Hockey

VS

 

Records: Panthers 20-7-4 (44) Hawks 14-13-5 (33)

Puck Drops: 7:00 Both Nights (Tue/Thur)

TV/Radio: NBCSN and WGN 720

You Sure Do Got A Purdy Mouth, Boy: Litter Box Cats

 

Not much has changed for these two teams in the week that’s passed since they last met, other than the Panthers racking up 2 more points and the Hawks attempting to divide by zero. The Swamp Cats split with the Preds, and then lost a one shot against Tampa Bay on Sunday, giving up 3 goals in the 3rd when they’d had them on the ropes in the first two periods. The loss Sunday puts the Panthers 4 points behind the Bolts in the division, back with Carolina.

Sergi Bobrovsky was in net for both losses, as he continues his streak of uneven play. The win came on the shoulders of a 2-0 Chris Driedger shutout of Nashville, which while admittedly not a difficult thing to do, is still more than Bob has been able to accomplish of late. While the numbers between the two tenders continue to drift further apart, Coach Q still seems reluctant to turn the reigns over fully to Driedger, content to let Bob work things out on his own.

On the forward end of things, after I wrote about Aleksander Barkov last week, he proceeded to drop 9 points in 5 games, so at least for once it seems like I knew what I was talking about. 6 of those points came against the Hawks, who seemed completely unwilling or unable to do anything at all to slow him down in the slot, and he absolutely did not miss his chances.

The line centered by Barkov continues to be an unholy terror since Q added what apparently was the missing link in Carter Verhaeghe. The trio of Barkov, Verhaeghe and Anthony Duclair has been carrying the play at even strength at over a 63% clip. Add in a total of 19 points over the last 5 starts and you can see why Q is a fan. The speed and creativity that Barkov possesses compliments the North/South games of Duclair and Verhaeghe. Once they’re in your zone, they’re extremely hard to remove, especially when they’re backed up by Mackenzie Weegar and Aaron Ekblad on the blue line.

As for the Hawks, they continue to get beat down by the March schedule, dropping both games in Tampa last week. They couldn’t solve Andrei Vasilevskiy, and much as they’ve done all season the Bolts capitalized on every mistake the Hawks D made. Both Kevin Lankinen and Malcom Subban were given the chance to right the ship, but neither were able to do so, both being aided and abetted by the D in front of them. That brings the March record to an unsightly 2-6-1, and into a standings tie with Columbus, who’s managed to take 2 in a row from Carolina in the last week.

The reason behind the points drought is more of the same, as the Hawks are unable to carry the play for any extended length of time at 5 on 5 (with the 1st two periods last Saturday being the exception, more on that in a bit). When the power play suddenly runs dry and the goaltending has regressed to the mean this is what you get. We’ve spoken at great lengths about where the deficiencies lie with this Hawks team, and with Kevin Lankinen no longer able to paper over the possession issues things become even more glaring in the light of day.

As grim as it seems now, the Hawks are almost out of this Hell Month, and critical games against the Jackets, Stars and Preds await on the other side. We’ve reached the spot in the season where pretty much every point is desperately needed by the Hawks. They’ve allowed their lead to slip to the point where there’s no more margin for error at all, and for a young team like this we will really get to see what they’re made of. There’s definitely a spark there that shows at times what this team could really be.

There was a period in the game against Tampa this past Saturday when the Hawks looked like the possession monsters of old. The advanced stats bear this out, as in the 1st period the Hawks topped the CORSI list with a 58% share, and then went hog wild in the 2nd with a 69.57%. Sadly, Vasilevskiy was up to the task, and the Hawks entered the 3rd down 3-0. It’s something we haven’t seen since the 2nd game in the 1st series against the Jackets where the Hawks ended up with almost a 59% share for the entire game.

There have been flashes this season of the Hawks being able to carry the play for extended periods of time against higher quality teams like Carolina and Tampa. They key here is doing it on the regular against all of them. If a majority of the beat writers are correct, and this young team truly is “buying in” to what Colliton is selling then they’re going to have to show it now. Florida is a solid team from the blue line out, but Bobrovsky has been mediocre at best. If the Hawks can keep the play in their end at all, he’s ripe for the picking. We know that the Hawks D is paper thin, so the forwards absolutely have to convert when they get the chances. Time is running out, show us what you got.

 

Let’s Go Hawks

 

Hockey

VS

 

Records: Hawks 14-9-5 / Panthers 17-5-4

Puck Drops: Saturday and Monday 6:00 PM

TV/Radio: NBCSN and WGN 720

Swamp People: Litter Box Cats

 

OLD FRIEND ALERT: The Hawks travel to the tip of America’s Penis to take on the Joel Quennville-led Florida Panthers over the weekend. The last time the Hawks ventured this far south during the season opening road trip the Panthers dong whipped them up and down the ice, dropping 10 goals on them in the two games they played. Since that time, the Swamp Cats have been one of the more consistent teams in the league despite getting lower than average goaltending out of their high priced free agent, Sergei Bobrovski.

