game, which was a 3-2 victory over the New York Islanders back on Friday October 11th, and is due for some action.  With seven games in the next 14 days, look for his role to become slightly more prominent.

The Hawks and Panthers haven’t played each other since January 2012.  The Hawks have won the last three contests outscoring Florida 10-3.

In closing today’s preview, my hope is that tonight’s game will be an entertaining one.  With all the speed and skill on Chicago, the Panthers hopefully can use that to motivate them to rise to the occasion.  If the Panthers are going to get better, this is a game where they’ll need to prove it.

Thanks for reading.  We welcome your comments and opinions.

Follow the Panther Parkway crew on Twitter: Frank Rekas @FrankRekas, David Lasseter @davidlasseter , Paige Lewis @PaigeLewisFL, Jameson Cooper @JamesonCoop, and Amanda Land @HockeyGirl2530.  Also, please join our FaceBook Fan Page and hit the like button, send us photos, and tell us what’s on your mind.

Is Kane Able To Rise To The Occassion One More Time?


One More Time.

In June of 2010 the Chicago Blackhawks were in the exact same position that they’ll be in tonight.  A chance to win the Stanley Cup on the opposition’s ice, and then celebrate with a victory parade at home with their fans later in the week.  I remember how I felt that day in June leading up to the game, as the time slowly ticked away throughout the day.  I was nervous, edgy, and unable to concentrate on work to my fullest.  I took nothing for granted that day, or night, and knew that it would be a battle till the end.  Patrick Kane scored the winning goal in overtime and 49 years of disappointment was erased for my hometown.

Tonight will be no different as the Hawks take on a rugged and equally determined Boston Bruins team that stands in the way of Chicago’s second Stanley Cup in four years.  There’s so much work to still be done, and so much can happen, that we may or may not have a winner this evening.  This Bruins team will not go down without a fight, and will throw everything they have at the Hawks in hopes of extending the series to a 7th game, which would then be at the United Center in Chicago Wednesday night.  Up to this point the series has provided the drama and storyline that we all had hoped for prior to its start, as two original six teams play for the toughest trophy in sports to win.

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Stanley Cup Final Observations. And These Romantic Dreams In My Head.

My game day song: No Surrender.

Today’s post isn’t featuring headlines but will focus on observations after game four, which I’ve had a couple days to think about. Tonight will be game five of the Stanley Cup Final which finds both teams even at two wins a piece.  As you know my loyalty is to the Blackhawks, so I warn you now that this will be leaning their way.

* For those of you who thought the Chicago Blackhawks were “done” after a game three loss, as a fan you should be ashamed of yourself.  This was the best team in the NHL this season and has displayed more heart and character than people give them credit for.  It’s now a best of three with Chicago having the home ice advantage.  I haven’t given up on this team, and even before Wednesday night’s game, I was confident.  Nothing has changed.  It’s two evenly matched teams playing each other in what is turning out to be a very exciting final.

* Have to credit Jonathan Toews for a very strong game 4 where he was reunited with Patrick Kane, scored a goal and was creating scoring chances all night, while being his usual defensive self.  Oh, yeah…Speaking of heart, that was Toews blocking out the much larger Zdeno Chara in front of Tuukka Rask on Brent Seabrook’s winning goal in overtime Wednesday night.

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Western Conference Final Preview: Hawks’ Speed vs. Kings’ Slothness

I don’t know who breathed a bigger sigh of relief after Brent Seabrook scored the winning goal to advance the Chicago Blackhawks past the Detroit Red Wings in a classic game seven battle……the fans of Chicago, or official Stephen Walkom.  But after Walkom theoretically should have bought dinner for the Hawks, we find ourselves here as the Western Conference Final begins in Chicago at the United Center this evening.

The Hawks ended a 49 year championship drought by winning the cup in 2010, and the Los Angeles Kings won their first ever cup in 2012 as an eighth seeded team.  One of these two powerhouses will have an opportunity to win it again after this series has been completed.  The two teams haven’t seen each other in the playoffs since 1974 when I was….nevermind.  So there’s no historic rivalry from the past to be concerned with like there was with Detroit, although going forward both teams could be seeing quite a bit of each other.

During the shortened season Chicago won two of three from the Kings beginning with a 5-2 victory at the home opener which put a damper on the opening night celebration at the Staples Center.  It was a tight series overall with Chicago outscoring the Kings 12-9, as each team managed 84 shots on goal, with both teams grabbing two power play goals a piece.  While the Blackhawks have the home ice advantage after winning the President’s Trophy as the leagues top team, they have their sites set on winning another championship, their second in four years.  The Kings are hell bent on repeating.  Not to make promises, but this is going to be a real showdown.

Let’s break it down a bit after the page break:

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Three Ingredients The Florida Panthers Need This Coming Season

As we move closer to hockey’s version of the “Final Four”, and with not much news to report here in Sunrise, let’s take a brief look at what some of the needs are for the Florida Panthers in the upcoming season.  With realignment, and new divisional foes, the Florida Panthers will be facing stiffer competition on a nightly basis within their division.  A seven team setup that includes Detroit, Boston, Montreal, Ottawa, Buffalo, Tampa and Toronto should force the Panthers to make some improvements to their roster, but at the same time acquire players that will help make this team playoff ready.  Not to focus on specific players that the Panthers should go after, we’ll focus more on what they need to add to become more competitive.

