After starting the season red hot, the Panthers cooled off a bit going 6-3-2 in their second set of eleven games. The 14-4-4 Panthers currently sit third in the central division, a point behind the second place Hurricanes and first place Lightning.
THE LAST 11
The Panthers performance has been inconsistent during the last eleven games. They’ve had dominant wins such as the 7-2 thrashing of the Red Wings, but also bad losses like the 6-1 defeat to the Lightning. The Panthers had a bit of a tougher schedule, playing Carolina three times and Tampa twice in this eleven game stand. The Panthers were able to carve out six points in those five games, which is acceptable, although I’d like to see more. One key hallmark of the past eleven games was the Comeback Cats. The Cats would win four games during the eleven game stretch in which they were trailing at some point. As I stated in my last post, if the Panthers won six games during this stretch, they would be on the right track, and they haven’t varied from it.
The Panthers offense over the past eleven has been very inconsistent. They have had games where they explode for goals (6-4 win against Tampa and 7-2 win against Detroit), but the offense has also dried up a lot (6-1 loss to Tampa and 3-0 loss to Dallas). The Panthers have taken a lot of shots over the past eleven, including putting almost 100 shots in 2 games against Anton Khudobin.
Jonathan Huberdeau leads the way in points, as the Canadian winger has 26 points in 22 games. Right behind him is Sasha Barkov with 25 points. Huberdeau also is tied for the team lead in goals, as Huberdeau and Patric Hornqvist each have nine on the season. Barkov has 8.
Carter Verehaege cooled off after a hot start, going goalless in 10 straight games, before finally scoring against Nashville last night.
Frank Vatrano and Alex Wennberg have also found their way on the scoresheet several times recently.
One of the surprises of the second eleven games is Mason Marchment. The rookie is on a four game point streak, with a goal and 3 assists in that span. He has been excellent since coming back in the lineup, and with an injury to Anthony Duclair, he has carved himself a role on the Panthers third line.
Aaron Ekblad has continued his run, putting up a career high four points last night against the Predators. Ekblad is tied for second on the team in goals with 8. His 8 goals also lead NHL defensemen in that category. He has emerged as an under the radar Norris candidate. Mackenzie Weegar has been relatively inconsistent, but when he plays well, he is a great complement to Ekblad.
Kevin Connauton had a shot in the lineup and performed pretty solid. Anton Stralman and Keith Yandle have both been pretty inconsistent defensively.
Gustav Forsling has been playing solid. Injuries have stacked up on the blueline, as Forsling and Markus Nutivaara have missed significant time with injuries. Noah Juulsen is also on the IR, and Anton Stralman was injured last night. Nutivaara and Juulsen have been alright when they play.
Radko Gudas has been a force defensively for the Panthers. Gudas’s physical style has brought new life to the Panthers defense.
The defense has been inconsistent. It has collapsed on several occasions, but has been miles better than it has been the past few seasons. The defense needs to establish some consistency in order to do damage in the postseason.
The Panthers have seemingly decided to go with a platoon style approach when it comes to deploying their goaltender. Both Chris Driedger and Sergei Bobrovsky have started eleven games. I believe this will continue throughout the season, as there seems to be no reason to change the approach.
Chris Driedger has been solid. He’s very consistent, as he consistently manages to save at least 90% of shots he faces in a given night. Driedger is 7-2-2 with a .926 save percentage and a 2.25 GAA. Driedger has definitely been the better netminder this season.
Sergei Bobrovsky has been well not great. He has had some very good games, but he also allows a lot of goals. Despite having the same record as Driedger, he has a .897 save percentage and a 3.11 GAA. Other than the Tampa 6-1 loss, Bob was solid during the last eleven. He was mediocre last night against Nashville. The problem is that he will make big saves but proceed to let in a soft goal (pretty much what I did in soccer last night).
The Panthers are still on the right track. They are 6-3-2 in their past eleven. They do not give up, as evident by their numerous comebacks. During the next eleven games, the Panthers have seven road games. They’ve been solid away this season. They play the Blackhawks (who have been hot of late) four times. They play the Predators three times. The other four games include two against Columbus and one apiece against the Canes and Bolts. Once again, I’d like to see the team win six of the next eleven. The ideal scenario includes two wins against the Preds, two against Chicago, one against the Jackets and taking one from either Carolina or Tampa. As long as the team stays at .500 over the next eleven, they should be on the right track.