SUNRISE–When you’re hot you’re hot, and when you’re not, you’re not. The Florida Panthers are cold right now, despite playing at home the Panthers dropped a 4-2 decision to the Edmonton Oilers, a revenge game for a Panthers’ win in Edmonoton eight days before.
Trailing 3-0 entering the third the Panthers managed to chip away 2/3 of that deficit with goals by Reilly Smith and Quinten Howden. Florida goalie Al Montoya lost his first game in a long time to drop his record to 7-2-1. Highlights of the game which included two goals by Edmonton’s Taylor Hall can be seen here:
Whether it was motivational or tactical, the second intermission finally saw the Panthers play the kind of puck possession they did during their 12-game winning streak. Lost in the angst among Panthers fans is that Edmonton’s goalie, Cam Talbot, delivered superior performance when New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundquist was injured last season, so much so that the Rangers did not see the need to rush the King back into action last year.
Another source of anxiety for Florida fans was the near empty net goal scored by Edmonton when Montoya had to reverse tracks after the Panthers lost control of the puck as they were trying to get the equalizer.
What about the empty net strategy? It’s more of an NHL thing than something tried in Europe.
An hour of research produced one chart from last season showing the number of goals scored with pulled goalies.
We also found one lengthy article of recent vintage…
A few random stats on the topic, of all goals scored with an empty net, only 30% are scored by the team with the man advantage. Obviously 70% are scored by the team aiming for the empty net. This stat doesn’t inlcude the number of situations where no goal was scored by either team. As for an overall percentage, and it’s difficult to track without reading game summaries for every game the situation occurred, the attacking team scores 8% while surrendering goals 35% of the time. So far this year pulling the goalie has worked at a higher percentage for the Panthers than it has before.
The sure-fire solution to prevent empty net goals is for a team to find its groove early in a game and keep it throughout, taking a lead into the late stages of the game so the opponent is putting their net at risk for an easy score.
What’s fueling the Panthers losing streak is the inability of the defensemen to get the puck out of the defensive zone causing the forwards to retreat back behind their own net to assist. There’s nothing bothering Florida that won’t be fixed when their young, All-Star defenseman Aaron Ekblad returns to action, though that return is uncertain. As of Monday he was all but ruled out for Friday’s game with Chicago. Ekblad was injured in the previous game with Edmonton on a check from behind by Matt Hendricks. Erik Gudbranson handled Hendricks in a first-period fight that inspired Florida to a 2-0 deficit. In the second period Gudbranson left the game with a back sprain leaving the team without two of its better defensemen.
Tickets for all future Panthers games including the Chicago game, Tampa Bay, Saturday, and Toronto, Tuesday, Jan. 26 are available at panthers.nhl.com
Updated standings show Florida on top in a tightening Atlantic Division race.
The latest Jagr-O-Meter…The legend was held without a point in Monday’s game as the Panthers top line spent too much time in the defensive zone.