While Bob has played much better of late, winning his last four starts has only brought his save percentage up to a cool .903 to prop up his 3+ GAA. He’s also been splitting way more starts than the front office of the Panthers probably would’ve liked, only starting 2 more games than his “backup” Chris Driedger (.920 sv/2.44 GAA).

This blip in Bob’s goaltending stats hasn’t prevented the Cats from racking up the points, however. The Panthers as a team average the most shots per game in the entire NHL, and as a whole are shooting an even 10%. They also have a fairly deadly power play unit (though not currently as deadly as the Hawks), scoring just over 26% of the time, which does not bode well for our men of the four feathers.

The majority of the Panthers offense flows through Jonathan Huberdeau, who leads the team with 32 points (which puts him 7th in the league, 4 spots behind Kane’s 40). Huberdeau is a monster at controlling the puck at both even strength and the power play, averaging a 56% CORSI for this season while keeping the ice tilted in the Panthers favor. He also racks up the points on the power play, and kills penalties. So he’s…kinda good.

After Huberdeau comes another possession beast the Hawks D will have to worry about in Aleksander Barkov. Drafted 2nd overall by the Cats in 2013, Barkov has lived up to the hype despite playing on some absolutely dogshit teams the past 8 years. A big boy at 6-3″ 220, Barkov has the legs and wingspan to create space in the opposing zone, as well as the finesse to finish off his shots. Much like Jonathan Toews, he was expected to do everything at the beginning of his career. From running the power play, to killing penalties and taking defensive zone draws. Now that the Panthers have a more well rounded forward corps, he’s been used more appropriately as a purely offensive weapon. The switch paid off handsomely, as in 2019 he topped his previous career high in points by almost 20 with 96. He’s found a quality running mate on his line with Carter Verhaeghe, who’s potted 9 thus far with Barkov centering him.

On the back end Keith Yandle is still here. He’s had a minor resurgence this season offensively with 17 points to his credit, but has been less than stellar on the defensive end. This is probably why Coach Q has him start almost 70% of his shifts in the offensive zone. In addition to Yandle’s points, the Panth have been getting excellent production out of Aaron Ekblad thus far this season, and that’s with him picking up the slack of Yandle’s offensive zone starts. In addition (just because you knew Coach Q had to have THAT ELEMENT on the team), professional asshat Radko Gudas is here, taking runs at people and generally being a boil on the taint of hockey.

For our Men of the Four Feathers, they come off a split series against the Stars that saw them get completely owned on every spot on the stat sheet except the one that counted in the 2nd game. Managing to score 4 goals of 8 shots in 2 periods isn’t something that you want to depend on going forward. The powerplay seems to have come back to earth a little bit, though they were able to notch a goal in the second game against Dallas with a nifty shot by Top Cat combined with a quality screen by Carl Soderberg.

Not much in the way of lineup changes in this series, though I would most likely expect Kevin Lankinen to get both the starts as Malcom Subban looked urpy again in his last game. The Hawks still haven’t found a way to get consistent pressure on the opposing team during 5 on 5 hockey, so they’re going to have to rely on their transition game more than any team probably should. Good thing Domanik Kubalik (who’s very very good at this) only gets about 12 minutes a night. If the Hawks can get any traffic in front of Bobrovsky they’ll have a decent chance at putting a few past him. He’s been playing better, but not THAT better. Overall, they need to stay out of the box since the penalty kill has melted from a mountain of ice down to the dirty ass snow puddles left in the gutters.

If the Hawks want to keep their grip on the #4 playoff seed strong, they’re going to need a point or two out of this series. The Panthers are good, but I still think they’re a shade below the Lightning and Hurricanes. The goals are there if the Hawks can get enough pressure. 2 is nice, but 4 is preferable.

Let’s Go Hawks

Hockey

vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 28-28-8   Panthers 33-25-6

PUCK DROP: 5pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

60% OF THE TIME IT WORKS EVERY TIME: Litter Box Cats

The Hawks wrap up this funeral dirge/death rattle of a road trip in South Florida this evening, before returning home to either an indifferent but possibly more cantankerous home crowd next week. They’ll find a Panthers team right in the middle of the East playoff grinder, trying to chase down both a wildcard spot or an automatic spot in the Atlantic if it’s there. The former sees them having to leap three teams, the latter only the Leafs who seem intent on making that a possibility. Oh, and the Hawks former coach is still on the other bench.

The story with the Panthers has changed a little since just about a month ago when they were at the UC. They’re still one of the higher scoring teams in the league. And they still get mediocre-or-worse goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky (OH BOB! YOU CAME AND YOU TOOK OUR MONEY! AND NOW YOU CAN’T SWAT PUCKS AWAY! OH BOB!). This is not a metrically sound team either, as you would have expected out of a Quenneville-led outfit with this much talent on display. They outshoot their problems for their record, which they can do with Huberdeau having a career-year and Barkov his usual brilliant self, along with My Kaufmann a line lower.

