For Panthers fans it was nice to finally note another ‘W’ to the column and to see the forwards explode in a rare offensive Floridian fireworks display.
Well, maybe it was more a couple of individuals that burst the Cats back into life: Steven Reinprecht with his first period natural hat trick and Rostislav Olesz who scored Florida’s fifth goal of the match and the subsequent winning shootout tally.
Steven Reinprecht has been arguably the best summer pick-up by the Panthers so far.
Not known as a scorer, Steven has nonetheless stepped up and led Florida forward in this department. In the last six games he has now scored all of his eight tallies of the season.
It started innocently enough, when Reinprecht scored an empty netter against Philadelphia on October 16. Since then he has kept his goal streak going. And then yesterday—he virtually took the match by the scruff of its neck and propelled Florida forward by scoring the game’s three initial goals, all in the first period of play in Dallas.
Steven has been given the task of centering the second line this season and at the moment he’s finding some good chemistry with Cory Stillman and Nathan Horton on the wings.
Many fans, including myself, doubted that Reinprecht had the offensive capabilities of a second line centerman when he was brought in from Phoenix in June earlier this year.
With his performances in the last six games however, he has manage to shut us all up and wish we could clone him instead—and thus have twelve Steven’s on the team.
Reinprecht is a consummate pro who does the little things well.
Known previously as a solid checking center, he is now showing that he knows where the net is as well and is willing to step into that area above the crease to swoop up any loose pucks—and then put them firmly behind the goaltender between the pipes.
I hope the other Florida Panthers’ forwards are taking note: that’s how you get goals in the NHL!
Another forward that has been finding his feet this season is Rostislav Olesz .
Rosti had a poor season last year and had much of that campaign derailed by injury. Nevertheless, the Czech has managed to come back healthy and eager to show his metal this season and it is starting to reap some early successes.
In the opening games he was one of the best Florida forwards; trying and working hard but perhaps not being rewarded on the score sheet.
Hopefully he will now turn that corner after the Dallas game; where he became the Cats’ eventual game winner with a well placed goal in third period and then the eventual shootout winner as well.
Following David Booth’s injury against Philadelphia, Olesz has been given the chance to play on the first line with his friend and fellow countryman Michael Frolik on the opposite wing.
Centered by Stephen Weiss, they started to find some good chemistry as the game progressed in Dallas and began to exert a lot of pressure on the Stars in the third period.
Overall, this was a very good performance by the Panthers’ forward compartment.
The defenders meanwhile were decent and helped in the offensive endeavors. Jordan Leopold also scored a goal from a stunning Reinprecht cross-ice feed in the second period.
Defensively there were some question marks however—on both sides.
Especially the goaltending was shaky in the opening two periods before the backup netminder’s had shed the apparent rust off their respective shoulders.
Former Panther Alex Auld was between the pipes for the Stars, whilst Scott Clemmensen got his third start of the season for Florida. Both had evening’s they’d probably rather forget, but in the end Clemmensen had the last laugh as he blanked Dallas in the ensuing shootout.
On the whole this was another tentative step forward for the Florida Panthers and the win and offensive scoring will be straws of optimism to cling to.
Next up is St. Louis tonight on the mini back-to-back road trip for the Cats.
Having won just one of their first five games at the Scottrade Center, Florida will be hoping to further pile the Blues upon the home team tonight.
Hopefully yesterday’s victory in Dallas can inject some much needed confidence into the fragile Panthers and lift them toward another win.
Another triumph on the road would immediately propel Florida back into the reckoning and could be the proverbial turning of a corner—that South Florida fans are desperately hoping for.