BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
It’s time to recap what we just saw during the Florida Panthers recent home stand and what lies ahead in a season which has an Original Six feel to it.
The Panthers finished the home stand with a 3-2-1 record. If you want an ultimate roller coaster ride, this was it.
In a game that Florida should have secured two points, the contest on February 4, 2021 was the one that got away as the Nashville Predators won a 6-5 contest in OT scoring three unanswered goals. The Panthers looked great all night for the better part of 58 minutes but couldn’t close the deal.
Thankfully, they had just a day to think about it and rebounded for a 2-1 win the next night. Florida improved to 6-0-2 and remained undefeated in regulation time.
After sweeping the Red Wings in Detroit on January 30 and 31, these two teams squared off again on February 7th and 9th.
If there was ever a mismatch, this was it.
On Super Bowl Sunday, Florida peppered Detroit goaltender Thomas Greiss for 37 shots but only one went in. The Red Wings surprised the Panthers by defeating them 4-1 and the Panthers lost their first game in regulation time.
As they did against the Predators, how did the Panthers respond?
You guessed it. They won 2-1 on Tuesday Night.
Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky looked impressive by stopping 31 of 32 shots to give the Panthers a much needed win.
Through four games, the Panthers amassed five points and remained near the top of the Central Division against opponents that don’t appear to be playoff contenders.
But every point matters.
Would the Florida Panthers change their trend of losing the first game of a two-game series against the Tampa Bay Lightning when the two squads squared off on Thursday February 11, 2021?
At the morning skate, I noticed a Rocky IV feel to it as Florida had The Eye of The Tiger look and it showed that night with a convincing 5-2 win. The Panthers wanted respect and on this night they earned it defeating the defending Stanley Cup Champions. There was great buzz in the BB&T Center all night.
So would a win in the opening game of a series carry over and could the Panthers sweep their in state opponent?
Hockey Night In The Sunshine State on Saturday Night was like watching Rocky III as the Lightning looked like Clubber Lang and they pounded Florida 6-1. After a scoreless first period, Tampa Bay led 4-0 after two and the Panthers never recovered.
The Lightning won the game without Captain Steven Stamkos, who went on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list Friday.
Before the game, the Panthers had a touching moment as they honored the victims that were tragically killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas on February 14, 2018. They also wore their retro jerseys.
What lies ahead before the Panthers return to the BB&T Center on Monday, February 22 vs the Dallas Stars?
Florida hits the road to face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday Night at 7 PM. They enter the game with an 8-2-2 mark with 18 points. Tampa Bay has a 10-2-1 record with 21 points.
The Panthers travel to Carolina and face the Hurricanes on Wednesday, February 17th. Then they return to the Motor City and face the Red Wings on February 19-20.
In a year where there is no shortage of familiarity with each opponent as it was during the Original Six Days, it doesn’t take much for fortunes to turn around quickly during a shortened 56-game season where COVID-19 is making its presence drastically felt as rosters change all the time.
A good example of this will be later this season.
The Panthers swept the Chicago Black Hawks on January 17 and 19th in Sunrise.
They’ll face each other six more times this season. Chicago started the campaign 0-4. They are currently 7-5-4 with 16 points, and are in playoff contention.
Stay tuned as things are going to get very interesting, very quickly!
They’ll get interesting in many ways because games are postponed and schedules change all the time.
Scott Morganroth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow him on Twitter @TribuneSouth.