So as he is wont to do, Dale Tallon made some changes at the deadline, and some changes that take some figuring out. Vincent Trocheck certainly had issues staying healthy, but he was a genuine #2 center. But Tallon moved him out at the deadline for useful, bottom six pieces in Lucas Wallmark and Erik Haula. Some Panthers observers had said Trocheck’s defensive game wasn’t what it was, and Wallmark and Haula especially should bring more of that. The Cats probably need that if Bob isn’t going to bail them out regularly. And Eetu Luostarinen is considered something of a prospect, so maybe the numbers make it a better deal than it looks at first. Given Tallon’s recent history in Sunrise though…

You sort of wonder if Tallon shouldn’t have been looking for blue line help now instead of down the road. Ekblad and Weegar (I almost forgot my fellow babies…) have been effective on the top pairing, but pretty much everyone else has been going backwards. We know what Keith Yandle can’t do, and Anton Stralman is turning odd colors in the sun at this age. Mike Matheson is certainly rich, but anything beyond that is a mystery.

The race between the Panthers and Leafs for the third spot is certainly entertaining, as both teams attempt to stake their spot without really any goaltender they can count on between them. The wildcard chase is no less dense, though you’d have to figure the Rangers will eventually sink away and the pixie dust for the Jackets has to run out sometime. That leaves the Panthers tussling with the Canes, who also don’t have a goalie at the moment (almost literally). It would be a big disappointment for the Cats to miss the playoffs, given the investments in Bobrovsky and Quenneville and their recent history. Hoffman, Dadanov, and Haula are all free agents after the season, and the first two are in line for sizable raises. So will Weegar as an RFA. This might be as good as it gets for the Cats, which isn’t good enough.

As for the Hawks, not much to report. One would think that Crawford will finish out the road trip to build off his win in Tampa, and that Subban could possibly make his debut against the softer landing of the Ducks or with the back-to-back against EdMo and Detroit next week. Shouldn’t be too many, or any, other lineup changes with Strome back at center and Koekkoek back on the third pairing. Possibly Nick Seeler back in for Carlsson or Boqvist to waster all of our time.

Note: This seems to have fallen at a place on the calendar when all of us have schedule conflicts. So there might not be Twitter or a recap for this one, though we are currently efforting that. Sorry, just one of those things. 

Everything Else

You’d be forgiven for not knowing that Aleksander Barkov is one of the best young centers in the league. You’d also be forgiven that if you knew that you didn’t realize he’s still only 22-years-old. He’s in his sixth season already, and is anchoring this Panthers team which a lot of people still think will eventually surprise in the Atlantic Division (though people think a lot of things). It’s not his fault he’s toiled away in Sunrise, which is basically the witness protection program for NHL players. Barkov has gotten to play in only six playoff games in his five previous seasons, and it’s hard to carve your name out for the masses when that’s the case.

He’s a name you should know. Barkov’s 79 points last year and 25th-place finish in scoring might not seem like it’s all that impressive for a #1 center. But you have to look a little deeper than that to see what was actually going on.

Barkov, and his linemate Evgenii Dadanov, and a cast of thousands on the other side, were used as much as a checking line as a scoring line. And not just like a secondary checking line along with a third or fourth unit that did the real mine-sweeping. Barkov started less than 40% of his shifts in the offensive zone. His quality-of-competition was top-20 in the league. And yet he was still able to put a point-per-game, while also managing a possession-share over 3.5% higher than the rate of his team when he wasn’t on the ice. That was the second year in a row he’d been well above the team-rate, as he went +5.2% in that campaign.

Of the top-35 players in terms of relative-Corsi last season, none had a lower percentage of shifts start in the offensive zone than Barkov. Of the top-25 scorers, only Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak had zone starts anything like Barkov did, and they got to run with Patrice Bergeron. Perhaps Barkov is the new Bergeron? The new, Finnish Bergeron?

The Panthers seem to want to lessen that burden this season. Barkov has seen his defensive-zone starts drop from 60% last year to 51% this year, as Vincent Trocheck was taking up more of that responsibility. But now that his leg is in cubist form, it may land on Barkov to take that role back. Which will probably keep him from putting up the 90+ points that would get anyone to notice a Panther for awards such as the Hart or Selke.

Still, Barkov is trucking along at a point-per-game again, with 18 in 19 games at the time of writing. He’s also got a full-time left-winger now in Mike Hoffman, who he has helped elevate to the team’s leading scorer and on pace for a career-high in goals and shooting-percentage. Hoffman is getting more shots and more good chances (in terms if individual expected goals) on Barkov’s wing than he ever did in Ottawa. He’s averaging less shot-attempts as well, which lets you know that he’s getting the puck in better areas with the improvements in shots on goal and chances. That’s all on Barkov.

Which makes Barkov’s contract a real boon for the Panthers. He’s on a matching $5.9M hit with Jonathan Huberdeau for the next three seasons after this one (Huberdeau has four). The Cats don’t have a lot of raises to dole out in the coming years, but with Barkov such a bargain it would behoove them to make the most out of the next three years before he becomes one of the more coveted free agents in recent memory.

And maybe by then, people will actually know his name.

 

Game #24 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Frank Rekas has been our Cats guy for as long as we can remember (which admittedly is only a few days). You can follow him @FrankRekas. 

The Panthers started out the season rough, but seem to have turned it around. What was the problem earlier?  

