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Panthers panic

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

It’s time for the Florida Panthers to panic.

In a year where the margin for error and the leniency for an extended losing streak is zilch, Florida could not be starting worse.

After handily winning their opener over Carolina, the Panthers have been a mess. Now, the season is far from over for them – the Devils started 1995 off on the wrong foot and eventually won the Cup – but this mish-mash team of misfits has the greatest potential to be a one-hit wonder since Psy.

Yes, the Panthers won their division and made the playoffs last season, but that was the result of gaining the upper-hand on a weakened Southeast early and backing in down the stretch. The production they were getting from Kris Versteeg, Tomas Fleischmann and Stephen Weiss was always a house of cards and it eventually collapsed. That shouldn’t have been a surprise for anyone.

And now here we are a year later and a year older for Jose Theodore and Ed Jovanovski; a year closer to the closing of the productive window of opportunity for Weiss and Fleischmann. It was a surprise to see them in the playoffs last season and it should be the same sensation if they make it there again this year.

Jonathan Huberdeau is a nice promotion, but he can’t be counted on to be an offensive leader yet. Alex Kovalev is well past his prime and is just another piece on this Frankenstein’s monster of a hockey squad. There’s a long way to go yet, but the cynicism the Panthers have nurtured around the team for the past decade is back in blossom.

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TEAM

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OVERALL

THE SCOOP

1

3

6-0-0

The Hawks are off to the best start in franchise history, despite being on the road for four of their first six games. It’s not going to get any easier, either. Disney On Ice comes to the United Center, so Chicago is embarking on a six-game, 13-day road trip.

2

1

5-1-0

Kevin Shattenkirk has eight assists in six games, though most of the attention on the Blues centers around Alex Pietrangelo and Vladimir Tarasenko.

3

4

3-0-1

Boston’s power play has been abysmal, going 1-for-17, but their penalty kill has been a flawless 17-for-17.

4

13

5-0-0

Patrick Marleau became the fourth player in NHL history to open the season with four consecutive multi-goal games and though that run ended in Game 5, he still recorded a goal. Marleau and Thornton lead the NHL with 13 points in five games.

5

9

4-1-0

Led by the dangerous Stamkos-St-Louis duo, the Lightning are the highest scoring team in the league right now. Still, they allow too many shots, averaging 34.2 against per game early this season, 26th in the NHL.

6

22

3-0-1

Devils glad to see David Clarkson continuing to produce after first 30-goal season. The well-oiled New Jersey machine keeps proving that you underestimate them at your own peril.

7

2

3-2-0

The Pens slip this week, but considering they’ve only had one home game so far, their situation isn’t all bad. Coming off two rivalry games, Pittsburgh was dreadful against Toronto at home, but earned a hard-fought victory in Ottawa two games later. Still perfect against their own division.

8

18

3-1-0

The Ducks have three players clicking on better than a point per game pace, but they aren’t who you’d think. Daniel Winnik, Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu have been a pleasant early surprise, as was goalie Victor Fasth in his first NHL game, a win over Nashville. The Ducks are hoping call-ups Emerson Etem and Sami Vatanen catch this lightning.

9

12

3-1-1

Yet to play against their own division, the Senators only blowout loss came with backup Brian Bishop in net. Kyle Turris has a pleasant four goals in five games.

10

29

3-1-0

It’s all smiles in Montreal since their embarrassing effort in the first game of the season. Rookies Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher will be staying with the team beyond nine games – and can you believe Andrei Markov already has three game-winning goals? The only unfinished business is P.K. Subban’s holdout.

11

14

2-2-1

The Stars may have lost twice at home this week, but once was in extra time to the undefeated Hawks and the other was without Jaromir Jagr and Derek Roy. Kari Lehtonen has been excellent for a team that lets off way too many shots and Jamie Benn’s pending return will give a large boost.

