A quick game blog for you this Saturday afternoon...
The Cats pounce into their second of back-to-back games tonight when they faceoff against the New York Islanders. The Isles currently sit at a 1-3 record.
This is a game where I'm hoping the Panthers put it all together. They've shown glimpses of some really promising/positive stuff, but have failed to put it all together for a full 60 minutes.
They're close and I feel like tonight could be a break out game.
It's important to keep in mind that their first four games were against some pretty solid teams so far into this young season: TBL, CAR and BUF. These are tough challenges for a team in transition like Florida, but they're also great in a sense that they let them know where they stand and what they need to work/improve on.
Florida's projected lineup according to the Panthers website:
Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Mike Hoffman
Frank Vatrano - Vincent Trocheck - Brett Connolly
Jayce Hawryluk - Denis Malgin - Evgenii Dadonov
Dryden Hunt - Noel Acciari - Colton Sceviour
MacKenzie Weegar - Aaron Ekblad
Mike Matheson - Anton Stralman
Keith Yandle - Josh Brow
Henrik Borgstrom, Mark Pysyk
If you're feeling blue or discouraged so far this season (although you shouldn't be), here are some bright spots to keep in mind going into tonight's game via the Panthers site:
- Aaron Ekblad has picked an assist in two of four games to start the season and currently ranks first among Florida's skaters in average ice time per game (24:57). In 2018-19, the 23-year-old had 13 goals, 24 assists and a career-best 114 hits what seeing 1,938:49 of ice time.
- Evgenii Dadonov has goals in consecutive games for the Panthers. The 30-year-old is coming off a season in which he set a new career-high with 70 points (28 goals, 42 assists) in 2018-19. In four games this season, he's tallied two goals and one assist while posting 17 shots on goal.
- Jonathan Huberdeau leads the Panthers with four assists. The 26-year-old reached a new career-high with 92 points during the 2018-19 season, including a franchise-record 62 assists.
- The NHL's active iron man, Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle took the ice for his 800th consecutive game on Tuesday against Carolina. The 33-year-old has tallied a goal and an assist through four games this season, with both of those points coming on the power play.
- Aleksander Barkov, who registered a franchise-record 96 points in 2018-19, has posted three assists through four games this season. The 24-year-old center has also gotten off to a hot start in the faceoff circle, where he's won a team-leading 52.3 percent of his draws.
- Florida has gone 9-for-11 (81.8 percent) on the penalty kill, ranking 13th in NHL this season.
While it was a tough loss to Buffalo, the Cats came away with a point and turned in what I thought was an awesome/entertaining game. Probably the best of the year so far, at least when it comes to losses. It was back-and-forth, fast-paced action. Can't say enough how fun it was to watch Bob and Ullmark duel it out last night - some incredible saves on both ends!
I think the most important thing about the Buffalo game was that you could see the Cats are putting Q's system together and it's showing more and more. Progress!
I got a sense last night that they're close, really close, to having that breakout game that puts them on the (consecutive) winning path. Tonight would be a good game to get that started.
I thought the guys worked hard all night against a fast and skilled opponent and it was a beautiful thing to see. They must have gotten the message after Q drove them into the ice during practice after that awful Carolina loss.
The defense looked better. I don't think any fans can place the game on the oft-dogged Matheson like they always do regardless of whether or not he made mistakes, because he had a nice game. Weegar looked good on the top pair with Ekblad, too. Though I'm still not sold on Ekblad so far...
If you would have told me before the season started that Barky would be slow out of the gates, I wouldn't have believed it. But something seems up with him. He's a guy you've come to expect to be a dominate two-way player, and, why wouldn't, the guy has been solid his whole career - especially the past few seasons. Hopefully whatever is going on (injury?) gets worked out and we can see El Capitan back to his normal self.
How about that fourth line, eh?? They were my most anticipated group coming into the season and they haven't disappointed! Acciari is the guy we hoped for and Hunt is bringing that simple North/South game that's so effective. Sceviour looked fantastic against the Sabres, too. Those guys were firing on all cylinders and it's all coming together nicely.
And of course there's Bob...what can you say other than he continues to make some incredible saves.
Let's get that win tonight, boys!
[Image from NHL.com]