The Panthers have four games left in the regular season and look to take on the Chicago Blackhawks for the final time of this sprint.
These two teams are on completely different trajectories. Florida had one of their best seasons in recent memory and clinched a playoff spot, while Chicago watches the window of their season close - though they weirdly are still in the running for the last playoff spot. Being six points out, they need to win tonight and then take at least two of three against the Canes before facing Dallas in their last two games. Tough road ahead for them.
Credit to the Hawks on this year though. Many people (myself included) saw them battling Detroit for the last spot in the Central Division, but they managed to hold their own around the fourth/fifth place spot for a large percentage of the year. In fact, they seem to have a pretty good head start on their rebuild and their future looks bright with a number of those young guys showing a lot of promise.
Just seems like inexperience and a struggling defense/shaky goalie tandem, along with Kane’s production drying up, zapped the over-achieving momentum Chicago had going.
However, the team on the other end of the ice looks to grab top seed in the Central Division.
In their last four games, Florida has scored an average of four goals a game and poured on over 42 shots in each contest. Combine that with the fact that they have finally got something going on the PP - 26.7% and Barky with three points on the man advantage in five games - and the Cats should be feeling confident.
Despite the Cats being the better of the two teams, they almost blew the game in Chicago on Thursday night after giving up a late third period goal with only seconds left - sending things into OT.
By the way...I thought Knight looked great Thursday. He played with a lot of confidence and made himself big - frequently coming out to challenge Hawks’ shooters and making some huge saves in the process.
By the Numbers
Winners and Whiners
has a nice article recapping some of key numbers/stats:
“Scoring in the win was Alex Wennberg, which was his 13th of the year, Anthony Duclair, which was his 8th, Brandon Montour, which was his 7th, and Sam Bennett, whose 9th of the year was the game-winner in OT. Snatching up the win was Spencer Knight, who stopped 24 of the 27 shots he faced to improve to 3-0 with a 1.67 GAA on the year. The Panthers will trot out Sergei Bobrovsky for this one, and he has gone 17-10 with a 2.94 GAA on the year, including 8-5 with a 3.11 GAA on the road. In his career, he has gone 143-108 with a 2.60 GAA on the road and 11-7 with a 2.53 GAA against the Blackhawks. Bobrovsky is 3-1 with a 2.74 GAA against Chicago this year.
Team Stats & Rankings: Florida enters this contest ranked 7th in scoring at 3.31 gpg, 2nd in shots per game at 34.7, and 6th in power-play conversions at 26.0%. At the defensive end of the ice, they are ranked 14th in goals allowed at 2.78 gpg, 18th in shots per game allowed at 30.4, and 12th in penalty kill at 80.6%.“
What to Do?
Yandle has been more noticeable with each game and it’s not in the best way. It seems his play has been decreasing at a rapid rate.
While never a defensively-strong blueliner, Yandle’s bread n’ butter was as a PP specialist, and he served this role well for awhile. But it seems his time as the QB on the man advantage is behind him.
Whether it’s age (34), nursing an injury, preserving the streak, a combo of all three, or something else, #3 has been struggling and it’s noticeable each night. A good example of this was Thursday’s game when he seemed to be chasing pucks (on the PP) that the Hawks cleared at an alarmingly slow pace. His decision-making appears slowed as well, almost as if he’s hesitant. He also struggles to get shots through from the point.
My gut tells me the re-tooled blueline (and team in general) has exposed Yandle’s weaknesses even more. I’m not sure he can hang/has a role amongst the emergence of Weegar and Ekblad (when healthy), along with additions like Forsling, Gudas, Montour and Nutty (as well as others that get rotated in).
The question I have is: If Stralman can be scratched, how can Yandle not be?
The shame of it is that Yandle is a great guy and really loved by his teammates, but the skills and determination just don’t seem there.
Bob in net, defensive pairings stay the same and Goose is back in upfront.
Got the grill and cold ones ready...Go Panthers!