The Blues start their first Eastern Conference road trip with a series of back-to-back games in Florida. The first stop is Sunrise, FL and the Florida Panthers. During the preseason, most writers had them pegged for a lottery pick. Thus far, that prediction looks to be on the money. The Panthers have started the season with a 3-7-2 record, and are currently riding a 3-game losing streak. They're hungry for goals and wins, and they haven't forgotten the 7-0 beating they took at the hands of the Blues back on October 5th.
These aren't the same Panthers that we saw back then, though. There's one glaring absence: starting goaltender Tim Thomas is already on the shelf with a groin injury. Many wondered what kind of bargain he might be for his 2.5 million dollar cap hit, considering his time off from the game. That skepticism sees to have been warranted. This leaves the Panthers with Jacob Markstrom (1-4-2, 3.19 GAA and .887 Save %) and call-up Scott Clemmensen to carry the load for the team. This, coupled with the goals for/against differential of -16, demonstrates that improvement is needed everywhere on the ice. Their leading points-getter is Tomas Fleischmann, with 2 goals and 7 assists for 9 points. That is followed by young up-and-comer Aleksander Barkov (3G/4A) and the leading goal scorer, old friend Brad Boyes (5G /2A). Another one to watch is 2013 Calder trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau . They are due for a bounce back, though, as the team's PDO (save percentage + shot percentage) is at 93.3 - bottom in the league. Those numbers should drive back to 100 eventually.
Another telling contrast between these two teams: the Blues currently lead the league in Power Play percentage, scoring on 28.2% of their opportunities. The Panthers are 3rd-last in the league, and worst in the East, at only 9.8%.
If the Blues play their game, they should handle the Panthers without much problem. But therein lies the rub; how many times have we seen the Blues drop their gameplay down to the level of their opponent? If they look past this team, and allow themselves to he distracted with who's next, the Florida squad can and will seize the opportunity. There is no substitute for the focus and hard work that it takes to win in the NHL. If the Blues can be mindful of that, they can take the two points and then hop the magic bus to Tampa.
Final Verse: We're on Eastern time tonight, so the puck drops at 6:30 St Louis time. The TV broadcast is on FoxSports MW, and the radio call will be on the mighty KMOX 1120 AM. The GDT should drop just ahead of that. In the meantime, gather here and welcome Chris Porter back to the Blues. Also, enjoy the great pop culture shout outs by Panthers' radio play by play man Randy Moller.
Randy Moller Goal Calls Part 4 (via TheDanLeBatardShow)