Sports Outside the Beltway

How about them Florida Panthers?

They’re one third of the way through the 2007-08 Hockey season. May as well talk about how they’re doing. This week they had a short week, only two games. How did the Cats fare against the NY Islanders last night?

SUNRISE – Before Friday’s game against the Islanders, Panthers coach Jacques Martin said he had told his forwards to quit trying to be so fancy and just put the puck on the net and his defenders to make a stand at the blue line.

The Panthers then went out and showed they had listened, controlling the action the entire game while out-shooting the Islanders 41-25 on the way to a 3-0 win.

The victory ended a three game Panthers’ losing streak, all at the BankAtlantic Center, and came via power-play goals by Stephen Weiss and Nathan Horton and an empty-net goal by Olli Jokinen with 12 seconds left in the game.

This was Vokoun’s second shutout of the season. Both coming against NY area teams, the first when he outdueled Martin Brodeur in an October game.

The win snapped a three-game Panther losing streak. Before that, Florida had won four in a row. The team having a winning record in November for the first time in five or more years. That’s the good news.

The Panthers had won four straight coming into the five-game homestand that began Nov. 29 with a 4-3 loss to Boston and was followed by a 2-1 loss to Washington and the loss to Ottawa before Friday’s win over the Islanders

Three straight losses at home doesn’t bode well for a team that struggles on the road. The Washington loss was particularly ugly, as the team looked listless against the franchise with the worst record in the NHL so far this year.

In addition to their home woes, Florida has been stacking up injured defensemen like crazy all year. Last night Brian Allen went head first into the boards and was a while before getting up. Before that.

Last summer the Panthers had too many defensemen. They decided not to make a qualifying offer to Alexei Semenov, who became a free agent and signed with San Jose.

Now, after losing their fourth defenseman to injury in the first 27 games, they may not have enough.

Jassen Cullimore became the latest casualty Saturday night, suffering what likely will be one or more torn ligaments after a knee-on-knee hit with Washington’s Matt Bradley in Florida’s 2-1 loss at the BankAtlantic Center.

Cullimore’s status will be updated today after the team was given off Sunday.

Cullimore joins Noah Welch (shoulder), Cory Murphy (shoulder) and Mike Van Ryn (wrist) on the injured list.

Florida has traditionally lived by its goaltending and defense. The 07-08 cats are no different. Florida can’t afford too many more injured defensemen.

Offensively, Olli Jokinen(15 goals or 15 g in 29 games)
has been great. Richard Zednik, Nathan Horton, and David Booth all ok(Each with 8 g a piece) though I think the twenty-three-year-old Booth could be a comprable player to Jokinen very soon. The rest of the team there hasn’t more than four goals. I do think there is some talent among the group, Rostilev Olesz(4 goals but in only 15 games played), Stephen Weiss, and Richard Campbell. Weiss and Campbell have underacheived but shown flashes of talent.

How does Florida stand so far for the season? Record wise they’re 13-15-1. That places them 14th in the conference. Seemingly not destined for the playoffs, like I predicted earlier this year but I’m not giving up. I think the Cats can legitimately stay on the ice with most everyone in the conference. Ottawa is the only team I think has the Panthers overwhelmed. As for the the southeast division, Florida is 6 pts out of first but only 2 out of 2nd. If Florida can stop their tendency towards listless play, they can make the playoffs anywhere from 5th to 8th in the conference. Yes I said fifth. Only Carolina and Ottawa scare me in this conference. Florida can beat the rest, if they want to.

Related Stories:
Recent Stories:

Comments are Closed


Visitors Since Feb. 4, 2003

All original content copyright 2003-2008 by OTB Media. All rights reserved.