The Panthers have taken four of the six games against the Stars so far this season heading into tonight’s matchup. Dallas has had a rough season in the injury department, COVID, and a nasty winter storm that crushed parts of Texas.
The above factors have certainly played into their struggling season, averaging 2.6 goals in their last 10 games, Jamie Been sitting at 21 points in 36 games, and the team as a whole being a far cry away from what they were last year.
But this is no “easy” win for Florida. The Cats are on a three-game losing streak, and, quite frankly, looked awful in their 4-1 Saturday afternoon loss to these very same Stars.
No doubt about it, the Cats lost that game in the first 10 minutes by giving up three goals (no fault of Bob’s). It was like Florida didn’t start at the same time Dallas did. Sloppy, slow, defensively inept, and uninspired play for the majority of the 60 minutes. The Cats eventually found some of their game, but it just wasn’t going to happen.
The easiest key to tonight’s rematch is to start on time and not get behind. Easy stuff, right? Let’s hope. Florida absolutely needs to come out firing at the opening puck drop. They need to do what Dallas did to them on Saturday - use speed to get them on their heels and score early.
This would be a great game to use as a “tuneup” for Thursday and Saturday when they face the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tonight is a great opportunity to get the mojo going and set the tone for when some of these new acquisitions are projected to join the team (Thursday).
Speaking of new guys...
Here’s a recap of what we got and what we lost:
Out of all the guys, it seems Bennett is the most hotly debated amongst Flames/hockey fans. I have seen positives and negatives for him (based on fan opinions). Personally, I’m excited to see what he does.
I’m not sure what grade to give Zito for his first Trade Deadline as the Panthers GM. Maybe somewhere between a B or B-?
- Bringing in Wallmark and Carlsson was to dump salary and add some depth at center and defense
- Montour comes in to “replace” Ekblad in terms production from the backend as an offensive-defenseman
- Gusev enters the fold as a guy who had a regression this year in NJ, but possesses some nice offensive ability (despite lack of speed) that might compliment top-six guys (hopefully)
- Bennett appears to be the “love him, or hate him” guy that was up-and-down in Calgary and plenty of mixed opinions from Flames/hockey fans in regards to his compete level and skill
In all, I think Zito worked the edges of this team to make them a little deeper with more “prove it guys.” Whether the moves pay off or not won’t be known until they get some games under their belts and we see where this team goes in terms of finishing out the regular season and if they get into the playoffs/what happens from there.
Outside of not wanting to “leverage the future,” I think these particular moves were made for two reasons:
1. Zito is playing the long game here. Continuing to put his stamp on the organ-I-zation and building a nucleus for long-term success by altering the Panthers DNA
2. Keeping the Expansion Draft in mind, I could see Zito having made some of these moves with the idea of exposing certain guys to Seattle in order to protect others
To me, Florida’s window isn’t closing, it’s just beginning to open. Anything can happen when you get into the playoffs, but they need to get there. I think these additions will help them not only continue this successful season, but they will help them get some valuable post-season experience.
I’m always excited to see some new faces on the team and I think it helps to revitalize the group. The current Cats (and the new ones) should be eager to make a big push here to finish this season strong.
And that starts by resetting the tone tonight...
12 forwards and 6 defensemen tonight - Stralman and Nutivaara in. Duclair is back and assumed to be back on the top line.