The Blues have already beaten the Panthers once this year, back in October at the DrinkScotch Center. That 4-0 shutout was shared by Ben Bishop and Marek Schwarz (Manny Legace was out with carpet knee thanks to Sarah Palin and Chris Mason was out due to an emergency appendectomy; what a year it's been). It pushed the Blues' early record to 5-3 and dropped the Panthers to 4-4.
So, not much has changed since then, right?
Oh sweet! The kiss of death! Thank you, Florida!
The Panthers have positioned themselves nicely at this point, hovering in the six spot in the Eastern Conference, nine games over .500. The Blues, of course, are the ones who are now battling for every available point just to stay within striking distance of the eighth seed.
What to watch for (Panthers):
- When we think of Florida's offense, we envision guys like Nathan Horton and rookie Michael Frolik, who many think has the potential to be great. Surprisingly, the actual offensive leaders are guys like Stephen Weiss (team assist leader: 37 and points leader: 48) and David Booth (21 goals). Even Cory Stillman is still hanging around in the Southeast division, putting up 37 points for the Panthers this year.
- Florida's special teams are a mixed bag. They are the second-worst power play team in the Eastern Conference (finishing on just 15.3% of their chances), but are the third-best team in the East on the kill (stopping opponents 82.8% of the time).
- The goaltending tandem of Tomas Vokoun and Craig Anderson is a two-headed monster. Both guys allow fewer than three goals a game (Vokoun's 2.46 edges Anderson's 2.75), stop over 92% of the shots they face (a virtually identical 92.6% for Vokoun and 92.3% for Anderson) and they have put up nine shutouts (Vokoun has six).
What to root for (Blues):
- Just like last night, the boys in Blue need two. It doesn't matter if it's in regulation, overtime or shootout, but we need two points in order to advance on the eighth seed. Of the teams just ahead of the Blues, Minnesota and Edmonton are both playing and Anaheim and Dallas are dormant. Two points plus some help could see some actual movement in the standings. No pressure.
- Consistent effort from the name players. The guys who are supposed to lead the team offensively did so last night and it would go a long way towards a win if they can repeat the performance tonight. Brad Boyes, Keith Tkachuk and Andy McDonald, we're looking in your general direction.
- Solid goaltending. Neither Blues goalie has ever given up a goal to the Florida Panthers franchise. Of course, Mason has never faced them and Bishop only made it 40 minutes against them before he got hurt in the game back in October.
Don't be afraid to check out our SBN Panthers blog Collossus, the Litter Box Cats. Great site, great guys, great senses of humor and they actually understand the give-and-take of fandom over there.
Yet another game on KPLR Channel 11, but this is your game day thread.
Let's Go Blues!