David Booth and the Florida Panthers find goals difficult to come by

When you think of the Florida Panthers, “explosive goal scorers” aren’t exactly the first thing that come to mind. My guess you either think of Tomas Vokoun, plastic rats/John Vanbiesbrouck or nothing at all.

But if the Panthers employed one player who seemed to be on the verge of becoming a genuine goal scoring threat, it would be David Booth. (At least now that Nathan Horton wears a Boston Bruins sweater.)

Some may argue that Booth cannot ask for much more than decent health after suffering from two concussions during a disastrous 2009-10 season, but the bottom line is that he is struggling to score goals. Booth only has five goals in 22 games with a pitiful 5.6 shooting percentage this season and hasn’t lit the lamp in 11 appearances.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising, then, that the Panthers are similarly snake-bitten. Aside from a nice 4-3 shootout win, Florida has been particularly punch-less in the last four games, only scoring six goals (not counting that fake shootout tally) in that span.

Harvey Fialkov discussed the team’s struggles and how much Booth is pressing to improve, in particular.

Assistant coach Jim Hulton has joked that if and when they score their next power play goal (0 for 37) that they’ll stop play and present a plaque at center ice. David Booth might do the same for his next goal after going the last 11 games without lighting the lamp. That matches his longest slump since his 2008-09 season when he scored a career-high 31 goals. He stayed late after practice just taking wrist shot after shot into the empty net, aiming for different spots. He told me after that he needs to shoot more on the goalie’s stick side just above the pads. Coach Pete DeBoer dropped him to the second line with speedy youngsters Michal Repik and Mike Santorelli (who’s been with Booth alot over the last month). Stephen Weiss, who only has one goal in his last seven, but had the game-winning goal in Saturday’s 4-3 shootout win over Tampa Bay, is now with Shawn Matthias and Michael Frolik – who is also in an 0-for-9 drought. DeBoer is grateful that his secondary scorers like Santorelli, Radek Dvorak and Marty Reasoner have helped compensate for his expected top guns.

Perhaps the most disturbing number of all is the fact that Booth hasn’t scored a goal on the power play since what seemed like a breakthrough 31-goal season in 2008-09. His last PP goal came on April 5, 2009 according to Hockey Reference’s game logs.

Let’s not glaze this in too much doom and gloom, though. After all, those injury concerns limited him to only 53 games since then. It’s still a troubling number, but Booth is only 26 years old. The truth about Booth’s game is somewhere between his 31 goal season (with by far a career high shooting percentage at 12.6) and this tough start with that aforementioned 5.6 rate.

Booth just needs to keep plugging away while the Panthers need to keep adding promising young talent and hope that the future ends up sunnier than the present in Sunrise.

Milbury, Jones: Tkachuk walked the walk; Kings’ response was embarrassing

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The Los Angeles Kings got revenge on Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames on the scoreboard on Wednesday. But was that 4-1 win enough?

Mike Milbury and Keith Jones provided a lengthy “overtime” segment on NBCSN that brought about some really fascinating takes on the situation between Tkachuk and the Flames versus Drew Doughty and the Los Angeles Kings.

Watch the full video above, as it’s worth your time.

A few interesting lines if you’re (tsk tsk) skipping it:

Milbury: Believes that Doughty didn’t “do enough,” noting that star players sometimes have to stick up for themselves. On the other hand, Tkachuk showed that he can “walk the walk.”

He also gave the Kings a “C-, D+ if not worse” for their overall response. “Fight your own battles,” Milbury said of Doughty.

Jones disagreed to some extent, believing that Kings teammates won’t look at Doughty differently. But Jake Muzzin? He believes that Muzzin’s frequent defensive partner (at least over the years, maybe not this season) backing down from a fight was an embarrassment.

Spicy stuff.

For what it’s worth, Drew Doughty has one career fight (against Joe Thornton [!] in 2011-2) while Jake Muzzin’s lone bout came against Andrew Desjardins in 2012-13, according to Hockey Fights. Does that mean they shouldn’t have dropped the gloves on Wednesday? Milbury and Jones seem to believe that they should have answered the bell.

For more, check out a collection of the early violent moments and Tkachuk’s attempted shot at Doughty. The Kings win is summarized in greater detail here.

Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

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Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

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It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

Alrighty then.

Click here for more details.

 

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.