The Florida Panthers are fun to watch. They’re unpredictable, exciting and they never give up. They showed all of these traits yet again in Sunday’s victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
In the early parts of Sunday’s contest between the Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs it looked like it would be a rough night for the Panthers. They badly outshot the Maple Leafs 13-3 in the first period, only to be denied over and over again by James Reimer, a late fill-in for Jonathan Bernier who missed the game with flu-like symptoms.
In the second period the Leafs found their groove and managed to get the puck on net, which led to an eventual 4-2 lead going into the third. The lead was supposed to spell trouble for Florida, as the Maple Leafs hadn’t lost a game this season when leading after two periods.
But as they’ve done all season long the Panthers switched to another gear, scored four unanswered goals and walked away victorious 6-4.
The Panthers are the team that won’t go away. There is something different about them when they’re behind. As displayed tonight they’re more energetic, focused and upbeat when they trail. Their passes were crisp, their defense locked down the Leafs, their offense came alive and Roberto Luongo made big saves like the one below on Phil Kessel.
There is more life to this Panthers team than in previous years and it’s efforts like tonight that turn average teams into playoff squads.
Yes, it’s far too early to be jumping to the conclusion that they’ll be a playoff squad, but their never say die attitude reminds me of the Los Angeles Kings on their two playoff runs to the Stanley Cup.
In 2011-12 the Kings entered the playoffs as the number eight seed with zero expectations and upset the first-seeded Vancouver Canucks and second-seeded St. Louis Blues in consecutive rounds, becoming the only team in NHL history to do this, before making a run to the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Last season, the Kings were over-matched by a tough San Jose Sharks team in the first-round of the playoffs, falling down three games to none. The Kings turned it around and miraculously took four straight games and the series, before riding the momentum to their second Stanley Cup.
The Panthers are neither the Kings of 2011-12 or 2013-14, but their come from behind play is similar and makes for exciting hockey when the game counts most.
The Panthers play their best when they’re behind and if they can maintain this kind of gritty behaviour, they’re going to be a handful to deal with for the rest of the season and maybe, just maybe, the fans will fill the seats again in Florida.
By the way, tonight’s announced attendance at the BB&T Center was 17,877.