If the Florida Panthers really want their season to continue past next week, they are going to have to play much (MUCH) better than they did against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday afternoon.
That, that … was not pretty.
If the Panthers were trying to sandbag before their best-of-five series against the New York Islanders opens Saturday, well, good job.
Aside from a few scoring chances early off their power play, the Panthers did not do a whole lot to challenge the Lightning in a 5-0 exhibition loss to the Lightning at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
Yes, it was only a preseason game.
But the Panthers did not look good on either side of the ice for much of the game.
”It is not a good feeling right now,” Brian Boyle said in the NHL postgame press conference. “A loss is a loss and I don’t think there is one area of our game we can feel OK with. It is going to be a lot of work. Thankfully we have a couple of days to do it.
”We have to understand we made some mistakes which cost us and intensity is only going to ramp up. We have the opportunity to learn our lesson and in a couple of day … we have to put that time to good use.”
Coach Joel Quenneville did not seem thrilled with the performance.
“Certainly it was a wakeup call,” Quenneville said. “How we respond to that … hey, this is a day where you can’t be happy with the results. We’re looking for a better effort across the board.
“We are looking for a better effort across the board. The compete level, the battle level, the importance of it … that has to get your attention going into a playoff series or a form of playoff series.
“We got two practices and we will address that we have to get better in all areas. We stood around watching all day long and it wasn’t fun.”
Later, Quenneville said he hoped his team was a little peeved with the performance.
”I always find teams respond when they are angry,” he said. “If that one doesn’t get you excited, you’re in trouble.”
— Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky gave up four goals on 34 shots as he played the whole game as did Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy.
The first couple of goals were not really Bobrovsky’s fault. Brayden Point’s opener at 13:42 of the first was helped by a Lucas Wallmark turnover in the corner.
The second by Point made it 2-0 with five seconds left in the opening period as he jumped on a puck and flew threw the zone (and right by Mike Matheson) to go top shelf.
Tampa Bay’s third goal came on a power play chance off a Nikita Kucherov slap shot. The fourth was another rising shot in which Bobrovsky stayed on the ice and did not move for.
Bobrovsky did not get much help, but he did not help himself a whole lot either.
On shots in front of the net which did not have much air on them, Bobrovsky looked solid.
If pucks were shot high, he did not seem to have much to offer.
The Islanders, you can bet, were paying attention.
”I thought Bob got better as the game went on,” Quenneville said. “I thought he battled, did what he had to do. There were open looks at both ends of the rink today … Bob was fine under the circumstances. We need everyone to be better off of today.”
— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) July 29, 2020
— With Aaron Ekblad out, rookie Brady Keeper moved into the lineup (with two additional players allowed for this game he probably was going to play anyway) and looked like he belonged.
Keeper not only ran the second power play unit (MacKenzie Weegar was also out) but made some pretty solid defensive plays on Point in the first period.
With Matheson being on the ice for all five of Tampa Bay’s goals, Keeper’s play stood out.
The Lightning’s fifth goal came on a pretty pass from Point to Kucherov who came in just ahead of Keeper giving him a minus-1 for the day.
Quenneville did not go into specifics on why Weegar did not play other than saying “we’ll see on Weegs.’’
Noel Acciari blocked a shot in the first period with his skate but continued to play although got limited minutes last. “Acch,” Quenneville said, “should be fine.”
— Aleksi Saarela also made the lineup on Wednesday as did Josh Brown and Dominic Toninato.
— The Panthers were good in the face-off circle, winning 64 percent of the draws in the opening two periods.
That, unfortunately for Florida, did not result in a whole lot of offensive possession time.
Florida had 16 shots on Vasilevskiy in the first two periods but only had a handful of quality shots as Tampa Bay dominated the pace of the game.
The Panthers ended the day winning 53 percent of the draws.
Erik Haula had one of Florida’s best scoring chances all game — and that came on a shorthanded breakaway.
“I think we were a little bit one-and-done today,” Haula said. “We got some chances but there wasn’t a whole lot of puck possession. We didn’t get our cycle game (going) and we have a lot of guys who can handle the puck and be strong on the puck.
”That is an area where we have to dial in. We need to be a group who wants to play with the puck. It was hard and it was noticeable today. Tampa played with the puck pretty much the whole game and we didn’t. They controlled play and we have to look at some stuff and kind of find a different way.”
— Listen, the Islanders are not the Lightning. That is good news for the Panthers.
Florida lost three of four to Tampa Bay this season and just do not match up well with the Lightning. Few teams do.
This may not have been the best game to play for the first time since March as far as confidence goes.
The Panthers need to put this one behind them — and quickly.
— The Panthers got two power play chances right off the hop and were able to create what few chances they did have while with the advantage.
In the third, the Panthers had a 5-on-3 for 1:50 and created a number of scoring chances — Evgenii Dadonov and Keith Yandle both had great looks — but Florida came out of it with nothing to show.
Florida ended the day 0-4 with the advantage; Tampa Bay was 1-3.