The Panthers came in on a high, winning three of their first four games. Brian Campbell leads the NHL with seven assists, and he's a defenseman. They had just swept last seasons Eastern Conference finalist Tampa Bay in a home and home series. Things have not looked this promising in quite some time.
The Cats hit the ice and instantly looked outmatched. The Caps looked like a playoff team, the Panthers looked like last years team. In Florida's defense, it was the first time they had played back-to-back games this season. Tired and haggard, the Panthers take the long flight home after a 3-0 loss, while the Capitals go home and help their wives decorate for Halloween.
Florida took their home ice on Thursday to try and redeem themselves for their poor performance against Washington. Inexplicably, considering they had an off day, the Panthers still looked tired and flat. Again, a good goaltending performance was rendered moot by a pathetic offensive display as Florida took their second consecutive 3-0 loss to one of last years playoff teams.
There were few bright spots for the Panthers in games 5 and 6.
Booth has been less than stellar lately.
In a combined 31 minutes of ice time, he put the puck on net four times without results. In addition to not being able to tally anything, he has accumulated a minus-six on the season, tied for fourth worst in the NHL.
He did manage to make an effort against the Sabres, collecting two hits and a blocked shot. We will need to see more out of the second line to be taken seriously by the rest of the league.
In 32 minutes on ice, the young defenseman did not get into any fights against either team.
The 19 year old is looking for a hook. The reason he was throwing down so often in the first few games is that he wants to find a way to stick with the club. I guess he noticed that no one else is filling the slot of "enforcer," so maybe he doesn't go back to the minors here after nine games.
Still, with efforts like he had against Washington, a roster slot won't be justified. He will probably be sent back to the Rampage for "seasoning."
After leaving the ice in a daze against the Caps, he managed to dish out three hits against the Sabres.
Upshall was one of the precious few Panthers to have a respectable performance against the Sabres, charging the net, skating around with abandon and logging five shots on goal in the process.
Scottie also lowered the boom on six opposing skaters over the last two games, showing a lot of grit.
Upshall has the spark the Panthers need to ignite this season, and in 29 combined minutes has exhibited dogged determination to get the Cats into the game.
In a combined 21 minutes of ice time, Bradley collected one shot, one hit, and a rating of minus-one.
The highlight of his TOI is pictured above. Midway through the second period of the loss against Buffalo, with the Panthers down 1-0, Bradley threw down with Paul Gaustad. No doubt this was a fight aimed at getting the Cats out of their doldrums. The fight was a draw, but at least the Panthers stood up and took notice. Bradley required medical attention, as his face was bleeding pretty bad after the fight.
Of course, both players were assessed five minute penalties for fighting.
As the anchor of the checking line, Carter collected five hits over the two games, a minus-one rating, and won seven of 11 faceoffs in 18 minutes of ice time.
Even so, Carter was better than average, aggressively checking on the boards and in the open ice.
Ellerby made his first two starts of the season for the Panthers. He logged seven minutes against Washington before injuries made it necessary for him to take on a bigger role against the Sabres, against whom he logged 15 minutes of TOI.
Teamed with Erik Gudbranson, Ellerby was less than impressive. They were both minus-two against the Sabres.
Ellerby did manage to log four hits against Buffalo, salvaging an otherwise wasted night.
Kennedy was called up from San Antonio on Thursday before the game. He would end up logging 14 minutes on ice centering the third line.
Kennedy won four of his seven faceoff opportunities and collected three hits. Unfortunately, he also accumulated a minus-two on the evening.
Matthias logged 14 minutes on ice against the Caps on Tuesday, winning three of his four faceoffs, making two shots on goal, and ending up with a minus-one on the evening.
As always, Matthias looked faster than nearly everyone out there. If he ever finds a scoring touch he will be a force to contend with.
Matthias took ill before the Buffalo game and did not skate.
In 35 minutes of ice time, you would expect one of your four alternate captains to make a little more of an impact on the ice than did Kopecky.
He collected a minus-one rating, one shot on goal, a total of three hits and won one of nine faceoffs.
Kopecky needs to step up and make himself noticed.
Goc helps on defense
Goc logged 33 minutes total in the two games, winning half of his 30 faceoff opportunities.
