Visit to the Washington Capitals – TechVerdant


The Florida Panthers road ahead includes a quick visit to the National Capital City before a brief but much-needed homestand. Following a big, although too dramatic victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Panthers look to build momentum before some key matchups.

Lots to Like and Dislike

After a lacklustre performance on the Cats game at Chicago, the Panthers hosted Columbus and got off to a hot start. They made up for all the mistakes in the previous match and started the game being shot out of a cannon. Elvis Merzļikins, the starting goalie for the Jackets, was substituted less than 7 minutes into the first period. The 3-0 lead the Panthers had seemed too significant of a reward for Columbus and short for the Panthers level of play.

A couple of shots hit the pipes and Spencer Martin came into the net and was a great aid for Columbus struggling defence. Allowing too many odd-man rushes which the Panthers could not take full advantage of.

Finally, the heat wore off and the Jackets strung two goals in the first period. Headed to the locker room with a one-goal lead in a game that felt like a total blowout, the Panthers saw old ghosts arrive at Amerant Bank Arena. The Blue Jackets scored four unanswered goals and the Panthers had to rally from behind. Tying the game at 4-4 with less than 2 minutes left and won it in overtime. And as was a common topic throughout the game the Panthers scored the GWG thanks to an odd-man rush. And who else but Carter Verhaeghe to win it in sudden-death overtime? The Panthers kept the two points on home ice but left too many doubts on a game that seemed comfortable.

The Power Play is showing signs of improvement but is still far off what is expected. Maybe it is a matter of luck and just have the puck bounce in once and for all. The Florida Panthers road ahead can get troubling and the struggling PP may be the deciding factor between winning and losing.

Fourth-line finding Their Rhythm

One big positive from the Panthers win against Columbus and looking ahead is the impact of their fourth line. Ryan Lomberg is the kind of player fans love to watch, coaches love to have and opposing players dislike facing. He brings the energy night-in-and-night-out, he skates and grinds every shift at 100%. He runs at full motor with no drops of stamina, no wonder they call him the Lomberghini. Along with Steven Lorentz, they have both found great rhythm and are big-impact players on the lineup. Lomberg found the back of the net for the first time this season against Columbus and was thanks to his style of play.

Lomberg set up a great chance for Lorentz who just sent it wide. On many occasions, the skater assisting may take a break from the play to see it downfold. This is never the case for the gritty and speedy 4th liner. Lomberg never stopped his motion and retrieved the puck behind the net, saw Merzļikins out of position, and shot to his back. Purposefully did so, knowing the ricochet would send the puck into the net, and just like that he lighted the lamp.

In recent years the Panthers have been characterized by their ability to score throughout every line. Having such chemistry between Lomberg and Lorentz may be just what they need to find goal-relief on their 4th line. Heading into Washington, DC the Cats sure hope this line keeps rolling. And, luckily, spread that fire through the rest of the lineup. The Florida Panthers road ahead includes a visit from the Carolina Hurricanes and every line will have to be up to the task.

Crashing the Net

The Florida Panthers have had lots of success this season when shooting through traffic and cashing in any rebound. That is a well-known secret around the league. But it still proves effective. The Panthers cannot abandon that game plan, shooting from the blue line and hoping for deflections or loose pucks.

Florida’s Road Ahead

Up next the Panthers will visit the Capitals on Wednesday night when the Caps will close out a 5-game homestand. Maybe the Panthers face a tired and beat-up Capitals team who just lost Nicklas Backstrom to a serious injury. But the Panthers main focus whenever facing Washington is always the same player. The same Russian skater who wears number 8 and sets office on the left side faceoff circle. The same player the Panthers tried fleecing from the rest of the teams during the 2003 NHL draft. 20 years later Alex Ovechkin has scored over 40 goals against Florida and it is usually through his decorated one-timer.

Shutting down Ovechkin, Penalty Kill will have a huge say on that outcome and could be the deciding factor as well as finally capitalizing on the Power Play. The Capitals Power Play ranks 31st in the league at 9.7% and the PK has a 79.4%. The Panthers are not any better in that area as they sit in the bottom 10 with a 71.1% PK. The Power Play is not too far from Washington, either. Scoring at an alarming 13.5%.

There is much to fix on this Panthers lineup and their concentration drops every night. However, there are many positives, too. The Florida Panthers road ahead when visiting Washington and hosting Carolina and Chicago could be very telling. We know the Cats are good, but we are yet to know how good can they be. Consistency is key in the NHL and the Panthers are mainly lacking that.

Main Photo: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports


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