The Panthers will face the 8-6-3 Flyers on Thanksgiving Eve where the Cats look to continue their impressive home ice play and hopefully extend that home ice winning streak in the process.
If you’re keeping track, Florida became the fourth team in NHL history to win their first 10 home games. Adding to that, they are the third team in NHL history to net at least four goals in each of those first 10 home games to start a season. That’s good for one game shy of tying the NHL record, which belongs to the 1992-93 Philadelphia Flyers (11 games) - it’s almost like the stars are aligning…
The Flyers should be a bit tired after being blanked 4-0 at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning Tuesday night but the Cats shouldn’t take them lightly and get caught sleeping.
We know the offense has been strong for Florida with them scoring the most goals a game on average (3.94) but I was surprised to learn that they have surrendered the fifth-fewest goals (2.50) so far. What’s more is that in six different games thus far the Cats have given up just one goal.
What? A Panthers team playing good defense??
Jameson Olive attributes this improvement on the blue line to consistent defensive pairings
. Certainly makes sense. whatever it may be, I hope it continues.
Start Thinking Down The Line
Time has a way of moving pretty fast. Before you know it the regular season will be gone in a flash and the playoffs will be starting.
If the Panthers can maintain their current play they will find themselves cruising into the post-season.
But can this team win the Stanley Cup?
This past weekend I was lucky enough to catch the “Road to Victory: The New York Rangers Story” documentary on the NHL Network. It had been a couple years since I watched it and it was one of those moments of fortuitous timing where I took care of some work on Saturday morning and just so happened to see it was starting in 10 minutes. If you have never seen it, I highly recommend checking it out. It’s just such a solid hockey documentary - unless you don’t like the Rangers I suppose.
A simple summary is that it tells the story of the 1994 cup-winning New York Rangers. But it goes beyond that. They give you the history of the franchise and it’s historically bad mojo/teams that spawned out of the 1940 “curse” and the effect that had on the players, fans, and city over the years.
I loved the insight into Messier coming over a couple years prior to 1994 and the effect his leadership had on helping turn things around. And then of course there was the hiring of controversial coach Mike Keenan and all the ups-and-downs the team went through from a variety of different circumstances, the strain of being under Keenan, etc. as they built towards eventually hoisting the cup.
In a lot of ways the Rangers and Panthers of old sort of parallel one another. Both organizations were mired in bad decisions and mediocre play with the fan bases suffering. Eventually both teams turned things around - with the Rags reaching the ultimate goal. In a way, we Panthers fans might be watching a similar trajectory as the one witnessed in early ‘90s New York.
The 1993-94 season saw the Rangers as top dogs in the league, boasting a team of skilled players (sounds a lot like our guys, no?). As the season inched towards the playoffs, Mike Keenan and GM Neil Smith finally came together to agree on what needed to be done at the trade deadline. Well…they were pretty much forced to work together (haha). In the end, Keenan told Smith who they needed and what Smith did next sent shockwaves through the hockey world.
When the 1994 trade deadline dust settled, the New York Rangers - #1 team in the league - traded away skill to get bigger and grittier. The list of moves was as follows:
Why would a first place team that was a regular in the win column make such a brash (frankly risky) decision?
Because they were all in.
They were willing to rip up a quarter of their team because they believed (knew) they were lacking certain elements that were needed to get to the highest peak.
Amonte netted them two big, grinding forwards in Matteau (former-Panther) and Noonan. Gartner got them Glenn Anderson - a man with five cups to his name and a playoff magician. Marchant returned Craig MacTavish who was a third line shutdown center and specialist at the dot.
Sure, these guys cost them talent, but they filled out the the Rags’ roster and helped them win the cup.
Whether it’s 1994 or 2021, I still think the blend of skill and hard-nosed/physical play is what wins in the playoffs. You can’t have all skill or all muckers/grinders. The scales need to be balanced.
And so I think about the Panthers and I wonder what Bill Zito has up his sleeve. While there’s a wide range of factors (that are constantly in flux) as the season rolls on, Zito (like all GMs) undoubtedly has a Plan A, B, C, D…depending on how different things unfold.
Right now the Panthers are rolling with skill - just like the Rangers were - but when the playoff beast comes roaring and everything tightens up, will Zito and the Panthers bring in what’s needed even though it will come with a cost?
Only time will tell but I’m certainly curious to watch how this whole thing comes together because another first-round exit won’t cut it.
Time to hunt…Go Panthers!