If Saturday night’s penalty-filled, physical and plenty-o-scraps game between the Panthers and Lightning is a preview of the upcoming first-round of the playoffs, then sign me up.
The Battle of Florida prequel is off to a hot start with the two teams combining for 154 penalty minutes and no shortage of chippiness. Here’s the disciplinary action recap from Jameson Olive:
Despite the old school body tossin’ and Captain Hookin’ out there, Saturday’s win was one of the best games the Panthers have played this season in my opinion. It was a united, complete effort and nice to see guys sticking up for each other.
The win also put the Panthers at 4-2-1 against the Lightning this season. With the four wins all coming in regulation, it’s the first time Florida has defeated Tampa four times in a season since 2010-2011. Excellent.
Aside from a solid team win, there were plenty of personal accolades on the night...
Starting in the blue paint, I really liked how Bob played. I don’t think it’s too far of a stretch to say it was one of his best games of the year. He seemed totally focused and engaged - obviously ready for the big game against the cross-state rivals. His movements were controlled and he never really got out of position. Sometimes he relies on his athleticism and can get himself into tough spots by over-committing. His technical game was on full display Saturday as he confidently played on top of the crease to meet shooters and take away the angle. Can’t ask for much more when the guys in front of you are keeping the shots to 29 and your goalie stops 28 of them. Bob did his job and improved to 19-8-2 in the process.
Q on Bob:
“I thought he had real purpose. He was sharp. He was on top of the crease. On the second looks, he was in front of the shot. He had good patience, good anticipation. He tracked the puck well."
Then there was Alex ‘Mr. First Star of the Game ‘ Wennberg and his hat trick. The guy who had a slow start to the season has certainly taken advantage of his “prove it” contract opportunity with the Panthers.
His three-goal heroics helped boost him to a career-high 16 goals. To put that into perspective, that’s one more goal than he scored in his last three seasons combined with CBJ. Not only that, but he become the seventh player in Florida history to have multiple hat tricks in a season. Who are the others? Glad you asked:
- Noel Acciari
- Alexander Barkov
- Pavel Bure
- David Booth
- Olli Jokinen
- Ray Sheppard
To the dismay (and displeasure) of many Calgary fans, Sam Bennett remains red-hot since coming over to Florida at the deadline. The gritty winger returned after missing a game to an upper-body injury and notched a goal and assist in the 5-1 win. This helped bump him up to 15 points (6G, 9A) in only ten games with the Cats.
Q on Bennett:
“His production, with that line together, they look for one another. They had a couple other pretty looks that could have easily gone in. He's been effective in a lot of ways. He brings a nice element to our team. … Good to see him back."
The passing on this goal is just too sweet, brother...
When it comes to Huby, why not let the NHL PR team explain?
Tippett, Forsling and Barky all extended point streaks to three games and Weegar extended his to two games - with #52 reaching 30 assists for the first time in his career. Weegar keeps climbing the ladder to becoming an elite defenseman.
Home Ice Advantage
Per our friends over at Litter Box Cats
“The Cats came into this two-game set needing three points to take home-ice advantage in the pending playoff series between the two teams. With an impressive win in regualtion, they served notice to the defending champs that things are not going to easy going foward. Florida clinched the season series and can take second place in the Discover Central Division with either another win or by getting to overtime in Monday night’s season finale.”
If the Cats can tap into that same energy and mojo from Saturday night, they will be in a good place mentally heading into game one of the playoffs - and an even better place if it’s on BB&T Center ice.
I really liked that Florida took advantage of a Lightning team that was without Herman, Stamkos and Kucherov - arguably their three best guys. With uncertainty on when any of them will return, the Panthers need to keep the foot on the gas and continue to capitalize on Tampa’s banged up roster.
If they play how they this did Saturday, they have a chance against anyone.
Let’s have another nice win tonight and grab that home ice advantage...Go Panthers!