THE LOWDOWN is a gameday preview produced by “Hockey Pat” McGrath, a lifelong Cats fan who previously wrote for the Florida Panthers themed blog “TheRatTrick”. The contents of THE LOWDOWN and all opinions expressed therein are solely those of Hockey Pat and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Florida Panthers or Sunrise Sports & Entertainment LLC. Having said that, if you find yourself laughing or smiling as you read the LOWDOWN, feel free to thank us. We accept thank you notes, tweets and ticket purchases.
Florida Panthers vs. New York Islanders
|Panthers ||Islanders |
|Record ||27-41-8 ||29-35-10 |
|Points ||62 ||68 |
|Place ||7th in Atlantic ||8th in Metropolitan |
Coming on the heels of their 6-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Monday night, the Panthers will be at Nassau Coliseum tonight taking on the New York Islanders in Florida’s final road game of the season.
Here is the Lowdown:
About Last Night
Playing on a Monday evening in Newark, the Panthers battled back from an early 3-0 deficit to get within one, but could never completely close the gap. After scoring three goals on nine shots to chase Devils starter Martin Brodeur in the second period, the Cats could not figure out his replacement, Cory Schneider, who stopped all 13 shots he faced.
The Panthers received goals from Dmitry Kulikov (8), Brad Boyes (20) and Brandon Pirri (10) as well as a pair of assists from Nick Bjugstad, who jumped into a tie with Scottie Upshall for the team scoring lead with 35 points (14-21-35). Boyes, Florida’s leading goal scorer, reached the 20-goal plateau for the fourth time in his career, while Kulikov’s shorthanded marker was a career first.
Anatomy of a Goal
The key to scoring a shorthanded goal is creating space by negating the opponent’s man-advantage. The Panthers did just that with Kulikov’s shorty in the first. Let’s take a closer look:
As Bjugstad carries the puck down the ice, we see that the Devils are looking defensively sound with three players defending two Panthers.
Bjugstad then utilizes his superb stickhandling ability to cut across the ice and draw the attention of three Devils.
As we see above, Bjugstad is being covered by three Devils while Bergenheim is occupying his man in front of the net. That means four Devils are covering two Panthers, so even though Florida is down a man, they have two Panthers somewhere out of the frame and only one Devil to cover them.
Thanks to Bjugstad’s ability to draw the attention of the defense, the Panthers will essentially flip the man-advantage in their favor.
Now all Bjugstad has to do is send the puck to Kulikov who is racing in to attack that massive area of empty space on the right side of the ice.
No arrows needed here. Bjugstad makes a perfect pass to Kulikov and the Devils are forced to scramble despite having the extra skater.
If you give a player as talented as Kulikov that kind of time and space, he is going to finish the play more times than not. Kuli makes no mistake about this one and rockets a wrister past Brodeur to cut into Jersey’s lead.
“Left Handed Larceny”
It did not take long for the Panthers to test Schneider. Just a few minutes after he replaced Brodeur, Schneider was forced to make this beauty of a save on a Scottie Upshall breakaway to preserve New Jersey’s 4-3 lead.
Also of note on the play, HOW ABOUT THAT STRETCH PASS FROM KULIKOV!!!
….and yes, that does need to be in all caps, because there is nothing I love more than a good stretch pass.
Now, on to tonight’s preview…..
Islander to Watch
#21 Kyle Okposo
The Islanders 2006 first rounder is in the midst of a breakout season, setting career highs in goals, assists and points. In what has been a tough season for his team, Okposo has been one of the few bright spots.
Red Hot Cats to Watch
Brad Boyes hit the 20-goal milestone for the fourth time in his career with his goal last night against the Devils. He did so with characteristic style, making a couple of swift moves before deftly backhanding the puck over Brodeur. He now has goals in his last two games.
With two assists last night, Bjugstad now has 35 points on the season (14-21-35), and is tied with Upshall for the team scoring lead. His 21 assists and 35 points rank 6th amongst NHL rookies.
There have been some terrible alternate jerseys in NHL history but none have been more lambasted than the Islander’s ignominious “Fisherman” alternate.
This logo took a lot of heat for bearing a very similar resemblance to a certain frozen fish company’s logo.
The resemblance is uncanny.
Pick a Panther
(Selecting a Panthers player to score in tonight’s game)
Current streak: 0
A fun way to add some excitement to your Panthers viewing experience is by picking one of the Panthers’ goal scorers for every game. I will be picking players for the remainder of the season and if you want to play along, tweet your picks to @FlaPanthers, #PickaPanther. If you pick right, you might get a retweet (commitment is not really my thing)…
Pat’s Pick: Nick Bjugstad
Okay, so I guess I am not as good at this as I would have thought. After going 0-4 to start things off, I am ready to get my first win. Bjugstad is the pick. You can take that to the bank.
Enjoy the last road game of the season! It will be home cookin’ from here on out. Let’s go Panthers!