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Game #39 – Panthers vs Hawks Q&A: Todd Little From LitterBoxCats.com

Todd Little is the sole proprietor of LitterBoxCats.com. You can follow him on Twitter @toddlittle827. 

Been a disappointment for the Panthers this season, who some thought could make a playoff push. Is it just down to goaltending or is it more than that?
It’s kind of been a chicken and egg thing between the goaltending and the defense being the main culprit in the Panthers maddeningly slow start. There are times the goalies, James Reimer, in particular, let in Charmin-soft goals, but with the way the defense turns the puck over and yields countless high-quality chances to the opposition, one wonders if any keeper could shine in Florida’s crease right now. In addition to that mess, the only thing the Panthers have been consistent at in 2018-19 is being inconsistent.  Depending on the game or period, they look like one of the better teams in the league, and at other times they look destined for a top-five pick in the draft. One wonders if the Cats made the right choice in hiring the inexperienced Bob Boughner. His system and game management have both been called into question and it doesn’t look like the effort is there all time, and on top of that, players are allowed to make the same mistakes over and over with little to no consequences.
On the bright side, Jonathan Huberdeau is on pace to shatter his career high in points and assists. What’s been the difference there?
Now 25, Huberdeau is more mature and has worked on getting stronger the last couple of offseasons. Huberdeau got off a decent enough start while on the second line. Once he was reunited with Aleksander Barkov on the first line, along with new acquisition Mike Hoffman, was when he really caught fire and has put up 23 points in the last 13 games. If Huberdeau can keep this torrid pace up, he might be looking at his, and the franchise’s, first 100-point season.
What’s the deal with this blue line? Dale Tallon fought hard to keep some of the younger players, which obviously, frustratingly cost the Cats Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault. And yet it’s hard to see why. Fill us in. 
I wish someone could fill me in on this. The way that Tallon handled the expansion draft still has many of us scratching our heads. Sure, they wanted Vegas to take Reilly Smith’s contract, but exposing Marchessault was just plain dumb. There had to have been a better way. None of the defensemen they protected was worth doing so and that is becoming more and more obvious, painfully so, as time goes on. The Panthers defensemen don’t seem to have much interest in playing proper defense and are lacking in physicality. Not quite sure if the meat of the problem lies with the players, who are individually talented, or Bob Boughner’s system, but something is seriously amiss with this group.
How much has Vincent Trocheck’s injury been a culprit?
Before he was hurt, Trocheck was having a bit of a tough go of it. He was collecting points on the power play, but struggling in other areas. That said, Vincent is one of Florida’s better players, a true gamer, and it was just a matter of time before he turned things around. They miss him badly and will be a better team when he comes back.
So what does the rest of the season hold? And beyond?
The rest of the season likely holds more of the same. The Panthers have shown no sign of being able to win or even play well on a consistent basis. The five-game winning streak in early November looks like it might end up being the high point of the season. Throw that streak out and they have only won back to back games once… that’s right, once. Beyond that, hard to say. The Cats have serious issues on defense and in the net, not sure how that get fixed anytime soon.

 

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