UNIONDALE, NY — The expectations for the Florida Panthers are high this season. After a dismal end to the 2010-2011 season, the Panthers and GM Dale Tallon entered the off-season looking to bring in young talent and cagy veterans to create a new product intent on winning.
The Cats took a big step forward Saturday night.
Against a young, upstart Islanders team, Jose Theodore made his first start in net for the Panthers and gave fans reason to believe after just one game. The former Vezina trophy winner stopped all 27 shots he faced as the Panthers spoiled the Islanders’ home opener.
Theodore benefited greatly from a re-vamped defense and a focused penalty kill unit. The Islanders went 0-3 on the power play as Brian Campbell and Jason Garrison shut down the point for most of the night. Campbell earned second-star honors for his effort as he recorded a plus-1 rating, three blocked shots and added two helpers in the 2-0 win.
Campbell rifled a hard wrister that ricocheted off Islanders’ goaltender Al Montoya early in the first period, with Stephen Weiss there to put in the rebound. Campbell also set up Garrison’s power play goal for the Cats’ second score with under a minute to play in the first period Сайт знакомств
Campbell, Florida’s highest paid player, earned his game check against the Isles as he logged over 30 minutes of ice-time.
Also noteworthy was Panthers rookie defenseman Erik Gudbranson, who made his regular season debut with the team Saturday night. Gudbranson played one shift on the power play, registering one shot and one hit in a little under 11 minutes of ice-time. Gudbranson will be brought along slowly, figuring to make an impact on the third defensive line and in some PP/PK situations.
The win marked the first for Panthers coach Kevin Dineen, whose first NHL coaching win comes after spending six seasons as head coach of the AHL’s Portland Pirates. Dineen is one of many new faces on the Panthers bench this season and it will be interesting to see the dynamic of this team take shape as the season progresses.
While starting the season off with a shutout win is encouraging, there is still much to be done. After all, it was against the Islanders. The rest of the week won’t be quite so easy for the Cats as the team travels to Pittsburgh on Tuesday to take on the Penguins before coming back to South Florida for the home-opener against the Lightning on Saturday.
About the Author
Written by Jon Melton
Born in the Northeast and now residing in South Florida, I've traveled the country in search of truth, justice and the best hot dog. A regular contributor for the Miami Herald, I cover all the sports that SOFLA has to offer. Have questions, comments or cleverly constructed insults? Feel free to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org