Florida Panthers making strides in close games with improved personnel
Florida’s confidence has grown late in games — particularly shootouts — where its improved personnel has excelled.
12/13/2013 12:01 AM
03/14/2014 2:45 PM
The Panthers seem to be much more confident when it comes to games going to shootouts than in seasons past. Credit some new additions for that.
In Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout win over visiting Detroit, the Panthers got goals from rookie Aleksander Barkov and newcomer Brad Boyes. Goalie Tim Thomas, who signed with Florida during training camp, made saves on two of Detroit’s three shots.
Florida, one of the worst teams in shootouts since it was introduced in 2005, is 3-4 in the bonus round this season with nine goals on 21 shots.
Thomas is 3-1 in shootouts this season and 33-28 overall.
“Look at our personnel, look at Timmie,” coach Peter Horachek said when asked what Florida’s difference has been this year. “When you have the goaltending, you can win with that if you get just one. Our shooters have been pretty good. When you have guys who can finish and have the goaltending, you can go into those with confidence.”
Barkov’s shot was a thing of beauty as he walked in on Detroit’s Jimmy Howard and moved left. Howard bit and Barkov slid the puck to his right and tucked it into the net.
“That’s a really good move,” Thomas said after the game. “He’s done it to me a few times in practice. I got him the first time. He didn’t sell it as well as he should have. The second time he sold it and there’s nothing you can do.”
Barkov said he used that move a few times in Finland last year and obviously worked on it against Thomas.
“I like this move, I think it’s easy to do because I have a long reach. It’s good for me,” Barkov said. “It’s nice to score a goal.”
Boyes retook the NHL lead for active players with his 35th goal Tuesday — one better than Minnesota’s Zach Parise. Tuesday’s shot was his 11th career game-decider as he is 4-for-5 in shootouts this year.
On Tuesday, Boyes shot third and got to see what Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau did against Howard. Boyes went in hard and fired a shot through Howard’s skates.
“A long time ago I decided to pick something as I was going in and stick with it,” Boyes said. “After that, it’s been pretty good. I’ve had some success with it.”
The Panthers’ Plexiglas problem had a life of its own Tuesday night as it was featured on sites throughout the internet and made an appearance on ESPN’s SportsCenter.
Midway through the third, a shot cracked a pane of glass behind the Detroit goal. Florida’s ice crew took down the busted piece and was ready to replace it with another but that piece of glass slipped and cracked.
The arena only kept one piece of backup glass without its protective backing to keep the rest from being scratched or broken. So when the backup piece of glass broke, all they had left was glass with the double-sided adhesive backing.
Because it would have taken approximately 20 minutes to get the stubborn adhesive off, the decision was to put the glass up with the backing still on.
What it looked like was cardboard or plywood instead of glass. “Hurricane season is over,” Panthers TV voice Steve Goldstein quipped.
Game officials told both benches that the odd-looking covering was indeed glass and safe for play. As the third period went on, the backing was taken off another piece of glass and put up during the overtime break.
According to one member of the ice crew, all remaining pieces of glass at the arena were cleared of the protective backing on Wednesday.
“I’m from Toronto so it was pretty big news there,” Boyes said.
“My friends were sending me all kinds of pictures. It was quite the conversation piece. It would have been a 20-minute delay. They wanted to get the game going. But we knew it was glass. If it would have been plywood, we would have been in trouble.”
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