Valuable Lesson Lost on Struggling Panthers

Valuable Lesson Lost on Struggling Panthers

Concerning – The Florida Panthers are the only team in the Eastern Conference without a win in 2019.

Terrifying – The Florida Panthers seemingly have no idea how flawed their approach to scoring goals at even-strength is.

After last night’s 5-1 loss to Montreal, in which the Panthers outshot the Canadiens by a huge margin, 53-28, Florida is now 0-5-2 since the start of the New Year. Post game, head coach Bob Boughner said, “I don’t have a lot of negatives to pull out of that game.” Captain, Alex Barkov said he thought the Panthers outplayed the Canadiens but didn’t get any luck. Mike Hoffman talked about the team wanting to have a “shot first mentality.” The Panthers seem to have no idea that despite outshooting the Canadiens by nearly a 2:1 ratio, they were both out-coached and outplayed last night.

Despite their sizeable shot advantage, the Panthers were actually outshot from the slot, 14-13.

From the most high-danger area on the ice, where nearly half the goals in the league are scored, the Canadiens had almost twice as many shots on goal.

Last night’s game highlighted just how flawed Florida’s overall approach to offense is – a quantity over quality mentality from one of the worst equipped teams in the league to play that way. If you’re going to preach a shot-volume approach, there are a few things you need to do well to be successful – recover rebounds, screen goalies and get sticks on incoming shots, because the odds of scoring on clean shots from outside the slot are less than 5 percent. Unfortunately for the Panthers, they don’t do any of these prerequisites particularly well.

And yet, the Panthers continue to buy into the notion that if they fire a bunch of pucks on net from distance, good things will happen. At even-strength, the Panthers rank 9th in shots on goal per game, 2nd in perimeter shots, 22nd in slot shots, 29th from the inner slot and are 23rd in goals, averaging 2.1 per game.

What’s ironic is that the Panthers in fact approach the powerplay the right way and have been very successful this season, ranking 4th in the league with a 25.9% success rate. With the man advantage, the Panthers feed a high volume of pucks to the middle of the ice and create a large percentage of their shots from the areas on the ice that provide the best odds of scoring.

Whether it’s even-strength or the powerplay, the most successful offensive teams in the league create as many scoring chances as possible. It seems simple but it’s clear the Panthers believe their antiquated, volume-heavy approach is the right one. Now, 45 games into the season, it’s fair to say it’s not. Sure, a degree of skill is required to generate quality looks at the rate of high-scoring, even-strength teams like Tampa Bay and Toronto but to actually game-plan a “shoot first mentality” as Mike Hoffman put it, is a flawed approach and it’s simply not working in Florida.

Speaking of Toronto, they’re up next for the Panthers, Friday night. The Maple Leafs are averaging a league-high 2.96 goals per game at even-strength, while they rank bottom-10 in shots per game but top-5 in shots from the slot.

It appears the Panthers not only failed to learn a valuable lesson from last night’s loss to the Canadiens, but the game actually reinforced the team’s belief that they are doing what’s required to produce offensively. Unless Bob Boughner changes his approach, the Panthers have a legitimate chance of going winless in January – following Friday night’s game against the Leafs, they close out the month against the Predators and Sharks.

(Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)