The Florida Panthers are not enjoying the early part of 2019 and frustration seems to be building.
Their losing streak reached five games on Friday night with a 4-3 decision in Calgary, just 24 hours after losing a brutally tough game in Edmonton where they were just eight seconds away from winning.
Friday’s game had to be just as frustrating because they actually had a great start (something that has not happened much for them lately) and jumped out to an early 2-0 lead. It eventually evaporated with the Flames scoring four consecutive goals to open up a 4-2 lead late in the third period. The fourth goal, an empty net tally by Sean Monahan, ended up going in the books as the game winner after Florida’s Evgenii Dadonov added a garbage time goal later in the period to make the score a little closer.
As Monahan was shooting for the empty net, he took a rather nasty slash from Panthers defender Keith Yandle.
Just look at the aggressiveness behind this whack.
It seemed to get all stick, but that could have been really bad had he made contact with Monahan’s hand or arm.
Yandle ended up getting a 10-minute misconduct on the play, as did Jonathan Huberdeau as he yelled at the official while coming out of the penalty box (it was Huberdeau’s penalty that sent Calgary to the power play).
Yandle and Huberdeau were two of the Panthers’ big-money players that was benched for more than half of their game in Pittsburgh earlier this week because coach Bob Boughner was not happy with their effort.
They have now lost two games since in rather brutal fashion.
Following the player announcement last week, the NHL left one spot open on each divisional roster for the new Last Men In competition. After a week of voting by fans, those four will be heading to All-Star Weekend in San Jose later this month.
According to the NHL, more than 11.5 million votes were cast over in the last week, including two million on Thursday, which was the final day of balloting.
Given the format of the event where every team is represented and only 11 players per division get to go, it’s tough to use the “snub” word when talking about someone who’s having an All-Star worthy season but isn’t listed below. But there will likely be a few swaps over the next three weeks as injuries pop up.
Pro Hockey Talk is taking a look back at the year in hockey. We’ll be presenting you with the best goals, saves, moments, players and more as we remember 2018.
Hockey players can make the amazing look mundane, to the point that you sometimes forget that they’re doing it all on ice, wearing razor-sharp blades. It can be downright overwhelming for us mere mortals.
With all of that in mind, bloopers provide comic relief, and reminder that we’re watching humans, and as athletic and courageous as they are, they’re also fallible.
The NHL’s never seen more skill than what was on display in 2018, yet there were a ton of great/humiliating bloopers during this calendar year. In fact, there’s a strong chance that some memorable ones slipped under the cracks, so feel free to share any other standouts in the comments.
Masks and mascots
Can something be a blooper when it’s a resounding success, one that transcends hockey and mere sports to dominate mainstream “best of 2018” lists, such as from The New Yorker and The Onion’s AV Club?
*Nods head yes, while googly-eyes shake frantically*
Gritty owned 2018, and the mascot’s staying power only gets more profound when you realize that the odd-looking pseudo-creature debuted in September. Sure, there’s some “Gritty fatigue” setting in for many – 2019 might not be as kind to the mascot and his jiggling belly – but the hits heavily outweigh the misses.
Maybe it’s too grim to be a true blooper, maybe not, but this bout is legitimately surreal:
Own-goals, miscues, and other flubs
The Hurricanes have been the masters of bad puck luck in recent seasons, but one of the last goals Cam Ward allowed in Carolina was one of the strangest. Alex Goligoski was credited with this one, as a puck got stuck in Ward’s skate and ended up behind the goal line, counting as a goal. Find out more about that odd moment here.
Panthers star Aleksander Barkov is one of those players who seems to do everything well, but even he has moments he’d like to forget, like this shootout mishap:
Goalies must hate long-range goals, but if it’s any comfort, they seem to happen to just about all of them. There were several funny ones in 2018, but Keith Yandle tricking Pekka Rinne was especially cheeky:
Those who follow hockey closely were already aware that Florida Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau is a really, really good player. His red-hot start to 2018-19 brings up a question, though: is he even better than we realized?
If you’re putting together a list of the hottest players in the NHL, quite a few of the top-end Panthers would be on there, including recent import Mike Hoffman. But don’t forget about Huberdeau … you know, scratch that. Huberdeau is forcing people to take notice.
The Quebec native generated three points (one goal, two assists) as the Panthers crushed the Boston Bruins 5-0 on Tuesday. With that, Huberdeau extended his multi-point streak to six games, giving him three goals and 11 assists for a whopping 14 points.
This isn’t merely a matter of a hot six games. Consider that, since Nov. 21, Huberdeau’s 16 points in eight games ranks second only to Nikita Kucherov, who’s managed a remarkable 18 in his own eight games.
Overall, Huberdeau has seven goals and almost an assist per game (24 in 26) to give him 31 points this season.
Huberdeau’s hot start doesn’t merely revolve around lucky bounces. His 11.7 shooting percentage is right around his career average (11.2), and Huberdeau’s on-ice shooting percentage (8.4) is actually below his career mark (8.9).
Goals like these paint a picture about this not just being about playing alongside Mike Hoffman and probable future Selke winner Aleksander Barkov, either:
Even with Vincent Trocheck sidelined thanks to that grisly injury, you’d think the Panthers would sport a better record than 11-10-5, considering the brilliant work by Huberdeau, Hoffman, Barkov, and Keith Yandle. Sitting four points out of the East’s final wild card spot (tied with the Penguins and Senators for 12th place with 27 points) isn’t just disappointing, it’s at times confounding.
Maybe we’ll look at that 5-0 win against the Bruins as something of a turning point for a Panthers team that’s been in quite a few tumultuous, close games lately?
A Florida team that combined solid-to-great goaltending with an already impressive arsenal? Sure, that would be scary, but we’ve seen that dream disintegrate plenty of times before, often as Luongo goes down with another injury. It remains to be seen if the Panthers can finally put it together after multiple false alarms.
That said, even if they fail to do so, it should be a lot of fun to watch Huberdeau and their other top players conduct some harmonic hockey, including against the Avalanche’s tremendous top trio on Thursday.