* The first “ingredient” so to speak is leadership.  The team is in need of a player that not only has a vocal presence in the dressing room and on the ice, but a player who can back up his statements with his play.  A true captain if you will similar to a Jonathan Toews or a Sidney Crosby, yet without as much offensive upside because we know those players cost too much for the Panthers at this point.  No offence to Ed Jovanovski who was the perfect selection as captain last season from the players on the roster, but with his season long injuries, the Panthers required a player to step up and take charge, and I’m not exactly sure if the Panthers have anyone else worthy of captaincy. While players such as Toews and Crosby are a special breed and hard to find, there are proven veteran leaders out there who have similar vocal and leadership qualities of those two.

If you go to Cap Geek and look at the top list of unrestricted free agents, there are some pretty significant names that are available this summer.  Pascal Dupuis could be someone that the Panthers can target, although he could demand too much money.  However, if you want to win, you have to spend some money, and sooner or later Florida must realize this.  Jarome Iginla is also on that list, and as much as I think he’d be an excellent acquisition, he’ll command far too much for the budget of this team at this point.  Brenden Morrow is another interesting name to look at, and for those who thought he might be at the end of his career, his resurgence with Pittsburgh and performance in the post season argues against that.  He just might be rejuvenated enough to give someone a couple of good years. The bottom line is that in order for Florida to grow, and succeed, they must mix in a few wily veterans who know how to win, and who are willing to show the youngsters how it’s done, and still have some game left.

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Panther Parkway Headlines: Hawks Stay Alive, Bruins Advance and More

 This is how you do a pregame.  Thank you HNIC


* The Three Stars for Saturday night. Puck Daddy.

* The Chicago Blackhawks and Jonathan Toews bounce back in game five.  Faith and confidence prevail.  Committed Indian.

* Preview of the Eastern Conference Final between Pittsburgh and Boston.

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Panther Parkway Headlines: Pens Advance, Alfie’s Future, Hawks Must Win, and More

What better way to spend your lunch break than catching up on all of last night’s amazing NHL action that you may have missed! Here are the top stories and videos from the all of yesterday’s action around the NHL.

* Friday night’s Three Stars from Puck Daddy.

* James Neal’s hat trick leads the Penguins to victory over Ottawa, advancing the the Eastern Conference Finals. TSN.

* Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson ponders his future.

* The Hawks faithful remain, in many places.  If you love sports, read these: Committed Indian, View From My Seats.

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When Faith Is Your Reason To Believe.

This is a Florida Panther website, but everyone knows that having been born in Chicago, and having lived there longer than some of your are old, there’s no way that my roots can be forgotten.  With the Florida Panthers out of the post season picture, my focus has turned exclusively to the team I grew up watching since I was a toddler, the Chicago Blackhawks.  And here we are in round two with my beloved Hawks facing elimination on Saturday night at the hands of a red hot goaltender named Jimmy Howard and the Detroit Red Wings.

For a team that started out the year so strongly and literally waltzed through most of the shortened regular season, Chicago is in a very unfamiliar place as they ponder what adjustments need to be made today prior to game five in Chicago on Saturday night.  Maybe winning the President’s Trophy truly is a jinx.  Maybe they peaked too early.  Maybe they’re out of gas.  Maybe the frustration that’s written all over Jonathan Toews’ face is a representation of how the entire team feels.  Maybe Detroit is really good.  And maybe the Wings have found a way to beat the Hawks at their own game.  Maybe I shouldn’t have eaten the chicken salad from the office deli. Who knows?

I will tell you this.  The series isn’t over despite the fact that Chicago is down three games to one.  Two of the next three games are at the United Center in Chicago.  I firmly expect the Blackhawks will win game five tomorrow night at the Madhouse on Madison, and then it’s all about game six at “The Joe”.  Similar to what Sam Fells from the Committed Indian says at the end of this post, if you can get to game six and take that to tie it up, then it’s all down to game seven on your home turf.  It truly is what you play for.

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Western Conference Preview: Blackhawks vs. Red Wings. The Ultimate Rivalry

Once of hockey’s greatest and oldest rivalries faceoff against each other tonight as the Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings meet for the last time as division rivals, and for the 16th time in the playoffs.  The last time they met in the post season was in 2009 when Detroit was just a little too much for an up and coming young Blackhawks team that was only just beginning to put things together.  Detroit beat the Hawks in five games en route to a second consecutive appearance in the Stanley Cup Final losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Personal observation by this writer, some of which has been up close over the years, leads me to say that this is the marque series in round two of the playoffs regardless of the fact that the Red Wings are aging, and have a very porous defence.  The Blackhawks who at times seemed to have coasted in their opening round series against the Minnesota Wild, know that they’ll have to use another gear against a Red Wings team that is full of pride despite being overmatched. This shouldn’t be a problem for the Hawks who had difficulty with Minnesota in game three of the five due to the fact that the Wild played with an enormous amount of physicality.  Ultimately that worked to the Hawks advantage as Minnesota seemed to tire as games four and five wore on.  Chicago’s speed and skill were just too much for the Wild to handle, and Corey Crawford whom in the pre season was the biggest question mark the Hawks had to deal with was just outstanding in goal.

What makes Chicago difficult to match up against is the fact that they can roll four lines consistently, and have the luxury of splitting up Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane on a regular basis.  Yet when head coach Joel Quenneville feels he needs some extra juice, he moves Kane to the top line with Toews and Marian Hossa, allowing the Hawks to “load up”.  The top six set of forwards for Chicago is as talented as they come, and the bottom six is able to play and contribute some important goals needed.

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