BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
Covering Sports in a pandemic is a different animal.
In Baseball, we’re accustomed to a series.
Teams play as many as four-game series during a normal season.
In 2020, we even saw a five-game series.
Because of travel during COVID-19, Basketball and Hockey have gotten into the act to reduce the risk by not going to airports as much.
We all know that in a series teams make adjustments all the time.
That’s very evident during the post-season.
During these two days I got used to what is now going the new norm in the NHL for 2021.
Back-to-back nights with the Florida Panthers hosting the Nashville Predators.
Under the revised alignment which minimizes travel, each NHL team will face a division rival eight times, four games in each venue during a 56-game campaign.
When I was growing up in the 1970’s, back-back-games were common.
Teams would face each other, but the games would be in each home rink.
Two games in two cities.
On Thursday Night, February 4, at The BB&T Center, The Florida Panthers lost a thrilling 6-5 decision in overtime to The Nashville Predators.
If you were looking for an entertaining contest, then this was it.
This game was a track meet throughout and if you were looking for star power, then you had it.
It was a first for me to see two players have five point games.
Since the Panthers don’t face the Predators during a conventional season, I didn’t know much about Filip Forsberg.
On Thursday Night, I realized with a stud he is as he scored two goals with three assists giving him five points. He scored the game winner four minutes into overtime.
In a losing effort vs Nashville, Jonathan Huberdeau notched a hat-trick and added two assists to give him five points.
The Panthers had a 5-3 lead until late in the third period.
The Predators scored three unanswered goals to come away with the win.
Going into the game, Nashville had a four-game road losing streak, and were in seventh place in the Central Division.
They improved to 5-5.
Meanwhile, the Panthers came away with a point to improve to 5-0-2. The Cats remained undefeated in regulation time.
Coach Joel Quenneville knew this was a contest that got away from his team, but didn’t dwell on it too much.
“I’m definitely disappointed in the way things transpired,” he said. “I think we can learn from it. Sometimes those types of comebacks against you, that’s definitely a learning curve, being comfortable and wanting to be out there in those situations. We could have played it better on the fourth goal.”
Huberdeau is glad that the Panthers won’t have days to think about this loss and talked about his first career hat-trick.
“I’m happy to get it out of the way,” he said. “But it would have been nice to get a win tonight. I think we should have won that one. A tough one to lose. At least we got a point, but tonight we have to forget about it. Tomorrow we are going to wake up, it’s a new day, and we know what to expect. We have to be better defensively. I thought offensively we had some chances, and we have to be the same offensively and a little better defensively.”
Friday night would be much different than Thursday’s track meet.
This game was more of a street fight as the Panthers rebounded for a 2-1 win.
Goaltender Chris Driedger stopped 24 of 25 Nashville shots improving his record to 3-0-1. Florida remained unbeaten in regulation time improving to 6-0-2.
Carter Verhaeghe and Aleksander Barkov had two points a piece.
When the contest was over, Coach Q was a bit relieved.
“ I think we’re comfortable later in games no matter what the score is,” Quenneville said. “I think we had a lot more composure in the third period, a lot more offensive zone time. I thought we played a hard game throughout.”
The tone of this campaign will be judging these meetings by a series.
It’s as about adjustments.
But once again, we’re all accustomed to seeing series in the post season in MLB, NBA and the NHL.
This is a different animal now during the pandemic.
Scott Morganroth can be reached at SouthFloridaTribune@gmail.com.
You can follow him on Twitter @TribuneSouth.