In typical Florida Panther tradition, the season started slowly. As it always does. Last year took the Florida Panthers approximately 30 games to figure things out under a new coach, with a new system.  The second half finish was tremendous and most thought that it would just naturally continue into this season. Knowing that another slow start couldn’t happen, they did just that.  First of all, no one could have predicted the freak leg injury to the ageless wonder, goaltender Roberto Luongo that occurred in the season opener. We all know a team plays differently depending on who’s in net, and the Panthers are no stranger to that. The play of James Reimer and Michael Hutchinson was below average to poor depending on the night. The inability to make a key save, or steal a game was missing. While there weren’t many games that the Panthers were blown out of, one of the goaltenders needed to find a way to make that “key” stop. Additionally, playing a full 60 minutes was also a trouble spot. Specifically the Panthers had issues with the second period.  For whatever reason the middle frame saw them become lethargic, mistake prone, and defensively erratic. Taking poor penalties at inopportune times  and defensive mistakes led to the downfall of games during the middle frame. It’s kind of funny in a way that it took a 39 year old goaltender to return from injury to get things back on track.
Evgenii Dadanov and his extraneous I might be the quietest player to be averaging over a point per game. How good is he?  
In his second tour of duty with the Panthers after playing in the KHL for 5 years, Dadonov has come back more rejuvenated, and skilled and fun to watch than anyone could have imagined. He was a huge question mark when Dale Tallon signed him prior to last season as a free agent. But as Tallon often does, this signing earned Dale a gold star. “Daddy,” as Panther faithful often refer to him as, has been nothing short of brilliant.  He’s not afraid to shoot, plays with energy and passion, and scores goals that count at the right time.  He’s been one of the Panthers most consistent players in the past two seasons, and is averaging almost a point per game so far this year. 22 of his 28 goals last season came 5×5, and 7 of 9 have been scored that way this season. He finds the right areas to be in, and never seems to take a shift off.  His consistency is a breathe of fresh air. No reason he can’t keep that pace up playing with Aleksander Barkov and Mike Hoffman.
First impressions of Mike Hoffman? 
My first impressions of Mike Hoffman when he was playing for Ottawa were, if the Panthers (or Hawks for that matter) ever had a chance to get him, they should as he caught my eye a while ago. That being said in another “kidnapping” by Tallon, Hoffman arrived with a background as a player that has skill, a dandy wrister, and a goal scorers mentality. So far, he has not disappointed. He loves to shoot, and on this team that’s a great sign because there are a few players who aren’t as “selfish”.  He got off to a bit of a slow start, and at one point saw himself on the 4th line. But that’s old news now, and as I prepare this on Tuesday night, Hoffman has put together a 1- game point streak. Not at all surprising for a guy that’s known as a goal scorer. He’s displayed a nasty shot on a few occasions, and that’s what this team has needed for years. When the puck touches his stick it has a pretty good chance of getting on net, and possibly going in. He’s going to be huge part of the success of the Panthers, and now that he’s on the top line, his numbers could become even better.
 Nick Bjugstad seemed to have something of a breakout year last year. Is he a full-time winger now?

Now that center Vincent Trochek has had an unfortunate leg injury, it would have appeared that Nick Bjugstad would have gone back to centering the second line. Surprise as that’s not the case at least in the game against Tampa on Tuesday night as “Big Nick” as some like to call him was on the wing with Jared McCann getting promoted to take Trochek’s place. Center is Nick’s natural position and he’s performed rather well there in the past, especially during the 2014-2015 season. But a back injury and concussion derailed his progress. Until last season, when the Bob Boughner line blender was looking for the right combination, found that putting Nick on the wing with Aleksander Barkov and Evgenii Dadonov seemed to be the perfect recipe. Bjugstad produced his best season to date playing the wing, and was extremely effective in his role. There are some questions though that seem to linger. Does he have a higher gear? Can he or why doesn’t he use his big body more? He has a good shot, but it’s not accurate at times.  Why?  The subject of trade rumors during the past two offseasons, Nick is a player that he Panthers believe in, and are hoping that he reaches his potential. One of the most likable players on the team, Bjugstad is talented, and is someone that everyone roots for.  It’s up to him now, as he is being given a chance to prove how good he can be.  And with Trochek out for an extended period of time, Nick is on the list of players that bigger things will be expected from.

Game #24 Preview Suite

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I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

In yet another litmus test between old school hockey red asses and the computer boys, the Florida Panthers chose to revert to entrusting their future once again to the former in the person of this site’s namesake, and all it got them was sitting at home again in the spring once again. For the most part the Cats have remained quiet this off season in part due to financial constraints and also due to the fact that aside from the big ticket item that came to the division, the free agency market mostly sucked out loud. But given the landscape of things within the division and the conference, being judicious still might not be enough.

