What’s worse than a team with no answers? A team with no hope. That is what the Florida Panthers are right now, and that is what their few thousands fans in the stands got to see in a 3-0 loss at home against the Northwest division-leading Vancouver Canucks.
You see, the thing is that if you are a Panthers fan, they are like one of those really bad pileups on the
highway, where you just turn your head and refuse to look as one car crashes into the one in front of it in a seemingly endless array of misery. In Florida’s case, you have a five-car pileup that represents each of the losses in the month of February, during which the Cats have gone 0-5.
The Panthers have scored just 13 goals in the past 12 games, and Thursday’s shutout was the second of the month, both of them coming at home to Western Conference teams.
“We had a few opportunities, but we couldn’t solve goaltender [Roberto Luongo],” Panthers defenseman Jordan Leopold said.
Luongo was stellar and in vintage form, notching 31 saves and getting his first shutout since January 7. However, Luongo wasn’t the only factor for what should have been a closer game than the score shows, because Florida went 0-for-7 on power play opportunities.
That’s right, you didn’t misread and that isn’t a typo, the Panthers had seven power play opportunities – including four in the second period alone- but squandered them all.
The game coukd very well have been summarized with two Vancouver penalty kills that somehow ended up being beneficial to the Canucks.
First, Canucks forward
Mikael Samuelson took advantage of a crucial mistake by the Panthers and
broke away to score with two mnutes left in the second period. Then, midway through the third period, Florida had back-to-back power play opportunities but only had one shot on goal. On the other hand, the Canucks took advantage of their own power play right after as forward Ryan Kessler put the game away for good
It didn’t matter if it was Luongo’s glove or the post that got in the way, the most important thing is that the Panthers stopped believing that they could score after a certain point, so the Canucks saw that weakness and pounced on them like a solid team should.
Panthers’ head coach Pete DeBoer felt that his team responded, put in a good effort and stuck to the gameplan, but that wasn’t enough to prevent the loss.
The Panthers have slid all the way back to 12th place in the Eastern Conference and sit six points behind the Boston Bruins, who just so happen to be their next opponent on Saturday at the BankAtlantic Center.
According to Leopold, the Panthers have gotten to a crossroads where “push comes to shove”, while fellow defenseman Keith Ballard thinks that the Panthers aren’t out of the playoff chase but need to string some wins together if they intend to make a serious run at them after the Olympic break. It remains to be seen how many of them will be in the same locker room to make that run after the March 3 trade deadline.