The Florida Panthers had a nice New Year’s Eve in Detroit, as they erased an early 3-0 deficit to bury the Red Wings in a shootout, 4-3. Things were looking pretty bleak, but the Panthers didn’t let up and chipped away at the lead. By the end of the night, they were in possession of 2 points. Every point is going to help the Panthers. They are 7 points behind for the final wildcard, which is currently held by the Montreal Canadiens.
Florida are going to need to get hot in the second-half to catch a playoff berth. They missed out last season, but Bob Boughner is going to begin running out of excuses if that continues. Gerard Gallant was fired at a time when the Panthers just went to the playoffs the year prior.
Then Gallant took an expansion team to the Stanley Cup Final, so I think there is pressure on Boughner to have his team performing like a playoff team. If this were a bigger hockey market, there likely wouldn’t be as much patience.
Along with Gallant going to Vegas, ex Panthers Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith also landed there. That set the Panthers back, as they were two underappreciated players who were able to help a team go to a Stanley Cup Final immediately. The Panthers are leaning on the emergence of Aaron Ekblad, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Aleksander Barkov.
All three are 25 years old or younger, so the Panthers should have a core in place to build around. Ekblad is only 22 and Barkov 23. The Mike Hoffman drama, fortunately for the Panthers, didn’t travel to Sunrise from Ottawa.
The Sabres have had their hand on reverse lately, as they are quickly watching what they accomplished during their ten-game winning streak evaporating. They’re in the midst of losses in five of their last six games.
The offence has suddenly found itself stuck in mud after all the bounces were going their way. Nevertheless, the Sabres are still a 21-13-5 club, which is a monumental jump from a season ago. Head below for our free Panthers vs. Sabres pick on Thursday night in the NHL.
Florida Panthers vs. Buffalo Sabres Pick
When Sabres’ fans feel bad about how the recent stretch is going for the Sabres, all they have to do is look at what they did last season. Buffalo finished the 2017-18 campaign with a record of just 25-45-12 for dead last in the league. That puts things in perspective a little bit. If the playoffs started today, they’d have the first wildcard in the Eastern Conference.
After the failures they’ve gone through over the past several years, it’s kind of difficult for fans to think of the positive right now, though. Their offence has been asleep with only 4 goals in their last three games. The Panthers have been getting throttled in their own zone, with 3.45 goals allowed per game for 28th in the NHL.
They get worse on the road, as they’ve surrendered 3.75 goals per game away from home. Part of it is because Luongo was injured, but a lot of it’s because of bad play on the blue line. It isn’t like Luongo has been spectacular or anything. He owns a 3.19 GAA and 0.897 save percentage, so it’s been a total team failure in that regard.
Overall, the Sabres have gone 12-5-3 at home, compared to 9-9-0 on the road for the Panthers. The Sabres are averaging 2.9 goals per game and allowing 2.75 per game at home in Buffalo. Florida has dominated this series with seven wins in a row over the Sabres, including two this season.
I expect the Sabres to show some pride tonight and put forth a desperate effort, though. This is their third game in a row in Buffalo, while their opponents are on consecutive road games after putting a lot of energy into coming back from a 3-0 hole. If the Sabres lose this, there is going to be some finger pointing going on in Buffalo. However, I think they rise up and snap out of their skid to get their first win since December 22nd.