With round one of the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs in the book it is time to move on to our predictions for the semi-finals, which begin tonight. before doing so, let’s take a look back at our predictions and see just how well we did.
Minnesota Wild vs St. Louis Blues
Marc’s Prediction: St. Louis Blues, 6 games
Ryan’s Prediction: St. Louis Blues, 5 games
Nashville Predators vs Chicago Blackhawks
Marc’s Prediction: Chicago Blackhawks, 6 games
Ryan’s Prediction: Nashville Predators, 7 games
Anaheim Ducks vs Winnipeg Jets
Marc’s Prediction: Anaheim Ducks, 7 games
Ryan’s Prediction: Anaheim Ducks, 6 games
Vancouver Canucks vs Calgary Flames
Marc’s Prediction: Calgary Flames, 6 games
Ryan’s Prediction: Vancouver Canucks, 6 games
Montreal Canadiens vs Ottawa Senators
Marc’s Prediction: Montreal Canadiens, 7 games
Ryan’s Prediction: Ottawa Senators, 7 games
Tampa Bay Lightning vs Detroit Red Wings
Marc’s Prediction: Tampa Bay Lightning, 5 games
Ryan’s Prediction: Tampa Bay Lightning, 7 games
New York Rangers vs Pittsburgh Penguins
Marc’s Prediction: New York Rangers, 4 games
Ryan’s Prediction: New York Rangers, 6 games
Washington Capitals vs New York Islanders
Marc’s Prediction: Washington Capitals, 6 games
Ryan’s Prediction: Washington Capitals, 7 games
Marc: 7-1 teams, 3-5 games
Ryan: 4-4 teams, 3-5 games
Round 2 Predictions
Over the next two days 16 teams will begin their quest to be named the 2015 Stanley Cup Champions. This season there are a few teams missing that are usually regulars in the playoffs, such as the Boston Bruins and last year’s champions, the Los Angeles Kings. They can thank the Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, Ottawa Senators, and New York Islanders, all teams that have not frequented the playoff picture in recent years, but have had a change in fortune this season. The 2014-2015 campaign was a tight race to the postseason, so hockey fans are guaranteed tough match-ups throughout the first round and beyond. That is why it will be harder this year than in the past to predict which club will come out on top, but we are going to give it our best try.
48 – The number of games the Florida Panthers will play in a lockout shortened campaign.
99 – The length, in days, of the 2013 National Hockey League season.
Those two numbers combined leaves little to no room for error, especially when the Panthers are on a mission to prove that last year’s SouthEast Division Championship win, the first in team history, was not a fluke. Every game from opening night on will be important, and every single point will matter. Florida must find ways to win, more importantly, they must do so consistently if they want another shot at the playoffs.
Before breaking down the forward, defensive, and goaltending positions of the Panthers roster let’s look back at who departed and arrived during a lockout lengthened off-season.
Krystofer Barch – RW
Jason Garrison – D
Bracken Kearns – C
Jonathan Matsumoto – C
Mikael Samuelsson – RW
Sean Sullivan – D
Bill Thomas – RW
Wojtek Wolski – LW
Two names stick out on this list, Jason Garrison and Mikael Samuelsson. There is no doubt that these two will be missed, especially on the powerplay. It will be up to the new comers, such as Filip Kuba, to fill the holes left by Garrison and Samuelsson.
Andre Deveaux – C
Jean-Francois Jacques – LW
Alex Kovalev – RW
Filip Kuba – D
Peter Mueller – C
George Parros – RW
Casey Wellman – C
The Panthers had two major issues last season, one of them being toughness. Erik Gudbranson tried to defend his teammates when needed but GM Dale Tallon and head coach Kevin Dineen probably did not like seeing their top defensive prospect put himself in danger on a nightly bases. The addition of George Parros will take the pressure off of Gudbranson and the other players not known as “tough guys” this year. Parros will also be a great protector for the rookies that earn roster spots, such as Johnathan Huberdeau.
Two other names on the arrivals list that deserve attention are Alex Kovalev and Peter Mueller. Both forwards, along with Johnathan Huberdeau, will make up Florida’s second line. Putting these three skilled players together could pay off big time for the Panthers and should take some of the offensive pressure off of their top line of Tomas Fleischmann, Stephen Weiss, and Kris Versteeg. Also, Kovalev should be a good mentor for Huberdeau, even if it is only for the 2013 campaign.
Florida Panthers 2013 Opening Night Roster
* Indicates players on IR.
#9 Stephen Weiss “A” – C
#11 Johnathan Huberdeau – C/LW
#12 Jack Skille – RW
#13 Mike Santorelli – C
#14 Tomas Fleischmann – LW
#18 Shawn Matthias – C
#19 Scottie Upshall- LW
#20 Sean Bergenheim – LW *
#22 George Parros – RW
#25 Jerred Smithson – RW
#27 Alex Kovalev – RW
#32 Kris Versteeg – RW
#57 Marcel Goc – C *
#82 Tomas Kopecky – RW
#88 Peter Mueller – C
The weakest link from last season was clearly the offensive production from Florida’s forwards. In the span of an 82 game season the Cats lost 18 games in overtime and had a -24 goal differential. If the Panthers would have been able to score one extra goal during some of those 18 OT/SO losses they would have had more wins, a better differential, and they probably would have ran away with the SouthEast Division weeks before having to beat Carolina on the last night of the regular season to clinch. Thankfully Florida was able to do so, which means none of that really matters now, but that may not be the same case this season. The Panthers will need more offensive production from their forwards, especially the new comers and those who did not meet expectations last year. Isn’t that right Scottie Upshall and Mike Santorelli? Florida also needs to hope that their top line of Fleischmann, Weiss, and Versteeg produces as well as they did last season.