’17-’18 Season: 44W-30L-8OT 96PTS 248GF 246GA 18.9%PP 80.2%PK 49.19%CF 7.63SH% .9236SV%

Goaltending: Roberto Luongo enters this season having just turned 39 in April, and even at this age, still posted a .929 overall save percentage propped up by a .933 rate at even strength. Borat’s longevity has now become another attribute on what is a surefire hall of fame resume, playoff collapses be damned. However, unfortunately for the Panthers, he started 33 games last year due to a variety of aches and pains commensurate with being able to soon qualify for AARP. James Reimer got the bulk of the action and was slightly below average with a .913 overall and a .915 at evens, which simply isn’t going to cut it in the modern NHL. Reimer is capable of more, as his career mark at even strength is .925 even factoring last season’s dip, but it’s any guess how much he’ll be asked to play given Luongo’s health status or if his play understandably drops off this late into his career. The Cats are carrying a third goalie this year in the form of one-time New Sensation Michael Hutchinson after Connor Hellebuyck finally took the full time gig in Winnipeg. Hutchinson at this point is going to be a career backup but has been known to find the Devil Inside on occasion (particularly against the Hawks), but if he needs to be relied upon too much Florida is going to need a serious Kick elsewhere in the lineup.

Forwards: Over the past few years, the Panthers have compiled a very solid group of forwards that seem to produce both on the score sheet and territorially, and none of it ever seems to make a damn bit of difference. They added to that corps this year by trading for another player like that in Mike Hoffman, fresh off the drama behind the scenes on the set of The Real Housewives of Ottawa. Regardless of who is to blame in that sordid affair, the Panthers added another solid scoring winger to a group that already has the positionally dominant-if-ouchy Sasha Barkov and running mate Jonathan Huberdeau, and one of the more unhearalded #2 centers in the game in Vincent Trochek, whose 71 points nearly earned him a spot on the All Who-Gives-A-Shit team. The Panthers get solid contractual value out of all of these guys as well, having committed them all to reasonable long-term paper, but there’s no transcendent star here, and this is more of a star driven league than most observers are willing to admit. Nick Bjugstad certainly has all of the tools and the behemoth size to become one, but he hasn’t put it all together yet, and the questions are now beginning to get louder regarding if he ever will. The bottom six features a smattering of bums and has beens such as Troy Brouwer and Jamie McGinn and Micheal Haley, and of course franchise fixture and GRITHEARTFART captain Derek MacKenzie. If a forward grouping can manage to be top-heavy while also lacking gamebreakers, it’s this one.

Defensemen: Obviously this group begins and ends with former #1 overall pick Aaron Ekblad, who is entrusted with the most difficult assignments and zone starts and expected to also produce offensively. Ekblad was below the team rate in shot attempts for the first time this past year at 48.01%, but he spent the vast majority of his time covering for the cowboy tendencies of partner Keith Yandle, who can still slightly outscore his positional deficiencies, but at 32 as of tomorrow, his wheels could soon not even get him to the places he wasn’t sure he needed to be in the first place. The Cats are high on both Alex Petrovic (as evidenced by letting Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith go in the expansion draft to be able to sign him) and Mike Matheson, but it’s not exactly clear what either of them do, and Matheson somehow just received nearly $5 mildo against the cap for eternity to ply whatever his trade is.

Outlook: While it’s unclear whether or not Bob Boughner is a Moron or Not yet (and his playing career would heavily suggest the former), what is clear is that he’s going to need to get a lot more than the sum of the parts that he has here to threaten for a playoff spot let alone advance. Counting on a nearly 40 year old goalie to continue to defy his age and mileage is also not a long-term recipe for success, but that’s never been something that’s been synonymous with the Panthers anyway. The same thing that always happens will more than likely transpire this year, where the Cats will make it interesting in mid-March, but ultimately miss out on the post season by the hair on their ass once again.

 

Everything Else

 vs. 

RECORDS: Panthers 12-14-5   Hawks 14-11-5

PUCK DROP: 7:30pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

I’M OLD AND I’M COMING BACK: Panther Parkway, Litter Box Cats

The Hawks got three games against the remedial class of the NHL to set back their five-game losing streak. It hasn’t been pretty, but they got the four points required against the Sabres and Coyotes, and the last of the set is tonight agains the Cats. The Florida Panthers aren’t quite the same overly-medicated cases that the first two are, but they’re still under .500 and still very much the Florida Panthers. The Hawks will also catch them on the second of a back-to-back, having beaten another fellow jacket-with-mittens-pinned-to-them-year-round crew member Red Wings last night in overtime.

Not much has changed too much for the Cats since you last saw them Thanksgiving weekend. There are four real forwards here in Huberdeau, Barkov, Trocheck, and because I’m in a good mood Bjugstad. Dadonov is hurt. The rest of the crew is just a bunch of reclamation projects and very young kids. So the top line can kick your head in for about a third of the game if they’re on song, and Trocheck can usually conjure something, but they just don’t have the depth to take that over a full 60.

It’s kind of the same story on the back end, where you won’t complain too much about a top pairing of Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle. But beyond that… same story. Matheson and Weegar (my fellow babies) are kids, and Petrovic has been around long enough to fully label himself “a guy.”

