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Florida Panthers Offense Needs To Find Rhythm

Five.

 

Remember that number, even if for just the five minutes it takes you to breeze through this article. Five. Cinco, in Spanish. Through the early stages of the 2014-2015 campaign, it’s the total number of contests played by the Florida Panthers. Aaron Ekblad wears the number five on his Cats’ sweater. There are five days in a work week, and five fingers on each of my hands. Thank God for the little things, right? It also equates to the total offensive output the Cats have generated through their first quintet of games. Five goals. Five games. For the mathematically inclined, that’s one goal per game.

 

We’ve got ourselves a situation here. A quandry. A dilemma, if you will. A goal per game. Not two. Not three, not four, not five-six-seven-shut-up-LeBron-I’m-trying-to-talk-here, but one. Even the University of Florida’s Gator Football Team scores more touchdowns per game than just one. I don’t know about you guys, but this just ain’t gonna cut it over the course of 82 games, unless we’re tanking for Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel or some random skater from the Finnish pro circuit.

 

But let’s not get ourselves completely flustered just yet; yeah, it’s an ugly number to go with an ugly record (1-2-2), but maybe there’s a silver lining to be found in this. Mavbe, just maybe, an advanced metric can lend us some hope, or at least help to pinpoint the root of the issue. Looking at basic team stats found on the Florida Panthers’ website, the squad currently sits in seventh place of eight teams competing in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference. If we scan across to the Goals For data column and compare those figures against not only our divisional rivals, but also those of teams league-wide, that ugly total of five sticks out like a sore thumb; the worst total in the league, even the lowly Buffalo Sabres have managed to scrounge together three more goals than the Cats. Unlike the Buffaslugs, however, we (finally) can’t pin the onus on the defense for these results; at surface level, those eleven Goals Against place the Panthers’ D fifth across the entirety of the Eastern Conference. That number is almost guaranteed to shoot up over the course of a full season, but hey, might as well celebrate a top-ten-in-the league defensive unit while we can.

 

Digging deeper, though, things begin to fall apart. Like a wise man once said regarding politics,

It’s like a barrel of sh*t. The digger you deep, the worse it smells.

That badass was my grandpa, and his words could easily apply to this little analysis of mine. We’re well-acquainted with the number five right by now, but let’s extrapolate those numbers in terms of Shots Per Goal. According to the NHL’s stat database, the Panthers generate, on average, a total of 27.2 Shots Per Game. Multiplying that figure by five, we end up with some number that doesn’t matter, representing Total Shots; dividing that number by five, we’re back down to 27.2, or the average number of shots taken before one finds the twine. Here’s another stat-If we take that number as our denominator and compute Shooting Percentage, we are left with an unsightly 3.68%. That, coupled with a misfiring power play that’s effective roughly 8.7% of the time (despite being fifth in the league in 5-on-4 Time On Ice Per Game), pretty much signifies that the offense is not shouldering it’s share of the weight. When all but one of five games played have been decided by a lone goal, in spite of a penalty kill that maybe works three-quarters of the time, the blame shifts to those tasked with producing offense.

 

It isn’t something that only stats can reveal; watching this team live, you can tell that something isn’t quite right with the forward corps, the team as a whole. Breakouts are sloppy, with wild passes rampant and Aaron Ekblad seemingly the only rearguard that can confidently move the puck out of the defense zone. The team looks skittish in that regard; puck possession gets lost in translation. In transition, nothing the squad attempts seems to work-I haven’t watched every minute of every game, but the preferred method of gaining entry into the offensive zone is the dump-and-chase, a tactic that rarely gets executed well. There’s minimal forechecking and, coupled with lackadaisical play out of the back, this ugly combination allows the opposition to impose its will in all three zones. Scoring chances aren’t being generated, and when they do come to pass, they aren’t being capitalized on.

 

Something’s got to give. I’m relatively new to the sport of hockey compared to some of the old heads that have followed the sport throughout the courses of their lives, but I’ve got to think that whatever grace period Gerard Gallant’s been operating under-that “gelling” time for players to acclimate to the system-is quickly coming to an end. The preseason was a certified sh*tshow, and things don’t appear to have gotten much better. My thoughts?

  • Give Brandon Pirri more playing time. Even if his obscenely gifted mitts somehow don’t produce, at least you’ll appease a fanbase that’s as jaded as jaded comes.
  • Call up Vincent Trocheck. The dude played remarkably well as a rookie last year, and is bound to contribute at both ends of the ice.
  • Trade Tomas Fleischmann. If we’re making this a youth movement, you might as well dismantle what’s left of the old guard. He’s declined in production and plus-minus every season he’s donned a Panthers’ sweater-crashing down to Earth in last season’s effort-and from what I’ve heard on the internet, it’d make quite a bunch of people happy. Tallon did it with fan-favorite David Booth back in 2011-why not now?

I’m probably just overreacting to the fact that the Gators got thoroughly annihilated AT THEIR OWN HOMECOMING GAME, but yeah. I need a Snickers or something. At least there’s a new Joey Bada$$ album coming out at some point.

Alex Lopez

Alex Lopez

Ridiculously injury-prone Business Administration major who tries to row, enjoys writing, digs rap, appreciates Chance The Rapper a tad bit too much, and loves the Florida Panthers. Spirit animal-Left Shark. Once set a food challenge record at some diner in High Springs, Florida. "Nice beard, dude"-Chadwick Stokes, Dispatch. Also enjoys long walks on the beach, guacamole and doing everything "for the bois".
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