Having won three straight games, playing the best hockey so far of the season, fans and players alike felt that the Caps looked ripe for the picking.
The Capitals were without inspirational sniper Alex Ovechkin and had, up to that point, not done very well without him.
Early in the first game of the back-to-back series, Washington also lost their goal scoring defenseman Mike Greene and all signs of victory seemed to point firmly in Florida’s direction.
However, it was not to be.
The Caps cruised to a 4-1 victory in Sunrise and then came from behind to punish the Cats in a third period licking in Washington.
Down 3-2, the Caps turned the tables, scoring five goals in the third, while the Panthers only managed one, losing 7-4.
The second period had looked promising for the Cats as the call-ups from Rochester, of the AHL, gave the Floridians a chance to win with their all-heart performances. Kenndal McArdle, Michal Repik, Victor Oreshkovic, and Jeff Taffe, not only filled the numbers—but also visibly led the Panthers when going forward.
If only more of the regular players and veterans of the Florida roster had decided to show up for this game as well…
Especially the defense and goaltending was dreadful to behold. Unless of course, you were one of the many waving fans in red that urged their team to triumph in that decisive period.
I’m sure they cheerfully acknowledged the Panthers’ inability to keep the Caps at bay in front of the crease, or at the far post, and the subsequently appalling goaltending provided by Scott Clemmensen—when pucks came bouncing his way.
Clemmensen is having a torrid start to his Florida career; posting a hideous 5.13 GAA in his four starts of the season. Not that it’s all Scott’s fault though…
"It was like Murphy's Law. Anything that could go wrong, went wrong," Clemmensen told the Associated Press after the game. "We weren't very good down low; there were a lot of open guys around the net. It looked like a fire drill down there. It was total chaos from my perspective."
From my own humble perspective, in front of the TV (admittedly not the best viewpoint), it looked like the Caps knew very well how to crack Clemmensen wide open.
Yes, the defense did a poor job in helping him out, but a high-quality goaltender should have been able to stop a few of those pucks that went past Scott on this particular night—and the one in Dallas last week when he let five slide by.
Scott continues to look wide open along the ice and down by his legs; the Caps have obviously noted this and scored almost all their goals down low, rather than trying to go top shelf on such a tall frame.
Moreover, his reaction time was sluggish, bordering leisurely, and overall this was just a terrible performance from a goalie standpoint; backup or not.
It is understandable that Clemmensen will be rusty after having been sidelined with the NJ Devils for such a long time—prior to this season. After having stepped in for the injured Brodeur admirably last campaign, he was then demoted and did not feature in any more games.
But, he now needs to get his game on track promptly—if he wants to earn the confidence of his coach and new fans in Florida.
Moaning about the defense and finding excuses won’t win anyone over here. Only good performances on the ice will do that.
In fact, that doesn’t just go for Clemmensen—that applies to the entire team.
This is a team game, and just as a team wins as a team—they should lose as one as well: No blaming other teammates or pointing fingers. 'United we stand, united we fall’.
Comments like these, uttered after the game by Clemmensen, do not fall into the above category: "(What) we need to do is work on our coverage down low and behind the net."
OK, fair enough, that’s what the defense needs to do. I’m sure they’re quite aware of that too. But, dear Clemmensen, look at what you individually could have done better and what you could have done to help the overall team effort—instead of focusing on everyone else.
This is the Florida Panthers, not the New Jersey Devils, you will face many more shots and be challenged further around the crease, than what would have ever been the case in Newark.
You need to understand that, accept that you ultimately only have control over yourself and your own actions on the ice, and start focusing on how to adapt and improve your game to meet the particular needs of the Florida Panthers.
Get that, Scott?