The Cats haven’t been helped by Roberto Luongo’s injury, as he was excellent before going down for what looks like a while. Optimus Reim, James Reimer, has been the opposite. And because he played last night, the Hawks might be getting a look at Harri Sateri tonight, which we are told is an actual name and not a condition. He hasn’t played in the NHL yet, so don’t be surprised if Bob Boughner rolls out Reimer two nights in a row. Especially as the Panthers are far enough behind and have enough teams to climb over to get into the playoff spots that they can’t really be pissing away any more points.

For the Hawks, one lineup change that appears to be on the cards is Richard Panik being scratched for Ryan Hartman. While Panik hasn’t scored since Purim, it feels a little harsh on him because the rest of his game has been ok. But then there’s this from Q:

So clearly Q isn’t thrilled with his work when he gets the puck, and I can’t really argue with that. It’s almost as if he’s… Richard Panik? The guy who couldn’t crack the Leafs roster two years ago? That one? Could it be?

Anyway, Hartman is running out of time to actually be of use this season before he’s permanently demoted to the Q Doghouse, and we know trying to escape from there is like trying to escape from a black hole. Playing with Hinostroza and Sharp should at least make for an active line, even if it doesn’t have the slightest clue where to be and when. If you combine Hartman and Hinostroza… well, you’d still have a player that has no idea how to be a center.

The rest of the lineup remains the same, though no word on if Saad and DeBrincat will remain on their off-sides as they were on Sunday. Hope so. Jordan Oesterle remains in the lineup, and Michal Kempny continues to stare straight ahead and wonder what might have been while being unresponsive to anything going on around him. Suddenly the lyrics to “One” make a lot more sense to him.

This is still a honey part of the schedule for the Hawks. Yes, the Jets are pretty spiky right now but after that it’s the thoroughly mediocre Wild, Stars, Devils, Canucks, Oilers, Flames, Rangers, and Knights. In fact, the Hawks don’t face a team you’d consider “definitely good” until January 12th against the Jets again. So take advantage.

 

 

 

Game #31 Preview

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Douchebag Du Jour

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We figured not that much has changed in two weeks. 

Frank Rekas is the editor of PantherParkway.com. Follow him on Twitter @FrankRekas.

Let’s start with just what “the plan” is in Florida. They fired all the guys they hired to take the team in a more modern and analytic direction after about 12 minutes, and brought back Dale Tallon. But the team doesn’t appear to be any better and in fact there have been a couple bewildering decisions. What’s going on here?

The Florida Panthers are good at one thing: Being consistently inconsistent.  When Dale Tallon came to town in 2010 he had his “Blueprint” which was going to steer the Panthers in a winning direction.  Within two years the Panthers won the Atlantic Division and went to the playoffs for the first time in 10 years.  It’s been said they they may have peaked too early, or that a lot of players had career seasons that year and it was just luck.  Regardless, that was as fun of a season as South Florida had seen in years.  But good things in South Florida don’t last forever and that season was followed by the lockout year, and then the wheels fell off in 2013-2014 and Kevin Dineen was fired because, why not?  It must have been his fault.  It was a roster that was put together with duct tape and staples.  Nothing went right other than re-acquiring Roberto Luongo at the trade deadline.  With new ownership in place, changes were going to be made and they were, starting with a new head coach Gerard Gallant.  The team improved by 25 points in Gallants’ first season behind the bench, followed by another division championship and playoff birth in 2015-2016. THAT’S when the demolition began.  The executives lead by what some of us call the Army Math Team and Pentagon Trading LLC decided that even though the team had it’s best season ever, they needed to make changes cause of analytics.  I’m personally not a fan of Corsi and Fenwick, but I do know that it’s a part of hockey.  They don’t measure however things like character, hockey sense and leadership.  After that season, the Panthers traded fan favorite and an up and coming leader in defenceman Erik Gudbranson.  This pissed off Gallant to no end, but he dealt with it. Until he was fired.  Replaced by then General Manager Tom Rowe, who is about as qualified for either of those positions as any one of us is.  We could likely have done better.  The 2016-2017 season was a dumpster fire.  Now to the present, where Dale Tallon is back in as the General Manager left to fix the mess that Rowe left behind.  The Tom Rowe experience in my mind has set the organization back at least two to three years.  The defense is young and inexperienced, except for Keith Yandle who doesn’t play much defense.  If you can stop the top line from scoring, you pretty much have the game won, and they aren’t tough to play against.  Beyond all this, things are great.  We’ve been told to be patient, which I responded with this,
