Jaromir Jagr wanted to enjoy his Thanksgiving, wanted to take a day off and not think too much about his job.
With only two goals this season, Jagr says he wasn’t in the festive mood.
Although he and linemate Sasha Barkov are creating chances and playing an effective game, the goals haven’t been there. Both have two goals this season, way below what they (and the Panthers) are accustomed to.
“It doesn't really matter how you feel. I feel better than I did last year, but it doesn't matter,” Jagr said. “My dad always told me, 'this is hockey, not figure skating.' You don't get points for looking good. You want to feel good and you want to be scoring. The first doesn't matter much.
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“Everything in your life is connected. You can try and relax, try and not think about things, but you're always thinking about your job. It's impossible to let go unless you don't care.
“People here are relying on you. In an individual sport, if things aren't going great, you can let things go. In a team sport, if you care even a little, things stick with you, bother you. We know the team is missing the goals we score. With those, we would have a better record.”
Florida’s top line of Barkov at center with Jagr and Jonathan Huberdeau on the wings clicked almost from the moment they were put together for the first time when Jagr came over in a deal with the Devils in 2015.
The trio spent all of last season together with the three all finishing in Florida’s top four in scoring as Jagr led the team with 66 points and Barkov paced the Panthers with 28 goals.
The lack of Huberdeau is certainly a big factor as Florida has tried to find a replacement since Huberdeau severed an Achilles’ tendon during the preseason.
Jonathan Marchessault replaced Huberdeau for the first part of this season and thrived as he currently leads the team with nine goals and 16 points. Jussi Jokinen has been moved into position now to try and facilitate things.
Although neither Jagr nor Barkov will use the loss of Huberdeau as the reason for their slow offensive start, he is the main factor missing from their previous success.
“Things just happen and you have to deal with it,” Jagr said. “It's not like we're not trying; we're not the first guys this has happened to and we won't be the last. You don't want this to happen, you don't want to deal with it. But it is reality.
The good thing about scoring goals is how it helps your confidence and your mental game. It's like everything else; if you do something and the result is there, it builds your confidence and you feel like you can fly. You don't think about anything, you just go out and do it again. Nothing happened in the first period? You don't worry about it. But when you're struggling and nothing happens in the first period, you're like 'here we go again'.”
The frustration is evident on the face of Barkov who hasn’t scored since Florida’s win over Detroit in the second game of the season — a drought now reaching 18 games.
Although Jagr says he and Barkov talk about the ups-and-downs of the game they both love, Barkov says his confidence is low. Barkov has had a number of prime scoring chances in the past few games and, against any other goalie, likely would have scored the overtime-winner in Montreal last week.
Only future Hall of Famer Carey Price made a spectacular save on Barkov’s spectacular move in front of the net and the game — and Barkov’s frustration — continued.
“It feels like I haven’t scored forever,” Barkov said. “I’m not playing with the confidence I need right now. If I have a chance and need to shoot, I don’t feel like it’s going in. Maybe I will, maybe I will get it close. But last year, I was always thinking about the goal, about the puck going in. When you haven’t scored in a long time, you work hard in practice and try and get out of this.
“I just hope this is a slow start and it ends Saturday.”
▪ Jagr on trying to fake confidence: “After playing all these years, I know you can trick the brain, but if you care at all, you cannot trick it 100 percent. Those guys who do, they don't play sports. They're sitting around chanting in Tibet.”
▪ Gallant didn’t participate in Friday’s open practice at BB&T Center nor hold his daily press briefing because of an illness going around.
▪ There will be ice skating in downtown Fort Lauderdale starting on Saturday as the Panthers have built an outdoor rink -- it's covered by a tent which helps keep the temperature in check -- at Huizenga Park on the corner of Las Olas Boulevard and Andrews Avenue.
Tickets for a 90-minute on-ice session, which includes skate rental, costs $13.
The park will be open from Saturday afternoon until Jan. 8.
Saturday: Blue Jackets at Panthers
When/where: 7 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise.
TV/radio: FSFL; WQAM 560, WMEN 640, WMYM 990.
Series: Columbus leads 14-7-0.
Scouting report: Florida won two of the three meetings against the Jackets last year, gaining at least a point in all three. Although Columbus has been playing much better than last year, the Jackets had dropped their previous two games before visiting Tampa Bay on Friday night.