12

30

3-1-1

The Jets are another team that had an awful showing in Game 1, but has been great since. Winnipeg was a soft-touch on the road last season, but have earned three of a possible four points away from MTS Centre this season and won their past two at home. Think Evander Kane should be traded? Just stop.

13

8

2-2-1

With Ryan Kesler and David Booth out, finding sources of secondary scoring is vitally important for this team. Enter Mason Raymond, who has the potential, but not always the guts. He has three goals in his past three games and has the extra motivation of it being a UFA contract year.

14

5

2-2-1

The Wild have had a tough go with the Central Division and haven’t even played its top team yet. Ryan Suter may be a team-worst minus-5, but that’s more a reflection of their need for more offense than an indictment of the defender.

15

6

2-3-0

New York is 0-2 against the Atlantic and we have yet to see the Henrik Lundqvist we’re used to. It’s hard to believe this team won’t eventually turn it on.

16

19

2-2-1

The Red Wings power play has left a lot to be desired with a 7.7 percent success rate and are slipping back as a second-tier team within their own division.

17

28

2-2-1

John Tavares’ goal against Winnipeg was his first of 2013 and first in his past 16 NHL games. Still, the Isles are getting by on their fifth-ranked offense guarding against their 27th-ranked defense. Makes for fun hockey.

18

17

1-1-3

Even though they only have one win, the Predators are a tough team to play and one that will wear you down. But they need to find a way to get more shots on net and will miss the net-front presence of Patric Hornqvist.

19

20

2-2-0

The Hurricanes probably wish they could play the Sabres every night after outscoring them 9-4 in back-to-back wins. The team with the highest shots-for average, Carolina is an underrated team on “fun scale” to watch.

20

21

2-2-0

After the loss to Calgary, Sam Gagner even said this Edmonton team was a “work in progress.” They’re moving in the right direction, but still lack consistency that comes with experience.

21

10

2-3-0

Thomas Vanek has been awesome for the Sabres (check out this beauty), so they can’t be without him for too long. They lost without him Sunday against the Caps and hope he’ll be ready to return Tuesday against Toronto.

22

25

2-2-0

Semyon Varlamov has been Colorado’s best player so far, though he had a hiccup against the unconscious Sharks. At the other end of the spectrum is Paul Stastny, with one assist and a minus-3 in four games. That’s what $6.6 million gets you.

23

7

1-2-1

“We wouldn’t trade him for Steven Stamkos,” a member of the Kings once told me about Kyle Clifford. “OK, not really, but you get the point.” Clifford is the only King who’s shown up this year. Think it has anything to do with the fact he wasn’t part of the Cup run due to injury?

24

16

2-4-0

For all the talk of how goaltending and lack of defensive depth would conspire against the Flyers, it’s been their offense and lack of discipline that has done them in early.

25

24

2-3-0

The Maple Leafs have been completely outmatched in their past two games. Something needs to change, whether it’s in net or down the middle up front. Until then, this team is destined for the bottom half of the standings.

26

27

1-2-1

The Flames picked up their first two points on home ice against the rival Oilers. Calgary will need more contribution from stars Jarome Iginla and Mikka Kiprusoff, because streaky Lee Stempniak and grinding Curtis Glencross won’t keep up the pace.

27

11

1-3-1

It took Alex Ovechkin five games, but he finally scored his first goal and Washington finally got its first win. The Flyers are the only team that has been shorthanded more times than the Caps, who have a 69.2 percent kill rate.

28

23

1-4-0

Mike Smith’s totals: .836 SP, 4.62 GAA. That’s all you need to know.

29

26

1-3-1

When Fedor Tyutin and Derek Dorsett are your top two scorers, you know you have issues. Columbus started the season with some promise, but have lost three in a row, being outscored 12-3.

30

15

1-4-0

It’s official: the Panthers are in panic mode. Ugly effort, after ugly effort, after ugly effort. The Panthers have scored fewer goals (three) in their past four games than they got in their season opener (five).

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