Caps and Cats. Time to get heavy
Writer: Matt Ross
After their loss to the Blues on Tuesday, the Panthers bounced back to beat the slumping Penguins in a thrilling 3-2 OT win. It was a battle of the exes as Jaime McCann and Nick Bjugstad were back in town to face the Cats, while Derick Brassard and Riley Sheahan played host to their former team. What’s wild is that three of the four players would get a tally on the score sheet.
• Brassard – Assist
• McCann – Goal
• Sheahan - Assist
The Panthers had a different game plan heading into Thursday’s tilt. After their practice on Wednesday, Ekblad, Brassard and coach Boughner talked about the importance of being “heavy.” In fact, if you took a shot every time you heard “heavy” in the interviews, you might not make it through the whole video.
But the message was clear: the Cats need to be better at getting on the body, getting on the puck, getting shots to the net, traffic in front, forecheck and keep pressure in the offensive zone while being strong in the defensive zone. Basically… everything a team should be doing.
The message was received and the Panthers were rewarded- outhitting the Penguins 31 to 27 and outshooting them 42 to 31. Yes, Pittsburgh has some injuries that have sidelined key players (most notably Malkin, Murray and Schultz), but they’re still the Pens and still a very good team, despite their recent skid.
It’s been a (valid) concern from fans that the Panthers seem to score on the PP, but struggle when it comes to even strength. Perhaps there can be some encouragement coming out of Thursday’s game, as the Cats spread the scoring around in various situations.
• 1st Period: Power Play
• 2nd Period: 5-on-5
• Overtime: 3-on-3
This is the kind of play the Cats need to continue, especially tonight when they travel to Washington to face the Capitals.
The Caps are currently 30-18-6 and sit in 2nd place of the Metropolitan Division (just two points behind the Islanders), have won three of their last four games and…oh yeah…Ovechkin has 60 points in 53 games.
The Cats will need to take advantage of any penalties the Caps might take. They’ve done a great job on the PP by making teams pay for mistakes and will need to continue that. Building off the stronger even strength play of late will also help.
While I’m not sure who will be in the blue paint, Roberto ‘Don’t Call Me Old Man’ Luongo had a strong game Thursday and Reimer has been solid in his past few starts – so I’m confident in that department.
Perhaps the biggest thing the Panthers can do tonight in order to be successful is to keep it simple. Less is always more and when facing a team like Washington, you can’t afford to get too cute. Florida has a tendency to rush, rush again and rush some more, to the point where they can leave themselves exposed. The cliché of letting the game come to you is something that can really benefit the Panthers tonight – especially on the blueline. I’d like to see them only take chances when it makes sense, rather than trying to make something out of nothing. They have to be smart and make the right play to ensure the defensive zone is in good shape against a Washington team that can strike quickly on opposing teams mistakes.
It should be a fun game with the Panthers playing an entertaining brand of hockey lately (IMO). I’m looking forward to seeing what guys like Hoffman, Barkov, Huberdeau, Trocheck, Brassard, etc. will do against this Caps defense. That group of guys can be a handful for the Caps blueliners and I hope they are.
I’d also like to see Troy ‘Big Cat’ Brouwer in the lineup tonight to provide some size and potential physicality. Wilson vs Brouwer anyone?
I’m calling 4-3 Cats. Just as long as it doesn’t end up like this:
Use this blog to discuss the game.