1/23/16: “Let’s Go Tampa!”

My favorite part of last night’s 5–2 win against Tampa Bay was when members of my section (132 represent!) began sarcastically chanting, “Let’s Go Tampa…” in the direction of a contingent of Tampa fans one section over. This just so happened to take place after the quick barrage of three goals in seven minutes during the second period.

I’m very grateful to all of the Tampa fans for coming and being a part of the #SOFInvasion. It was a pleasure to see the BB&T Center sold out with the help of those blue jerseys that we so eagerly embarrassed with four unanswered goals.

Seriously though, after a four game butt-kicking, it looks like the Panthers have effectively turned the corner. Beating the two Stanley Cup finalists in back-to-back nights (by a score of 9–2!) is amazing and really speaks to our potential. We are not afraid of any team and more poignantly, we feel like we can beat any team.

Game Notes:

1. “Panthers Goal!” x 5

It’s quite simple, if we score goals, we win. The Cats are right in the middle of the pack in goals for per game (14th, 2.60) — perfectly average! However, when the Panthers score 3+ goals, they are 19–0–1. This is a testemant to our ability to hold a lead, something previous Panther teams were unable to do. I would frequently refer to this as the “Dreaded 2-Goal Lead” because it seemed like an almost certainty that whenever we were up by two, we would give up the lead and take the game to an overtime loss. Now, because of our depth and strong defense, I am now supremely confident in our ability to hold and extend leads. The question is though, can our offense continue to produce at this rate?

Photo: Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

2. Speed

Over the course of the last two nights, the Panthers made it a point to start off with speed. Chicago and Tampa are both known for their young, fast lines and I think the Cats did a great job to counter. Forgetting the unneeded (yet superb) penalty killing, the first period was defined by rushes and counter-attacks. We never really saw either team get quality possessions in the offensive zone. For me, that’s a win. Keeping Tampa from setting up, using our speed and backchecking abilities, was a key to winning the game. A friend and I joke that Stamkos is always good for at least one goal whenever we play; and by preventing the offensive zone setup, the Panthers minimized his one-timer threat.

Photo: Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

3. Don’t Go In The Deep End!

The Panthers have depth! In my opinion, this is the most balanced team we have ever had. Each of our lines presents a threat of some type. That is why Coach Gallant doesn’t refer to them as first, second, third, or fourth, but rather by the names of the centers. It seems like every night a different line gets hot and leads the team. I’d love to do some analysis to see how close our lines are in goals as compared to the rest of the league. My guess is that we are less top-heavy than the standard team and in turn, harder to defend throughout a game. Just last night we had goals from 3 different lines and defense.

Photo: Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Again, last night was such a big win for us. We’re now five points clear on the division (as opposed to only one if we had lost). Does anybody know the last time that the Panthers were top of the division and had passed 60 points by the All-Star Game?! Tuesday’s game against Toronto will also be very important (when are they not?). If we can grab another win on Tuesday, we will set ourselves up well to have a relaxing break and start the second half of the season off on the right foot.