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Battered Columbus Blue Jackets Impressed with the Florida Panthers



Florida panthers
Vladimir Tarasenko congratulates Sergei Bobrovsky following his 25-save shutout in a 4-0 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night. // Photo courtesy @FlaPanthers

SUNRISE — This has been a tough season for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Thursday’s 4-0 shutout at the hands of the Florida Panthers, which completed a three-game season sweep, was just one more loss in a season filled with them.

New coach Pascal Vincent had his hands full all season after being hastily named coach following the pre-season Mike Babcock debacle.

General manager Jarmo Kekalainen was fired midway through this season, his 11th in Columbus.

The team didn’t fare much better on the ice, with young, inexperienced talent and an excessive amount of time lost to injury.

There were no excuses after Thursday’s loss, the team’s third in a row and sixth whitewash of the season.

It was more of a case of admiring the opposition.

Postgame, Columbus’ coach and players spoke less of their faults and more of the ability of the Panthers.

“That’s a heavy team. That’s a team that can do a lot of damage in the playoffs,” were Vincent’s first words after the game. “There’s a reason why they went to the Finals last year. They’re a heavy, heavy forechecking team.”

Vincent never mentioned that he was playing with his third string goalie, Jet Greaves, who was being backed up by fourth in the depth chart, Malcolm Subban.

Both spent most of the season in the minors. Regulars Elvis Merzlikins and Daniil Tarasov are injured.

“That is a team,’’ continued Vincent, “that will win most of their board battles against any teams in this league.”

The injured roster is almost as deep as the active roster.

Patrik Laine, Yegor Chinakov, Adam Fantilli, Adam Boqvist and Boone Jenner, all regulars, have been out long-term.

Sean Kuraly and Zach Werenski also lost time.

Johnny Gaudreau is having his worst offensive season ever, with only 11 goals.

Erik Gudbranson, who was drafted by Florida third-overall in 2010 and spent five seasons in Sunrise, had nothing but praise for his former team.

“They were the better team for 60 minutes,” he said. “There’s no doubt about that.”

Gudbranson explained how difficult possession time is against Florida and how much time the Panthers had them pinned in their own end.

“We could have done a lot better tonight,” he said. “We didn’t manage the puck very well through the neutral zone. They kind of three-quarter iced us for the whole game and it’s tough to go back for pucks like that every shift.”

Forward Cole Sillinger, whose dad Mike played parts of two seasons with the Panthers, echoed similar sentiments about playing elite teams like Florida.

“I think it’s a challenge,” he said. “That’s the way we want to approach it. We have a lot of guys up. A lot of guys get an opportunity through the lineup, so it should be a challenge mentality and an evaluation to see where you are as an individual and where we’re at as a group…

“It’s no easy night. You know you’ll have to bring your ‘A’ game. We’re going to have to prepare. Tonight, we weren’t good enough.”

On Saturday, the Panthers play another non-playoff team, the Buffalo Sabres.

For Kyle Okposo, it will be a reunion with his former team.

Toronto still has an outside chance of catching Florida for second place in the Atlantic.

Since Florida owns the tiebreaker, Toronto would have to win its three remaining games, and Florida would lose their two in regulation.

It is unlikely, but there is a possibility of a showdown for Tuesday’s final regular season game when the Leafs are in town.

Paul Maurice would hope it doesn’t come to that.

He would like to rest players in the finale.

For the most in-depth coverage of the Florida Panthers:



  • When: Saturday, 5 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports SUN/ESPN+
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Season Series (Panthers Lead 2-0) — At Buffalo: Panthers 4, Sabres 0 (Feb. 15). At Florida: Panthers 3, Sabres 2 (Feb. 28); Saturday.
  • Last Season: Florida won 3-1
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Florida leads 56-45-8, 4 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers — Regular-Season Finale: Tuesday vs. Toronto, 7 p.m.

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