Nathan Horton battles with an Islanders defender in front of the net in Saturday's game on Long Island. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com
In retrospect, Panther coach Peter DeBoer said early Monday morning, there was no reason to question his team’s effort in Saturday’s 3-1 loss on Long Island.
In DeBoer’s words, “Our hearts were in the right place.”
But their choice on how to play? Well, that’s another matter.
Coming off emotional victories at BankAtlantic Center against the Flyers and Canadiens, the Panthers knew going into Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum that their game Saturday against the Islanders could be a trap. And it was.
But DeBoer, who spent Monday at Lakeshore Lions Arena in Toronto preparing the Panthers for Tuesday’s game against the Maple Leafs, said Saturday’s loss wasn’t due to a lack of effort.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed we didn’t win,” DeBoer said. “I think as a group we didn’t take them lightly. We showed up and our effort was there. But I think what we did – and it might be a result of scoring five goals the game before against the Montreal Canadiens – was we got too fancy in the scoring areas.
“We over-passed. We complicated our game too much in the scoring areas. From an execution point we complicated things too much.”
Too many cute passes. Trying to do too much with the puck. The Panthers have moved up the standings keeping things simple. On Long Island they tried to be too intricate. The Islanders also got a solid game out of third-string goalie Yann Danis, who got some help from the post on a Nathan Horton shot midway through the game.
“That’s hockey,” said DeBoer of the hard luck. “We had Philly coming out of the break after the All-Star game when we got a timely goal or a timely save, and that’s the difference in the game. In the Islander game, they got it.
“Over the next 30 games, we’re going to lose some games everybody thinks we should win and win some games no one gives us a chance to win. That’s how hockey works.”
The Panthers could go into the Air Canada Centre Tuesday without leading goal scorer David Booth, who missed Saturday’s game in Long Island and is suffering from the flu or possibly food poisoning. DeBoer said the 20-goal scorer was “doubtful.”
The Maple Leafs are “another dangerous, tough opponent,” DeBoer said. The Leafs, who Saturday evening honored Doug Gilmour by raising his jersey to the rafters and beating the Penguins 5-4, have scored 12 goals in their last two games, both victories. Despite being a young team, the Maple Leafs (19-23-8) have proven a resilient team throughout the season.
The Maple Leafs are 10th in the league on the power play, but 30th on the penalty kill. The Panthers will try to exploit that area of weakness if given the opportunity after going 0-for-6 on Long Island.
“They’re a team that seems to be turning it around in the right direction,” DeBoer said. “I’ve been watching a lot of tape of them. The last few games I thought they’ve played very well.
“I think early in the year they really used their speed and played with a lot of confidence. With a lot of young teams, including ours, when you lose that confidence you tend to sit back and not create as much. I think they played some hockey where it looked like that was the case. But they seem to be back where they were early in the year.”