Florida Panthers: Grading the Players After Twice Beating the Lightning

Kevin KraczkowskiCorrespondent IIIOctober 18, 2011

Florida Panthers: Grading the Players After Twice Beating the Lightning

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    When the official NHL schedule came out, I'm sure the Islanders, Penguins and Lightning all circled their calendars with glee, thinking a home opening victory was a sure thing.  Four games in, four home openers (including their own) and three victories later, the Cats are sitting pretty with a 3-1 record.

    How did this happen?  Some point to Dale Tallon. With his glowing track record bringing the Stanley Cup back to Chicago, we've suspected it is just a matter of time before he does the same for the Florida Panthers.

    Some suspect Kevin Dineen, Gord Murphy and the rest of the coaching staff.  These aren't the same dump and run Panthers we are used to.

    Whatever it is, it looks pretty good so far.

Tomas Fleischmann

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    First Line: Left Wing

    19 minutes on ice, one assist, one shot, one blocked shot, plus-one rating, two minute hooking penalty.

    Despite the Panthers putting up seven goals, Fleischmann was one of only three players (along with Kris Versteeg and Mike Weaver) to finish the night with a positive plus/minus rating.

    Grade: B

Stephen Weiss

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    First Line: Center

    18 minutes on ice, two goals on six shots, two assists, one hit, 14 of 23 faceoffs won.

    Weiss scored a power play goal in the first period, assisted on power play goals in the second and the third and helped to ice the game with an even strength goal in the third period. 

    Grade: A

Kris Versteeg

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    First Line: Right Wing

    16 minutes on ice, two goals on four shots, two assists, a plus-one rating and two hits.

    Versteeg was all over the ice.  He displayed some fancy stick handling, and right after Tampa Bay's third goal (which closed the game to one goal), he nearly scored again.  He narrowly missed the hat trick, although if he plays like this every night, there should be at least one in the near future.

    Grade: A

David Booth

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    Second Line: Left Wing

    14 minutes on ice, one hit, two shots on goal.

    Somehow, Booth was excluded from the scoring fiasco tonight. He did, however show some serious hustle on the ice, charging for the puck with reckless abandon to avoid icing penalties in the offensive zone on several occasions.

    Grade: B+

Tomas Kopecky

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    Second Line: Center

    15 minutes on ice, one goal on four shots, minus-one rating, seven of 10 faceoffs won, a two minute tripping penalty drawn by Pavel Kubina.

    Kopecky was more than adequate in the faceoff circle and got the scoring started in the first, assisted by his defensemen, Jovanovski and Campbell.

    Grade: A-

Scottie Upshall

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    Second Line: Right Wing

    13 minutes ice time, two shots on goal, one hit.

    Upshall didn't figure into the scoring, but was quick and aggressive all night.  The guy plays angry.  After a mid-ice faceoff after the final Tampa Bay goal, he seized the puck, jumped over a guy, dropped his stick, picked up his stick and hit a dude against the boards before the play was whistled dead.  This took place over a five second span of time.

    Grade: A-

Sean Bergenheim

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    Third Line: Left Wing

    16 minutes on ice, one goal on two shots, four hits, one blocked shot.

    Bergenheim was hitting guys all over the place. Once near the end of a penalty kill in the first period, he cleared the puck and drilled a Bolt into the wall, all in one motion.

    That's not the best part, though. 

    He stole a pass on the Tampa Bay power play and skated the length of the ice, deking Roloson out of his skates and giving the Cats their first shorthanded goal of the season.

    Grade: A

Marcel Goc

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    Third Line: Center

    17 minutes ice time, minus-one rating, two shots, 12 of 23 faceoffs won.

    We didn't see much of Goc after his game winner in the shootout Saturday night, although he was better than average (slightly) in the faceoff circle.

    Grade: B-

Jack Skille

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    Third Line: Right Wing

    16 minutes on ice, three shots, minus-one rating.

    Skille again showed some effort tonight, skating after loose pucks and just barely missing a goal from the right point in the third.

    Grade: B

Matt Bradley

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    Fourth Line: Left Wing

    Nine minutes on ice, minus-one rating, one shot, one blocked shot, two hits.

    Bradley showed good pursuit in limited ice time, chasing the puck the length of the ice and then some before planting a Lightning player into the boards near the end of the first period.

    Grade: B

Shawn Matthias

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    Fourth Line: Center

    11 minutes on ice, minus-one rating, one shot, two of three faceoffs won.

    Matthias had a solid game tonight.  At times, he looks like the fastest guy on the ice, outhustling everybody for loose pucks. 

    At some point, look for Matthias to move up the depth chart and compete for more ice time.

    Grade: B+

Ryan Carter

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    Fourth Line: Right Wing

    10 minutes on ice, minus-one rating, one shot on goal, two hits, four of nine faceoffs won.

    Carter poke checked the puck out of the zone at the best possible time during a Lightning power play, ending a threat and allowing the Cats to make the line change on the fly. 

    Grade: B+

Brian Campbell

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    First Line: Defenseman

    With 23 minutes of ice time, Campbell again led the Cats. He assisted on four goals, bringing his total to a team leading seven on the season. He also had a minus-one rating. 

    In the always important first period, he tallied one blocked shot and one hit, helping to set the tone for the game.

    After assisting on the Panthers' first goal, he almost had a bad night, accidentally knocking the puck into his own net and tying the game, 1-1.  He rebounded nicely, though, and continues to lead the team. Campbell may be the odds on favorite to be named team captain.

    Grade: A

Jason Garrison

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    First Line: Defenseman

    22 minutes on ice, one goal on two shots, one blocked shot.

    Garrison scored the Panthers' fifth power-play goal of the night, his second goal of the season. 

    Grade: B+

Ed Jovanovski

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    Second Line: Defenseman

    19 minutes on ice, two assists, one shot, two blocked shots, three hits, minus-one rating.

    Jovanovski assisted on the Panthers' first goal of the night, by Kopecky in the first, and then again on Weiss' second of the game, in the third.  He looked aggressive, logging a clean hit in each of the three periods.

    Grade: A-

Ed Gudbranson

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    Second Line: Defenseman

    13 minutes on ice, minus-one rating, five minute major penalty for fighting with Ryan Malone.

    For the second time in two games, Gudbranson dropped the gloves to make a statement, this time after barely a minute of ice time had passed.  He didn't look quite as sharp as he did on Saturday, but logged a lot of quality ice time after the scuffle.

    Gudbranson is trying to carve out a niche in the Panthers lineup before his nine game trial period is over.  He's not a natural slugger, but he is a pretty big dude.

    Grade: B-

Dmitry Kulikov

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    Third Line: Defenseman

    23 minutes on ice, one assist, one shot, two hits, one two minute holding penalty.

    Kulikov assisted on Weiss' first goal of the night in the first.  He also made maybe the best hit of the night in Florida's defensive zone in the middle of the second period.

    Grade: B+

Mike Weaver

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    Third Line: Defenseman

    20 minutes ice time, plus-one rating, one hit, one blocked shot.

    Weaver gutted out a great performance in tonight's game.  He was gritty where he needed to be, and put forth the effort when he needed to.

    Grade: B+

Jose Theodore

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    39 shots faced, 35 saves, four goals allowed. 

    Theodore came out sluggish, allowing two goals in the first period, looking pretty slow on the second goal.

    He looked better after the first intermission, saving 27 of 29 shots the rest of the game.

    Grade: B-