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Battle for Florida (Again)

April 17, 2021, 12:49 AM ET [26 Comments]
Matt Ross
Florida Panthers Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
What can you say about Thursday’s frustrating OT loss to the in-state rival Tampa Bay Lightning?

I don’t think it’s far-fetched to think that most Lightning fans would agree that they had no business winning that game. The Panthers looked solid and took it to the Lightning for most of the game. It was almost like the roles were reversed from what we’re used to seeing. I thought the Cats had it after that great first period, but one man would not allow it...

Andrei Vasilevkiy.

The guy is unbelievable and now sits at 14-0-0 on home ice after Thursday’s win. I wish I could not like him, but I can’t do it - he’s too good. He’s a fun player to watch and it’s impressive that he’s managed to consistently be at the level he’s at as a top goalie in the league every year. If that isn’t enough, he can carry the team when needed. I personally think we’ve been watching something special with him.

Now...just because I respect the guy, doesn’t mean I don’t want to see him get beat. After Hornqvist scored that weak backhander (by Vasilevskiy standards), I thought it was going to be one of those nights where it all went “right” for Florida.

And for the most part it did. They put on 38 shots while suppressing the Lightning to a mere 19 - which was good for the fewest surrendered by Florida this season. They dominated at the dot with a 66% of faceoff wins to TBL’s 34%. They just couldn’t get more past Vasilevskiy.

That and the fact that they blew two leads...

Montour looked good in his debut and was noticeable - racking up 17:59 TOI, a hit, a blocked shot and a takeaway.

“I just wanted to keep it simple. There are little tweaks here and there that teams change with how they make up plays, whether it's numbers or words or what-not. Tonight, I just wanted to keep it simple and play the right way."

Wallmark seemed to slot right back in and looks comfortable executing the Florida game plan. I even thought Goose had a nice game - getting close to 18 minutes of ice time against a quality opponent and some looks on the Power Play. Actually, I liked how he played on the PP. He worked well in tight spaces to move the puck with some nice passes and setup some good looks and had a couple nice shots himself.

Looking forward to seeing if Bennett gets in the lineup tonight.

via GIPHY



Saturday’s Keys

I think it’s relatively easy. Coming out hot like they did last game would be a great start. But maintaining that pace and intensity will be even better. The Cats took their foot off the gas a bit in the second, but their first and third periods were great.

Getting and holding the lead is crucial in any game, but especially against a team like Tampa (even when Kucherov and Stamkos are out, with the latter going on LTIR Friday). If you can get a couple on these guys, hold onto it!

Maintain the dot dominance.

How about not going 0/3 on the Power Play again? Seriously. This PP has been belly-up for a long stretch now. If they want to find success against the strong teams in the league (Central Division for this season) and into the playoffs, success on the man-advantage is paramount. Not anything we haven’t talked about ad nauseam, and certainly nothing that’s a mind-blowing revelation, but it’s becoming more urgent as the regular season winds down and the post-season is getting ready to fire up. Goose and Montour - looking at you guys to help be somewhat of spark plug in this department.

Lastly, use the ol’ stretch pass to your advantage again. Florida did a good job of putting Tampa in scramble mode a few times when then connected with long passes that got them behind the Lightning’s defense and into some really good scoring positions.

This was also pretty cool...



______________________

With three losses in their last four games, and Tampa taking the series lead at 2-2-1, its time to get this thing back on track. What better way to do that than to beat these guys tonight.

Looking forward to seeing what the lines will be. Let’s get after it - Go Panthers!
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