If you’re expecting another barn burner of a game on Monday like we saw on Saturday, you are in for quite the let-down.
However, this season’s class of Panthers isn’t really at the same level of suckiness as we’ve seen the previous decade.
The red-cats haven’t been to the playoffs since 2000 but going into Monday’s game, they sit 3rd in the East and atop the SouthEast Division. That’s right; they lead the Capitals, who have Alex Ovechkin if you’ve forgotten.
Hell, even the Jets are ahead of the Caps.
If the playoffs started today, Florida would be the only team to represent said division.
Let’s also not forget that it’s not the first month of the season still. Florida has played good hockey up to this point; halfway through the season.
Us Vancouver Canucks fans like to joke that Florida and their GM Dale Tallon form our farm team, rather than the Chicago Wolves, due to the amount of trades Vancouver management seems to pull off with them.
I’m not saying the Panthers are going to win the cup but here are some reasons why the Canucks cannot take tomorrow’s game lightly; not that they should take ANY game lightly.
An Offensive Defence
Florida is lucky like Vancouver to have strong offensive prowess amongst their d-core. At the midway point they have two players who have eclipsed the 20 point mark, as well as White Rock native Jason Garrison who has 18 points.
Their leader however on the back end is Brian Campbell who has 33 points, 2nd to only Erik Karlsson of Ottawa.
In terms of contribution to the team as a whole, nearly 20% of Florida’s goals have come from their defense.
This is in contrast to Vancouver who has 23 goals from D-men or 16.7%.
First off, you have actual local boys Jason Garrison and Mike Santorelli. Garrison, as mentioned, has 18 points is tied for 3rd in team scoring with 11 goals. Santorelli has 7 points in 33 games as a 3rd line center.
For both of them, it will be exciting to play against the team they likely grew up cheering for.
Then you have Mr. Samuelsson; Mikael to be exact. He returned to the lineup only 8 games ago after being traded by Vancouver and has 6 points, including one goal. I would imagine a spurned Sammy Monday night with a very motivated effort against his former team.
We can’t forget good ol’ Jovo Cop. Ed Jovanovski came to the Panthers in the off-season of 2011 and hasn’t exactly lit it up with 8 points in 40 games, but I’m sure he always gets up for Vancouver.
It should also be noted that Marco Sturm, who left with Samuelsson in the trade for David Booth, has been on the IR since December 20th with an upper body injury.
While I won’t go so as far as saying that Florida is a good hockey market, I have to give it to the organization. At this point, the Panthers are averaging 1000 more fans or 4% more fans at each home game as the same time last year.
I’ve widely expressed my thoughts that Winnipeg was a lock to make the playoffs this year because of the motivation they would get from fans.
The same couldn’t be said for Florida to start the season, but because they’ve maintained a good record and a playoff spot, more fans have flocked to games. 85% capacity (16000+) is good for 22nd overall but it’s something for players to go off of as the season goes forward.
With the Canucks being a premiere team in the league and a group that people love to hate, I wouldn’t be surprised if Monday’s attendance at the Bank Atlantic Centre was higher than average.
BEST BET TO WIN: Vancouver
I give Florida props but the Canucks are still one of the hottest teams in the league and quite frankly, are in a whole other league than the Panthers. Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann are no Hank and Dank and Jose Theodore is no longer a Hart trophy calibre goalie.
Even then, Theodore is re-habbing a knee injury so Scott Clemmensen who has 4 wins in 10 games should get the start.
My entire point being is that it shouldn’t be a sleeper.
A Vancouver victory and an entertaining game to boot; it’s a WIN-WIN.
A Vancouver victory would secure the head coaching job for Alain Vigneault at the ALL STAR GAME January 29th. A Canucks loss means Sharks Coach Todd McLellan would clinch the position due to best points percentage after the schedule has been completed through January 9th.
@Vancanucks tweeted this Sunday morning:
Booth will more than likely not give AV notice that he’s good to play Monday, but you never know. He will be itching to play his former team. Same goes for Rome who won’t likely return until Thursday in St. Louis.
Duco had a hatty in his last game with Chicago and will be facing his old team for the first time since signing with Vancouver last off-season.
Sami Salo has a confirmed concussion after the dirty hit he took from Bruins’ Brad Marchand.
Andrew Ebbett had surgery today for his broken collar bone but no word yet on his status. He is more than likely done for the season.
ZE DROP OF ZE PUCK EEZ AT FOUR TURTY PM.
That’s 4:30 PM for you non-French folk.