Sizing Up the Florida Panthers

Tomorrow we play the Florida Panthers, a team who hasn’t made the play-offs since the Clinton Administration. However, while Detroit was having yet another game stolen from them by crap officiating (yeah, I’m still not over that), Florida was skating away with a 6-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres; a team that beat Detroit by that same score earlier this season. The Panthers currently occupy 13th in the Eastern Conference while Detroit slipped two spots to 9th in the West. So as it stands right now, of the four teams that started the season over in Europe, only Chicago (3 points ahead of Detroit) is in a play-off position with just under a quarter of the way through the season.

Like Dallas, Florida doesn’t boast superstars in any position, really. They have a decent mix of seasoned veterans and youth that they depend on for scoring. The Panthers currently rank 19th in the league as far as G/G average with 2.68. Detroit’s one goal (technically two) game against the Stars (and refs) hurt their G/G average. However, they remain at 4th in the NHL with a healthy 3.26. Advantage: Detroit

Thomas Vokoun has been a thorn in Detroit’s side before. He led an upstart Nashville Predators into battle against the Wings earlier this decade. He talked a lot of talk against the Wings once the series was tied 2-2, claiming Detroit was “not as good as they think they are”. Well, as you can imagine, Vokoun and the Preds were ousted in six and he was traded out of Music Town. His All-Star performance last season forced Florida’s hand in dealing Craig Anderson to Colorado…good call. Florida currently ranks 26th in the league with a 3.32 G/A average. The Wings are coming off of Wednesday’s 3-1 loss, which only hurt their goals against slightly. Howard’s play in Osgood’s stead has been stellar, if not show-stopping. They slipped to 20th in the league with a 2.90 G/A average. Advantage: Detroit

Florida’s lowly statistical numbers continue with its power play. The Panthers are currently only converting 14.7% of the PP chances, which is good enough for 25th overall in the NHL. Detroit’s power play, after looking strong in three consecutive wins, looked outright bad on Wednesday. The crisp, clean passes and well-timed accurate shots gave way to turnovers and blocked shots. Despite the poor showing on Wednesday, Detroit’s PP is currently 6th best with a 23.5% conversion rate. Advantage: Detroit.

Well…this could be the first time that I’ve done one of these whereby Detroit swept every single category. With Vokoun being somewhat inconsistent and Scott Clemenson (yeah he left New Jersey), Florida also has a putrid penalty killing, even worse than Detroit. The Panthers are currently ranked 29th in the NHL (only in front of Toronto), with a 73.7% effectiveness rating. Detroit, who gave up their second of two PP goals against shortly after Dennis LaRue stole a goal from us on Wednesday, fell yet another spot and remain at the bottom of the NHL in penalty killing effectiveness. They are currently ranked 27h in the league with a 74.3% kill rate. Advantage: Detroit…barely

So, if we pull ranks and take the average for GA/G and G/G…

Florida: 22(.5)nd
Detroit: 12th

If you combine PK and PP percentages to get an overall effectiveness rating:

Florida: 88.4%
Detroit: 97.8%

The key for a Red Wing’s victory tomorrow night will be execution at both ends of the ice. The Wings need to stop turning the puck over in all three zones. They also need to pass and shoot with a purpose. Too many times against the Stars, the Red Wings tried to make the pretty little play which more often than not, lead to a giveaway. They also need to celebrate more emphatically when a puck is in the net, the goal judge turning on the light wouldn’t hurt. Ok, so the key for tomorrow’s victory will be to have competent referees…are there any out there?

Last season, Detroit took the only meeting between these two clubs by a score of 3-2 at Florida’s home rink. However, the three key components in Detroit’s victory are no longer with us. Hossa had two goals, Franzen had the other and Conklin played in net. So who knows what’s going to happen tomorrow?

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