Three Takeaways From Florida Panthers Shutout Victory

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“At the end of the day, we’re here for wins. That’s it.”

Matthew Tkachuk means business. Even after a dominant display during game one, he knows the Panthers have a long way to go.

But it is hard not to laud the performance just put forth.

Paul Maurice’s men came into Wednesday playing their first game in six days, but their second consecutive contest on the road. In game one, they used the same formula that dispatched Boston and implemented it against the President’s Trophy winners, the New York Rangers.

The Panthers allowed nothing off the rush, turning a booming Madison Square Garden into a library. Sergei Bobrovsky dropping his stick and getting his mask rattled off showed the only signs of weakness from a dominant Florida first period. Alexander Barkov and Matthew Tkachuk led the line early on, and the rest of their team followed. The newly minted Selke winner exploded into the offensive zone all night and launched Florida into their strong cycle game. The fourth line of Lomberg-Stenlund-Cousins brought physicality, and a Tkachuk goal, with 16:26 elapsed time, put the exclamation point of a dominant period. Florida held New York to only five shots in the first 20 minutes as they could not break through the neutral zone.

The Rangers came out of the room with jump to begin the second and put up four shots in two minutes, but that would be the extent of their offense. Again, the Panthers suffocated the neutral zone and cycled the puck down low as they controlled offensive zone time. Their only blemish came from two lousy power plays, as they could not get clean entries or extended time. The Rangers went over 14 minutes without a shot in the second before a late flurry and power play finally gave the fans some life. Even still, Peter Laviolette’s team had a season-low in shots through 40 minutes and did not score in the first two periods for the first time in the postseason.

Florida killed off the remaining minute on the Rangers’ power play to begin the third and went back into their 1-1-3 shape in the neutral zone to deny any open ice. The Panthers were content to let the Rangers try to chip the puck in and retain possession, which they rarely did. After New York carried the play for the beginning portion of the period, they pushed back. Maurice thought his team received their reward after Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s point blast beat Igor Shesterkin, but a successful challenge for goaltender interference on Ryan Lomberg kept the game at 1-0 with ten minutes to go. A poor Panther’s power play ignited the Rangers as they hit iron a minute after their kill, and the chaos caused Florida to be called for a penalty for too many men with seven minutes left. While not busy on the night, Bobrosovky made timely stops as Florida killed off their second penalty. Three minutes later, Florida turned out the lights as Carter Verhaeghe raced down the ice, forcing Shesterkin to make a play on the puck. He never cleared the zone, and as Verhaeghe centered the puck, it deflected off a Ranger and into the net for an “own goal.” The Panthers went up 2-0 with 16:12 elapsed time in the third. Sam Bennett sealed it with an empty net goal as Florida looked better with five skaters on the ice than the Rangers did with six.

Three Takeaways:

Mucking up the middle:

The New York Rangers scored four or more goals against the impenetrable Carolina Hurricanes four times in their six-game series.

The Panthers shut them out at home.

Florida put three bodies on the blue line and did not allow New York to carry the puck into the zone. Forcing the Rangers to chip and chase, the Panthers killed plays, broke out cleanly, and made their opponents chase back to their blue line the entire night. When the Rangers did get the possession, they had poor puck touches and committed 12 giveaways compared to just two from Florida. It takes sacrifice to hinder such a talented offensive team, but the Panthers answered the bell and tallied 19 blocked shots, almost as many as New York put on the net. Diving deeper, the Rangers only mustered 1.71 expected goals at five-on-five with only 23 shots. Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad combined for only 0.29 expected goals as the New York engines never started. 

Florida’s suffocating style of play starts from their personnel down the middle. Barkov, Lundell, and Bennett came down in the zone and supported their defensemen all night to initiate breakouts and win puck battles. Specifically, Barkov and Lundell drew the most challenging assignments against the top two Rangers lines and shut them out. The former skated over 20 minutes on the ice, and the latter finished a +3 as they played a 200-foot game and controlled the tempo.

If it’s not broken, do not fix it:

In game six of the Boston series, Paul Maurice brought Ryan Lomberg and Nick Cousins back into the lineup to play on a line with Kevin Stenlund. Their physical nature allowed them to start game one, and they rewarded their coach for his trust. In the opening period, the line created the first extended offensive zone shift of the game, leading to positive momentum and the Tkachuk’s goal shortly after that. In the second, Stenlund made crucial blocks on the penalty kill as he played over a minute short-handed. Lomberg almost iced the game in the third with a solid screen on Shisterkin, but it would be too good to be true as the goal was reversed. 

With the positive momentum generated from his fourth line, Maurice can feel confident he can trust anyone in his lineup. The trio generated a 50% Corsi and 70% expected goals, according to MoneyPuck.com. Moreover, the Panthers can roll out the same lineup game in and game out, a luxury they did not have at the beginning of the postseason, increasing chemistry and getting all 12 forwards in a rhythm.

Shorthanded stops:

The Rangers converted at over a 30% clip on the power play coming into tonight and scored more short-handed goals than goals allowed on the penalty kill. Add in the fact that all teams that won the special teams battle in the postseason so far have advanced to the next round, and the Blueshirts felt confident coming in that this would be their best way to worry the Panthers.

Instead, Florida made two timely kills and looked the better team at 6-on-5 before Bennett put in an empty net goal. 

The best defense against an explosive power play comes from staying out of the box. The Panthers took only two penalties, and one was a bench minor, as their ability to control play on the opposite end of the ice helped them wear out the Rangers and stay in the offensive zone. When New York received their first opportunity with a minute left in the period, Bobrovsky shut the door to give the Sunrise squad a lead going into the third. New York’s second bid came with seven minutes remaining, trailing by a goal, but once again, #72 came up large and made the timely stops when his team needed it. Although the Florida power play did not look like themselves, they did not give away any shorthanded opportunities or momentum and forced the Rangers to earn everything at 5-on-5.

In this week's episode, we have on guest HockeyStatMiner to discuss NYR's Salary cap situation, potential moves and more.How to support us and our sponsors:Columbia Sports ApparelESPN+ SubscriptionFanaticsDraft Kings – CODE ITRThanks for listening! Please rate and review our show on your favorite listening platform. Check out our partner's website at www.insidetherink.com for all your latest hockey news.
  1. Guest HockeyStatMiner
  2. Many Directions, One Goal
  3. A Heartbreaking End, Offseason Begins
  4. Game 5 Recap : Guest Joe Fortunato
  5. Game 4 Recap : Breakout Breakdown

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