On the plus side, Vincent Trocheck is over a point-per-game and on his way to a career year. Any difference in his game for this or riding the percentages a bit?
Trocheck is one of those special players.  He’s not big by NHL standards, but he plays like he is.  Never takes a shift off and is probably the real heart and soul of the team.  As one of my favorite former NHL coaches would have said, he’s gone through the “maturation process” and he’s producing like he should.  He’s on pace for a career year at a point per game clip so far, and if he had any decent wingers to play with, who knows how much he’d produce.  But he needs help.  This pace that he’s on can’t last with the linemates that he’s been given.  Hopefully that changes cause Vinny is a good kid that deserves better.  It’s been fun watching him progress and develop into the player he is today.  He has a very bright future, but will that future be here?
We tend to separate NHL coaches and GMs on a binary scale, either Idiot or Not An Idiot and that’s it. What is Bob Boughner?  
Well I’m not fond of his attire, something I joke about on Twitter and have offered to take him shopping.  That being said, it’s 21 games into the season, and he doesn’t really have much to work with.  While it’s too early to say he’s one or the other, he’s made some questionable moves for sure, and insists on keeping Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad together as the number one defensive pair.  Do you remember when the Hawks had Doug Smolek and Brad Brown on defense?  Dirk Graham was the coach for the Hawks that year and we know what happened to him. For a coach that played defense during his career, Boughner hasn’t been much of an influence.  He needs a better roster, and there are a few players that need to look in the mirror.  Otherwise Boughner is trying to get blood out of a rock.  There are some nights he looks like he’s in over his head.  Learning on the job isn’t fun, especially in South Florida.
Jared McCann has some pretty impressive underlying numbers so far. Did the Cats steal this kid from the Canucks?
I think it’s too early to tell on this one.  Last season he clearly wasn’t ready, and this year, up until his recent injury he looked much better.  He’s been back for a couple games, but he’s also suffering from a mixed bag of linemates.  To be honest, I’d like to reverse the trade.  Gudbranson brings more to the table, despite his poor analytics, than McCann.  The Panthers need Gudbranson’s heart, soul, and toughness.  Let’s see a full season of McCann before we pass judgement on his value.
What’s it going to take for the Panthers not to just spasm a playoff berth every so often, but to be a consistent playoff team to build a platform to something more?
They need to stop with all the changes and decide on a direction, other than a consistent swirl down a drain, only to come up for air once every few seasons.  It’s hard to attract players and coaches to an organization when there’s so much change and a history of turmoil.  Yes, it’s sunny South Florida where there’s no state income tax, but honestly, why do you think so many over 35 year old free agents like it here?  No media attention, South Beach, perfect weather during the season, and a great place to retire. Which some players have done while still under contract.  But there’s no pressure to win.  Mediocrity and complacency are being touted as patience.  With the deal the team has with the arena, they aren’t going anywhere, yet with attendance down again, and the team unable to string together three consecutive wins, it’s depressing.  The owners haven’t been afraid to spend money, that’s not the issue.  It’s how they’ve spent it that’s the concern.  That unfortunately is a much longer discussion. The other issue is that the cupboard is thin.  No one in the minors appears to be ready to step in and contribute.  After having been touted as having a plentiful minor league system just a few seasons ago, there’s nothing.  The fan base deserves and wants more.  Patience is thin.  What’s it going to take?  It’s going to take an attitude that losing isn’t acceptable for starters.  Players will need to be held accountable no matter how much money they’re making.  And it’s going to take a change in culture.  The team has no chemistry and it shows.  They were on the way to respectability just two seasons ago.  But ownership apparently isn’t aware of one of the most common phrases:  “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.  Unfortunately they thought things needed to be fixed and they were wrong.

