Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers well aware that second half of season needs to be much better than the first

Boston’s David Backes gives the Bruins a 2-0 lead over James Reimer in Saturday’s 4-0 win over the Panthers at BB&T Center.
Boston’s David Backes gives the Bruins a 2-0 lead over James Reimer in Saturday’s 4-0 win over the Panthers at BB&T Center. AP

The Panthers hit the halfway mark of their season on Saturday night.

They landed there with a thud.

Florida’s 4-0 loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday night is not how the Panthers (17-16-8) want to play in the second half of a season they hope is a lot more uplifting than the first half.

Through the first 41 games, the Panthers have done little to offer fans hope they will make their first trip to the postseason in consecutive years since doing so in 1996 and ’97.

Yet, the Panthers came into Sunday’s games tangled up in the gridlock of the Atlantic Division, just two points back of Ottawa for third place — and a playoff spot.

Boston (46 points, second place), Ottawa (44), Toronto (42), Tampa Bay (42) and Florida (42) are all within four points of each other with a lot of games left on the schedule.

That didn’t seem to do much to assuage concern in the Florida locker room following Saturday’s loss, with Jonathan Marchessault and Aaron Ekblad sharing their disappointment with the way things have transpired so far during this disappointing season.

Florida, it should be noted, is also just four points away from the last-place New York Islanders, whom the Panthers visit on Wednesday night.

“If [we] don’t turn this around … it’s going to get harder and harder, and we keep putting ourselves in this position,” said Marchessault, who leads the Panthers with 12 goals this season.

“I don’t think we have a three-game winning streak; it’s hard to be a good team when you can’t get on a streak. Everything is close, but in big games, we don’t win them. We don’t put ourselves in position to get breaks. We’re still not out, but we have to start turning the boat around.”

Said Ekblad: “We have to rise to the occasion.”

Tom Rowe, the team’s general manager who became interim head coach when the popular Gerard Gallant was canned 22 games into the season, has tried to keep a positive spin on things most nights, hoping his team plays more like it did Friday against Nashville and a lot less like it did Wednesday against Winnipeg or Saturday against Boston.

Florida’s loss Saturday was its fourth to Boston this season.

“I thought we battled hard the whole game. It’s the second game of a back-to-back, so it’s obviously a little tiring,” Panthers goalie James Reimer said.

“When you get behind the eight-ball, it just makes it even harder on yourself. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the two points, but there’s still a lot of season left to play. We’ll keep playing more, we’ll keep regrouping and we’ll be alright.”

The Panthers are a banged-up bunch these days, with their games lost to injury reaching 116 on Saturday with Roberto Luongo sitting out and Reimer getting another start.

Although injuries are, as players and coaches love to point out, a “part of the game,” the Panthers have failed to play consistently through the first few months of the season, and the players missing from their lineup is a big reason.

Florida is missing two of its top centers in Sasha Barkov and Nick Bjugstad, along with top winger Jonathan Huberdeau.

Seth Griffith, who was picked up off waivers from Toronto only to end up on the top line in Florida, is out with a concussion.

Greg McKegg left Saturday’s game with what is being called an upper-body injury.

“We’ve got an awfully large list of injured guys out,” Rowe said. “We ask our guys to give it everything they can, and they have, and they’ll continue to do that. [Saturday] was one of those nights when you’re playing a real good team with a full lineup and a real structured system.

“We have a lot of guys that we’re trying to give some key minutes to who are young and getting some experience. This is going to happen once in a while; it’s the only way the young guys are going to be able to become good players in this league. You’ve got to put them in these situations.”

The Panthers hit the halfway mark of their season on Saturday night.

They landed there with a thud.

Florida’s 4-0 loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday night is not how the Panthers want to play in the second half of a season they hope is a lot more uplifting than the first half.

Through the first 41 games, the Panthers have done little to offer fans hope they will make their first trip to the postseason in consecutive years since doing so in 1996 and ’97.

Yet, the Panthers came into Sunday’s games tangled up in the gridlock of the Atlantic Division, just two points back of Ottawa for third place — and a playoff spot.

Boston (46 points, second place), Ottawa (44), Toronto (42), Tampa Bay (42) and Florida (42) are all within four points of each other with a lot of games left on the schedule.

That didn’t seem to do much to assuage concern in the Florida locker room following Saturday’s loss, with Jonathan Marchessault and Aaron Ekblad sharing their disappointment with the way things have transpired so far during this disappointing season.

Florida, it should be noted, is also just four points away from the last-place New York Islanders, whom the Panthers visit on Wednesday night.

“If [we] don’t turn this around … it’s going to get harder and harder, and we keep putting ourselves in this position,” said Marchessault, who leads the Panthers with 12 goals this season.

“I don’t think we have a three-game winning streak; it’s hard to be a good team when you can’t get on a streak. Everything is close, but in big games, we don’t win them. We don’t put ourselves in position to get breaks. We’re still not out, but we have to start turning the boat around.”

Said Ekblad: “We have to rise to the occasion.”

Tom Rowe, the team’s general manager who became interim head coach when the popular Gerard Gallant was canned 22 games into the season, has tried to keep a positive spin on things most nights, hoping his team plays more like it did Friday against Nashville and a lot less like it did Wednesday against Winnipeg or Saturday against Boston.

Florida’s loss Saturday was its fourth to Boston this season.

“I thought we battled hard the whole game. It’s the second game of a back-to-back, so it’s obviously a little tiring,” Panthers goalie James Reimer said.

“When you get behind the eight-ball, it just makes it even harder on yourself. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the two points, but there’s still a lot of season left to play. We’ll keep playing more, we’ll keep regrouping and we’ll be alright.”

The Panthers are a banged-up bunch these days, with their games lost to injury reaching 116 on Saturday with Roberto Luongo sitting out and Reimer getting another start.

Although injuries are, as players and coaches love to point out, a “part of the game,” the Panthers have failed to play consistently through the first few months of the season, and the players missing from their lineup is a big reason.

Florida is missing two of its top centers in Sasha Barkov and Nick Bjugstad, along with top winger Jonathan Huberdeau.

Seth Griffith, who was picked up off waivers from Toronto only to end up on the top line in Florida, is out with a concussion.

Greg McKegg left Saturday’s game with what is being called an upper-body injury.

“We’ve got an awfully large list of injured guys out,” Rowe said. “We ask our guys to give it everything they can, and they have, and they’ll continue to do that. [Saturday] was one of those nights when you’re playing a real good team with a full lineup and a real structured system.

“We have a lot of guys that we’re trying to give some key minutes to who are young and getting some experience. This is going to happen once in a while; it’s the only way the young guys are going to be able to become good players in this league. You’ve got to put them in these situations.”

  Comments