#4 Keaton Ellerby – D
#7 Dmitry Kulikov – D
#17 Filip Kuba – D
#23 Tyson Strachan – D
#43 Mike Weaver – D
#44 Erik Gudbranson – D *
#51 Brian Campbell “A” – D
#55 Ed Jovanovski “C” – D
Defense on most nights during the 2011-2012 season was not an issue for the Florida Panthers. Head coach Kevin Dineen put a system in place that worked well almost every game, making Florida’s defensive play their biggest strength last year. Florida also enjoyed some offensive production from their D group as they registered 151 points from the blue line in 2011-2012. The good news is that almost all of those point producing defensemen have returned. The bad news? Their biggest powerplay threat, Jason Garrison, left for Vancouver during the off-season. It will be up to the returning blueliners, as well as Filip Kuba, to fill the void left by Garrison on the PP. This would be a perfect time for youngster Dmitry Kulikov to finally have a big breakout year and establish himself as a true top 4 defenseman.
#30 Scott Clemmensen – G
#60 Jose Theodore – G
What is there to say that has not already been said about Florida’s goaltending last season? Jose Theodore exceeded expectations and proved to everyone that he still possesses the skills to be a starter in the National Hockey League while Scott Clemmensen did an admirable job as backup. These two goaltenders can clearly keep pucks out of the net until Jacob Markstrom is ready to take his rightful place between the pipes, which should be in the very near future.
Player to Watch: Johnathan Huberdeau
Does it really surprise anyone that Huberdeau is our player to watch this year? Florida’s top offensive prospect will finally make his debut in South Florida this season. The rookie will have to prove that he is ready for NHL hockey right from the start since he will lose a year off of his contract if he is not returned to his junior team after just six games instead of the usual ten. Thank the lockout shortened season for that rule. Hopefully being on a line with three-time National Hockey League all-star Alex Kovalev and highly skilled forward Peter Mueller will jump start Huberdeau’s offensive production as soon as possible.
This shortened season is a tough one to predict for any team, including the Florida Panthers. Personally I think a 48 game schedule will help the Cats, especially considering the fact that during the second half of last season they looked burned out and struggled to produce offense on a nightly bases. With that said, I see Florida having another successful year but I do not see them winning the SouthEast Division in 2013. The Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Washington Capitals have all made significant improvements, and the Winnipeg Jets will be just as competitive as before. Who do I think will win the SE? That will be revealed in a different article later today. Even though I do not think the Panthers will win their division I do believe they will make the playoffs again, but it will take a complete team effort, just like last season.
We hope that everyone enjoyed our 2013 Florida Panthers preview. Thankfully, the time for talk, and all of the guessing games, ends tonight when Florida plays host to the visiting Carolina Hurricanes. Good luck to all 30 National Hockey League teams, and most importantly, let’s go Panthers.
With their opening night showdown against the Carolina Hurricanes just one day away the Florida Panthers spent Friday making final preparations for a shortened 2013 season. This is what we know so far leading up to tomorrow night’s game.
– During the final day of training camp this morning at the BB&T Center head coach Kevin Dineen picked veteran defenseman Ed Jovanovski as Florida’s newest captain. Dineen also named Stephen Weiss and Brian Campbell assistant captains.
– Florida has re-signed defenseman Dmitry Kulikov to a two year contract worth $2 million this season and $3 million in 2013-2014. There is a chance that he will play tomorrow night against Carolina in the home opener, but that depends on the results of his physical and if he can get some ice time in before Saturday evening.
– The Panthers announced that they have signed skilled forward Alex Kovalev to a one year deal. Kovalev made the roster after participating in Florida’s training camp on a tryout basis. Marek Svatos, another NHLer who was at camp as a tryout, was not signed.
– It was confirmed this morning that rookie forward Jonathan Huberdeau will start the season with Florida. He will fill the second line LW position and play along side Peter Mueller and Alex Kovalev.
– Multiple sources, including George Richards of the Miami Herald, have reported that Kris Versteeg left Friday’s practice with an undisclosed injury and is currently questionable for the home opener on Saturday. he joins a growing list of injured Panthers that includes Erik Gudbranson, Mike Weaver, Sean Bergenheim, and Marcel Goc.
– The Cats placed Mike Santorelli and James Wright on waivers Thursday afternoon. Santorelli cleared while Wright was claimed by the Winnipeg Jets.
Here is some information regarding opening night against the Carolina Hurricanes:
– Sunrise Sports and Entertainment, along with the Florida Panthers, are reporting that there are less than 1,000 tickets remaining for tomorrow night’s game at the BB&T Center. Tickets can be purchased via Ticketmaster, StubHub, NHL ticket exchange, or at the arena’s box office.
– Parking gates open at 5:00 PM, doors open at 6:00 PM.
– Miniature SouthEast Division Championship banners will be handed out to all fans in attendance on Saturday.
– The Panthers sent out an e-mail this morning that asks fans to be in their seats by 7:15 PM because the on-ice festivities, including the raising of Florida’s SouthEast Division Championship banner, will begin at 7:20 PM.
– Players will be signing autographs after the game on the JetBlue Tarmac (outside the front doors). This was announced with the tagline “Players Subject to Availability.”
If anyone plans on arriving at the arena early feel free to stop by parking lot section A-52. A bunch of loyal Panthers fans, including yours truly, will be out their tailgating before and after the game.