Win ugly, win often.
If we want to be a good hockey team, there are going to be nights like this and you're going to have to pull out a few wins; we did.
There seemed to be a combination of a few things going on tonight; our defence was not making solid passes, pucks were bouncing past everyone, some usually reliable players were having trouble and we had a substantial portion of the game see essentially no hitting on the forecheck. This combination of factors could certainly have led to a loss were it not for some excellent goaltending and some missed Florida chances.
FLA seems like a very interesting team this year. They are a deceptively veteran squad who seems to know how to get the puck deep and cycle it, eventually moving the play towards the front of the net. This will no doubt be a type of squad we struggle with at times this year due largely to the makeup of our defence and our lack of a ginormous C.
I felt really good for Marty tonight. As the long-term fans know, Marty was a good soldier, and certainly the type of guy we could use around here. I'd suspect he might be on the pickup list if we are indeed holding down a playoff spot at the deadline. I was fairly disappointed that some people booed the guy when his name was announced. Marty both got screwed out of the cup run, and then as he was finally coming into his game, fell victim to injury. Good for him scoring those 2 goals in his first game in our barn. For me it will be just like when we play PIT. I hope Comrie scores six.....and we win seven-six.
I'm sure in the coming days there will be a lot of work at practice correcting the errors that occured in our own zone and in the break-in stage tonight. One thing Renney does is project a certain amount of competence. I loved his move to bump Magnus up the lineup into Penner's spot late in the game...it may have provided just small enough of a boost that we got the W, and generated a nice scoring chance for Cogliano.
Onto the PLAYER REPORTS...
- He was tested in a much more serious fashion than the Calgary game and came through with flying colors. FLA had many prime chances (including several breaks in a alone in the first) and #35 stood up to the challenge. He wasn't getting much help in front of his net and this led to the second goal. I believe he was screened on the first because if he hadn't been he appeared ready to make the save. There were also no misadventures with the puck tonight, which is always a plus. Wonderful game all-around and well-deserved first star.
- I've been pleasantly surprised how Theo has played in defensive and PK situations so far. He's almost the go-to guy on the squad at this stage which is strange to even think about. While his first period wasn't great, he made some tremendous plays in the third including in front of our net and standing up at the blue line. I don't know quite what's gotten into him and I'm sure his play will dip, but I loved how physical he was in the corners and that he's making an effort to be competent with the puck. He caught one bad break when a puck hit his stick and set up a break in the first, but thankfully #35 bailed him out.
- Not a great first and second, but Tom could've been a star in this game due to his assist and several lead-holding plays late in the game. On several occasions he won very important battles (I remember one behind our net late in the game specifically) and took the puck out of danger singlehandedly. On a night when many of his teammates were bunglers, Gilbert was the steady hand at the most important time.
- Looked like there was something wrong with him tonight. He did not pass the puck smoothly and got beat wide at least twice which is very strange for him. He also wasn't anywhere near as slick on the offensive blue line. I guess everyone has off games and he should rebound next game. Gave the puck away weakly a bunch.
- Ladislav got beat wide on a couple of fairly strange occasions tonight to the point where I have to wonder if something was bugging him out there. He just didn't look normal. It could be that everyone is still adjusting to the new pairings, but he wasn't near as sound positionally as I'm used to and didn't skate the puck out as much. He got caught deep and was the last man to make it back to his own zone a couple times which is VERY strange for him.
- Liked the fact that he played a physical game in the corners again, but he didn't make the smooth plays out of the zone tonight and was often caught criss-crossing coverage in areas that didn't require it. In a sense he didn't really do anything that hurt much, but I expected a little better.
- He played okay. Got beat wide too much and wasn't as slick with the puck as last game but that is to be expected I suppose. I did like that he was fairly aggressive most of the time at the opposition blue line.
- I can see a day in the not too distant future where we're describing Jordan as the most complete player on the hockey team. On a night where his solid offensive chances were essentially limited to a play in the third where he worked into the slot slickly and had a nice shot ricochet off a block, he still found a way to make a difference. On several occasions he hustled back and made excellent defensive plays. He was also a solid and calming influence on the PK, which is a place I think Renney will work him more into as we go on. On a night when not much was great up front, Jordan was pretty good.
- Did his job in terms of leading the kid line but didn't really push the offensive game with his speed. I'm wondering how many goals he can 'score' without actually shooting one into the net this year. That would be an interesting record to grab. Overall he played a pretty solid game.
- Wasn't electric but got a couple of fairly solid chances. Taylor seemed to focus on a simpler game tonight and the results were decent. He had a great chance to score in the first from the hashmarks and got stopped. He also got his first A with a solid play from the boards to Horcoff. Looked fairly comfortable at NHL speed again. If he can tighten up his skating lines a little bit (his game is a little too loopy, and he's not a lurker), he'll find the NHL game even easier.
- Magnus is getting caught standing still too much which negates his greatest weapon. He got a good shot off in the second and was fairly effective in his two shifts with Hemsky and Gagner, but tonight wasn't great for him. I think he's concentrating a little too much on knowing where to be at the moment. He'll learn this soon and it will be second-nature, but until then he won't be able to use that beautiful first step to full effectiveness. I like that he's dedicated to his craft and it will pay off in the long run, but right now we will have to be mindful of what he's doing.
- Plain and simple he can't buy a goal. He had three or four great chances tonight and didn't really even come close. On his best, he came out of the corner on the backhand all alone and didn't even make Vokoun work. Two years ago he finishes that; no question. He's just totally lost touch. The nice thing right now is that he's certainly not a liability. It has to be frustrating though and you wonder how long he can go without other things beginning to fail on him.
- Unimpressive for me. He just didn't DO anything really.
- I'm very thankful that Ryan Jones was able to get a decent tip-in goal; and he did some solid skating that could have resulted in another on a partial break he worked hard to get and protect in the second. Aside from that I think this line tried to play with too much finesse and not enough power tonight. They were also overplayed by Renney which I don't quite understand. Perhaps he didn't like what the Cogliano line was doing. Stortini was quiet which was disappointing to me after what I saw in the preseason. He really looked different out there. Fraser was pretty blah too.
- Probably the worst game I've seen Penner play in two years. He looked slow and couldn't control the puck while skating tonight. He lost it or simply did nothing with it more times than I could count. Usually if he's having trouble like this he compensates with a solid passing game, but he didn't do that tonight. I know he scored a goal and should rightfully have 2 in 2 games, but he had a chance to lead the offence tonight and didn't. For whatever reason, in the neutral zone tonight the puck went to Sam and he where it usually goes to Ales. This clearly didn't work as they lost the puck there a bunch. There was a time where we only had two shots, both were from Hemsky and both came when he was in by himself with the Panther defenders and no supporting offence. Sam looked a step behind tonight and aside from his PKing which was pretty decent, he looked lost. Ales was effective when he could be but in a lot of ways was left to carry this line alone tonight. That's a strange place to be considering how they usually operate. This line having an off night required us to win ugly.
Before we close off tonight, it is worth noting that the reffing in this game was pretty gross. They need to be reminded across the league that a stick lift is NOT a hook. Period. There is no video or rule that tells them to make that call. They also screwed up the icing calls a number of times again. Weird game.
BUT...a win is a win is a win. If we make it by 2, remember this one.