Against Washington, Goc had one shot on goal and three blocked shot to go along with one hit, ending up with a minus-one rating on the evening.
Against the Sabres, he led all skaters by collecting six hits at the expense of Buffalo.
Skille logged a total of 28 minutes on ice over the two weekday games.
He continues to hustle regardless of the score. He accumulated a minus-two rating with two penalty minutes, two shots, one blocked shot and three hits.
The problem with this team must be effort, because if all the skaters on the team played with the effort that Skille has been showing, they would probably be 6-0 and not at .500.
Chemistry is a crutch word that we've been throwing around. These are professionals. They have all played hockey before and played it well. They know how the game is supposed to be played. We can make excuses all day long but in the end, the Florida Panthers have to win games.
Kearns made his NHL debut with the Panthers after being called up from San Antonio with Tim Kennedy earlier in the day.
At the age of 30, Kearns played a total of seven minutes for the Cats, collecting two hits against the Sabres.
Markstrom was excellent against the Caps, stopping 29 of 31 shots.
The resultant a save percentage of .935 that would put Markstrom in the running for postseason awards.
The LARGE goaltender made his second career start and gave Panther fans something to look forward to in net for the coming seasons. For the time being, he will probably go back to the Rampage after Scott Clemmensen recovers. Another season of dominating at San Antonio will probably do him some good.
Fleischmann played 21 minutes and took two shots in each game this week.
Fleischmann is not making much of an impact on the ice for the Panthers, only blocking one shot and winning his only faceoff.
Considering Fleischmann's skill level, he needs to up his game for the club to start contending. He belongs on the first line, but his recent performance may necessitate a reevaluation of his placement in the Cats' rotation.
Jovanovski logged a minus-two in 15 minutes of ice time against the Capitals on Tuesday. He took three shots and made one hit.
On Thursday, he took the night off due to an undisclosed injury. His leadership could have helped in the locker room.
Kulikov played 41 minutes over the two games.
He made some hasty decisions against the Capitals, making long passes that a skilled team will easily intercept most of the time.
In the second game, Kulikov was paired up with Ellerby, and looked better.
He collected seven hits over the two games, and as always, looked brilliant at times and terrible at other times.
Weaver has been great on the ice for the Cats all year. Weaver is one of two defensemen (along with Kulikov) to escape this week with an even on ice rating.
In 35 minutes on ice, he has collected two shots, three blocked shots and two hits.
Weaver even bled a little for the Cats on Thursday, when he got tangled up in the net. He was back on the ice pretty quickly, and continued to elevate his play.
Garrison played a total of 44 minutes for the Panthers this week.
He had a combined four blocked shots, three shots on goal, two hits and two penalty minutes (for boarding against Buffalo).
Campbell is still tied for the league lead with seven assists after the two shutouts.
He has led the Panthers in ice time in each of the six games so far this season, and played a total of 53 minutes this week. He had a minus-one rating, two shots, and two blocked shots for the Cats.
In Washington, Campbell had a nice defensive play in the second, breaking up a two on one breakout by the Caps and preventing what was probably another goal against the Panthers. Unfortunately, his hard shot on goal in the third rebounded almost out of the zone, where the Caps picked it up and scored an easy empty netter.
Weiss won 19 of his 31 faceoff opportunities while logging 41 minutes on the ice, second only to Fleischmann in ice time for the Panther forwards.
Weiss only contributed one shot for the Cats. He also collected three hits against the Capitals and blocked two shots against the Sabres.
Weiss has the tools to succeed. He may hold the key to getting the Panthers on top again. The first line of Weiss, Fleischmann and Versteeg certainly have the skills to get the job done. It is just a simple matter of execution.
Theodore took the night off against Washington, but came back strong against Buffalo.
He stopped 35 of 38 shots for a save percentage of .921. Unfortunately, the Cats had a hard time getting anything going in front of him.
Versteeg played 19 minutes in each of the two games this week.
Altogether, Versteeg collected six shots on goal and three hits. He was also assessed a two minute minor in the third period against Buffalo for hooking.
Versteeg is tied for the team lead with seven points this season. At times he has jump started the Panthers when things were looking grim. He shows a lot of skill, but at times he tends to hold the puck a little too long. His positioning is pretty good, and it's just a matter of time before he starts to tally some more points. He should put up at least sixty this season.