If Tuesday night’s exhibition game against the Tampa Bay Lightning was any indication of what to expect for the upcoming season, the Florida Panthers appear to be in good shape.
General manager Dale Tallon said earlier in camp that the Panthers — who brought in a plenty of new pieces this offseason, including three-time Stanley Cup winning coach Joel Quenneville — expect to see everything come together. And they expect it come together quickly.
“The window is now and forever,” he said.
And with the Panthers’ season set to begin next week on Thursday against the Lightning and playoff hopes already on the horizon, things do appear to be falling into place.
The Panthers followed their 6-0 win over the Dallas Stars on Saturday with a 6-3 win over Tampa Bay Tuesday at the BB&T Center — a game in which five different Panthers scored.
“The Pace started out quick, and then it slowed down a bit,” Quenneville said after the game. “We were fortunate around the net. We finished some nice plays. I would expect guys, as we progress through these games to be a little bit more intense as we go along.
“We did some good things...We made some nice plays on the goals.”
Florida’s top line of Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Evgenii Dadonov accounted for three goals, and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky made 12 saves on 14 shots.
Bobrovsky, who’s entering his 10th year in the league, made his Panthers debut during Tuesday’s preseason game. Florida signed the veteran goalie to a seven-year deal in free agency.
Bobrovsky appeared in 62 games with the Columbus Bluejackets last season, helping the team to a 37-24-1 record with a .913 save percentage.
“It was good for him to get in the net,” Quenneville said of the 31-year-old. “I thought he made a spectacular save, and I think he’s just gonna keep getting better as we go along here and getting comfortable with the guys in front of him. And I think that learning curve is gonna be good for the guys who are playing in front of him as well.”
Barkov, who scored twice and tallied one assist Tuesday, said that the team has been practicing well, and that has translated in the games.
But despite the strong showings from Barkov, Huberdeau, who had a goal and an assist, and Dadonav, who had an assist, Quenneville’s team knows there’s more work to do.
“I just think we have more,” Huberdeau said. “We got some points tonight, but I don’t think we played a really good game. I think we just gotta be play better and be a threat offensively.”
Quenneville echoed that sentiment.
“It’s preseason,” he added. “There’s some things that we’re trying to improve on and talk about, and get a little more familiar with. We still haven’t seen teams put in the special team work at this time and the power play and I’m sure that over the last couple of exhibition games you know that’s going to be a focus going into the regular season.”
Tuesday’s performance also showed that the fans are excited, though.
Barkov’s second goal in the second period prompted an electric roar throughout BB&T Center as Florida took a 2-1 lead.
Before the announcer had gotten out Barkov’s name to credit him for the goal, members of the crowd were on their feet less than a minute later, flailing their arms in the air to celebrate another goal, that time by Huberdeau, to give Florida a 4-2 advantage.
“It doesn’t matter which game, you want to win,” Barkov said. “If it’s preseason, or exhibition or regular season, you want to win games and you want to build your confidence. And I think this win was huge win for us.”