The Florida Panthers finished last season on a high. They were 25-11-2 in their final 38 games. Only Nashville and Winnipeg produced more points. The Panthers made a serious run for the playoffs, but came up one point short. Many expected they’d continue their success this season.
They haven’t. Not even close.
The Panthers are in last place. They are 3-5-3 with nine points. To be fair, they have played four fewer games than 19 teams in the league, but the Panthers are off to another slow start and will be looking for their first home win of the season tonight.
1. The Oilers love playing in Florida. They have won nine straight game in Florida dating back to December 7th, 2002, but the games have been close. Edmonton has four wins via shootout, one in OT, and they won 4-3, 4-2, 4-2 (EN goal) and 4-0. The shutout started the nine game winning streak. Overall the Oilers are 14-4 in their last 18 games against the Panthers. Florida was one of the rare teams the Oilers had success against during the Decade of Darkness.
2. The Panthers got a big boost in their last game with the return of Roberto Luongo. He was injured in the first game of the season, and returned to the lineup last Friday in Finland when the Panthers defeated the Winnipeg Jets 4-2. Luongo stopped 32 of 34 shots and his .957sv%, in only 91 minutes, was much needed for the Panthers. James Reimer is 1-4-1 with an .885sv% and 3.36 GAA, while Michael Hutchinson is 1-1-2 with a .839sv% and 4.17GAA.
3. Aaron Ekblad is off to a slow start offensively. He had seasons of 12, 15 and 16 goals and 36, 38 and 39 point seasons in three of his first four years. He only has 0-2-2 through eleven games. It is early, but they rely on him to support the offence. While he isn’t producing much offence yet, Keith Yandle is. He has 12 points in eleven games and is trailing only Thomas Chabot, John Carlson, Morgan Reilly and Brent Burns in points-per-game for D-men.
4. Todd McLellan will tie Art Ross for 40th all-time for NHL games coached when he steps behind the bench for the 802nd time. McLellan is currently 33rd in all-time wins with 433. Brian Sutter is 32nd with 451. If the Oilers win 30 more games this season McLellan will be in the top-30 all-time. But he has a long way to go to get in the top-20. Currently Peter Laviolette is 20th with 582, John Tortorella is 19th with 583 and Claude Julien is 18th with 591. They are all still active and will be over 600 wins at by season’s end. Twenty coaches with 600 career wins would equal the 20 NHL players with 600 goals. Patrick Marleau needs 62 goals to become the 21st player with 600 goals.
5. Speaking of coaches, Joel Quenneville is second all-time in wins with 890 and games coached at 1,636. Now that he is inactive, Barry Trotz is the active leader in wins with 770 and he will pass Al Arbour, 782, later this season and move into fourth place all-time. Quenneville will be highly sought after, but I don’t see him rushing back. He will take his time and he will want to go to a team he thinks can win in the next three years. I don’t see him going to a rebuild.
6. The Panthers have the worst PK in the NHL at 68.1%, and their home PK mirrors the Oilers’ last year. The Panthers are a dreadful 56.3% at home allowing seven goals on 16 kills. The Panthers’ home PP is 5.9% with one goal on 17 chances. Even Oilersnation version of Larry, Curly and Moe (Chris, Dan and Cam) could figure out why they are 0-3-1 at home so far this season.
7. Does it matter where a player scores his points? I see a lot of emphasis on 5×5 scoring, because the majority of the game is played there, so I get why we look at it closely, but ultimately does it really matter? Points are points. A goal is a goal, and excluding an empty net goal, the shooter always has to get it past a goalie. Currently Connor McDavid is tied for second in NHL scoring with 22 points, but he is tied for 22nd in 5×5 scoring, and he is 69th in P/60 at 5×5. Is anyone going to say he isn’t playing well? Many use P/60 as an indicator of production, and I’ve always been a bit leery of it. It has merit, for sure, but if you only look at it we might create inaccurate assumptions. Playing more minutes doesn’t guarantee more points, especially when the more a player plays, the quality of competition increases.
Last season McDavid led the league in 5×5 points, 71, and in P/60 at 3.2. This season he is at 2.3, but his overall point totals are higher. He is on pace for 120 points after scoring 108 last year. He averaged 16:12/game at 5×5 last year and is at 16:06 this year. His point production is down at 5×5, but up significantly on the PP. Would anyone say he is having a worse year because his 5×5 production is down? Would you care if he scored 25 more powerplay points and ten fewer 5×5 points than last season? I wouldn’t. It is great to see where the points are coming from, but ultimately there are no pictures on the scoresheet. They don’t ask how, they ask how many.
8. One reason McDavid’s 5×5 scoring might be down is his main winger, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, only has one goal in 224 5×5 minutes. RNH isn’t playing poorly, but he isn’t finishing. He has one goal on 35 shots. He is due to score. In fact the entire left side is in a goal scoring funk at 5×5. The other three have produced zero goals. Tobias Rieder has 28 shots in 167 minutes, Milan Lucic has 10 shots in 168 minutes and Jujhar Khaira has nine shots in 125 minutes.
The four left wingers have produced one goal on 82 shots. They have a combined SH% of 1.3%. Just like Alex Chiasson’s 42.9SH% is unsustainable, so too is the lack of goals from the left wing. They have combined for 15 assists. RNH and Rieder have 11 of those, so they are involved in the play, but eventually the left side will stop shooting blanks.
9. It hasn’t just been at 5×5 where the LW is struggling to score. They have combined for a total of four goals on 105 shots in 920 minutes. Their combined SH% is 3.8% so you’d expect it to improve moving forward. They are an example of a group who isn’t producing goals, despite playing fairly solid hockey. RNH has looked good. Rieder after a slow first few games has been involved. Lucic couldn’t score in a brothel right now, but I think he has been engaged and involved, while Khaira has started to look much more comfortable the past seven games.
10. Reminder if you have a few extra used hockey sticks lying around in the garage, here is a great cause to donate them to. Help Peyton regain mobility in his right hand.
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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 11/08/2018 – 9:00 am MT