Sunday, January 6, 2008

Panthers Insider

The Florida Panthers have been an average team this year at best. Take one look at their record, and vanilla screams at you. They are 19-19-3 overall, 9-9-2 at home, have a 10-10-1 away record, and are 5-4-1 in their last ten games. They are a very streaky team, with having won or lost three games in a row seven times this season. So what makes this team a..500 team?

The Panthers have a good power play, ranking 8th in the league at 19.4%, and a penalty kill rating of 81.6%, good for 17th. They also give up only 2.71 goals per game, which is 14th in the league. But, the power play sometimes seems to be the only time they score. Florida ranks 21st in scoring five-on-five goals, are 25th in goals scored at 2.46 goals per game, and don’t win many face-offs, wining 48%, 27th in the league.

“That’s been our issue all year,” said Olli Jokinen after the Panthers were shutout 1-0 Sunday by the Flyers. “We just have to find a way to put it in and score.”

When you consider how cold Nathan Horton, Richard Zednik and Jozef Stumpel have been, it’s incredible the Panthers have managed to hover around .500. Stumpel, who scored 23 goals last season, has two goals the past 21 games. Horton, who had 31 goals last season, has three goals the past 18 games and Zednik, who the Panthers were counting on to score around 25, has two in his last 19 games.

That’s the good news/bad news scenario for the Panthers. At the midway point they are in second place behind Carolina in the Southeast Division, only five points out. Four out of five of the bottom rungs on the Easter Conference ladder are the teams not leading this division. In a division where it seems only the winner is going to make the playoffs should this team begin to score more goals, they can put together a run for the lead and get themselves into the hunt, and anything can happen after that.

Another area of concern is the goalie Tomas Vokoun is facing on average more than 32 shots a game, second to last in the league. His .919 save percentage and 2.62 goals against average are pretty good, but seeing hard rubber disks flying at him at that rate, will give anyone nightmares. Imagine lowering the shots per game to about a 25 or less per game, and score a few more goals, and you’re looking at a team worthy of a chance to win Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Half way home and all is not lost for the Florida Panthers. In a weak division like the Southeast, if they can limit the losing streaks, score some goals, and play a tougher defense, you may very well be playing hockey in May in the Sunshine State.

So get the sun tan lotion, umbrella, sunglasses, and a bowl of vanilla ice cream; and root for your team in the Florida Panthers Roll Call!!!

~ ogre1kanobe