 

Everything Else

Frank Rekas is the editor of PantherParkway.com. Follow him on Twitter @FrankRekas.

Let’s start with just what “the plan” is in Florida. They fired all the guys they hired to take the team in a more modern and analytic direction after about 12 minutes, and brought back Dale Tallon. But the team doesn’t appear to be any better and in fact there have been a couple bewildering decisions. What’s going on here?

The Florida Panthers are good at one thing: Being consistently inconsistent.  When Dale Tallon came to town in 2010 he had his “Blueprint” which was going to steer the Panthers in a winning direction.  Within two years the Panthers won the Atlantic Division and went to the playoffs for the first time in 10 years.  It’s been said they they may have peaked too early, or that a lot of players had career seasons that year and it was just luck.  Regardless, that was as fun of a season as South Florida had seen in years.  But good things in South Florida don’t last forever and that season was followed by the lockout year, and then the wheels fell off in 2013-2014 and Kevin Dineen was fired because, why not?  It must have been his fault.  It was a roster that was put together with duct tape and staples.  Nothing went right other than re-acquiring Roberto Luongo at the trade deadline.  With new ownership in place, changes were going to be made and they were, starting with a new head coach Gerard Gallant.  The team improved by 25 points in Gallants’ first season behind the bench, followed by another division championship and playoff birth in 2015-2016. THAT’S when the demolition began.  The executives lead by what some of us call the Army Math Team and Pentagon Trading LLC decided that even though the team had it’s best season ever, they needed to make changes cause of analytics.  I’m personally not a fan of Corsi and Fenwick, but I do know that it’s a part of hockey.  They don’t measure however things like character, hockey sense and leadership.  After that season, the Panthers traded fan favorite and an up and coming leader in defenceman Erik Gudbranson.  This pissed off Gallant to no end, but he dealt with it. Until he was fired.  Replaced by then General Manager Tom Rowe, who is about as qualified for either of those positions as any one of us is.  We could likely have done better.  The 2016-2017 season was a dumpster fire.  Now to the present, where Dale Tallon is back in as the General Manager left to fix the mess that Rowe left behind.  The Tom Rowe experience in my mind has set the organization back at least two to three years.  The defense is young and inexperienced, except for Keith Yandle who doesn’t play much defense.  If you can stop the top line from scoring, you pretty much have the game won, and they aren’t tough to play against.  Beyond all this, things are great.  We’ve been told to be patient, which I responded with this,
On the plus side, Vincent Trocheck is over a point-per-game and on his way to a career year. Any difference in his game for this or riding the percentages a bit?
Trocheck is one of those special players.  He’s not big by NHL standards, but he plays like he is.  Never takes a shift off and is probably the real heart and soul of the team.  As one of my favorite former NHL coaches would have said, he’s gone through the “maturation process” and he’s producing like he should.  He’s on pace for a career year at a point per game clip so far, and if he had any decent wingers to play with, who knows how much he’d produce.  But he needs help.  This pace that he’s on can’t last with the linemates that he’s been given.  Hopefully that changes cause Vinny is a good kid that deserves better.  It’s been fun watching him progress and develop into the player he is today.  He has a very bright future, but will that future be here?
We tend to separate NHL coaches and GMs on a binary scale, either Idiot or Not An Idiot and that’s it. What is Bob Boughner?  
Well I’m not fond of his attire, something I joke about on Twitter and have offered to take him shopping.  That being said, it’s 21 games into the season, and he doesn’t really have much to work with.  While it’s too early to say he’s one or the other, he’s made some questionable moves for sure, and insists on keeping Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad together as the number one defensive pair.  Do you remember when the Hawks had Doug Smolek and Brad Brown on defense?  Dirk Graham was the coach for the Hawks that year and we know what happened to him. For a coach that played defense during his career, Boughner hasn’t been much of an influence.  He needs a better roster, and there are a few players that need to look in the mirror.  Otherwise Boughner is trying to get blood out of a rock.  There are some nights he looks like he’s in over his head.  Learning on the job isn’t fun, especially in South Florida.
Jared McCann has some pretty impressive underlying numbers so far. Did the Cats steal this kid from the Canucks?
I think it’s too early to tell on this one.  Last season he clearly wasn’t ready, and this year, up until his recent injury he looked much better.  He’s been back for a couple games, but he’s also suffering from a mixed bag of linemates.  To be honest, I’d like to reverse the trade.  Gudbranson brings more to the table, despite his poor analytics, than McCann.  The Panthers need Gudbranson’s heart, soul, and toughness.  Let’s see a full season of McCann before we pass judgement on his value.
What’s it going to take for the Panthers not to just spasm a playoff berth every so often, but to be a consistent playoff team to build a platform to something more?
They need to stop with all the changes and decide on a direction, other than a consistent swirl down a drain, only to come up for air once every few seasons.  It’s hard to attract players and coaches to an organization when there’s so much change and a history of turmoil.  Yes, it’s sunny South Florida where there’s no state income tax, but honestly, why do you think so many over 35 year old free agents like it here?  No media attention, South Beach, perfect weather during the season, and a great place to retire. Which some players have done while still under contract.  But there’s no pressure to win.  Mediocrity and complacency are being touted as patience.  With the deal the team has with the arena, they aren’t going anywhere, yet with attendance down again, and the team unable to string together three consecutive wins, it’s depressing.  The owners haven’t been afraid to spend money, that’s not the issue.  It’s how they’ve spent it that’s the concern.  That unfortunately is a much longer discussion. The other issue is that the cupboard is thin.  No one in the minors appears to be ready to step in and contribute.  After having been touted as having a plentiful minor league system just a few seasons ago, there’s nothing.  The fan base deserves and wants more.  Patience is thin.  What’s it going to take?  It’s going to take an attitude that losing isn’t acceptable for starters.  Players will need to be held accountable no matter how much money they’re making.  And it’s going to take a change in culture.  The team has no chemistry and it shows.  They were on the way to respectability just two seasons ago.  But ownership apparently isn’t aware of one of the most common phrases:  “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.  Unfortunately they thought things needed to be fixed and they were wrong.
Everything Else

A lot of the ink spilled on the Florida Panthers this summer was in the vein of, “What are they doing?” Three of their top six scorers were simply let go. Reilly Smith was traded to Vegas (don’t every say, “Las”). Jesse Marchessault was taken in the expansion draft. Jaromir Jagr was just allowed to walk. They had yet another front office shuffle, which landed Dale Tallon back into the GM’s chair. They hired Bob Boughner as coach.

Here’s the thing. The Panthers are weird. And they’re weird because they’re owned by a rich guy who is obsessed with the army. And any rich dude obsessed with the army is fucking trouble. He patterned the logo after the army. The uniforms. He wanted the Panthers to be in the game at West Point. I want to pretend he’s like Buster Bluth and calls it, “Army,” but no, this dude served and thinks it should be the foundation of every company he runs, if not the world at large. This is just bad. And as long as he’s there, the Panthers will be weird.

Florida Panthers

’16-’17 Record: 35-36-11  81 points  6th in the Flortheast

Team Stats: 50.5 CF% (11th)  49.2 SF% (21st)  48.8 SCF% (22nd)  6.5 EVSH% (26th)  .921 EVSV% (2oth)  17.0 PP% (24th)  85.3 PK% (2nd)