Originally posted on Red Light District Hockey  |  Last updated 1/29/12
Dale-tallon-general
By Bill Whitehead

SUNRISE, Fla. -- I can't speak for all of the media that straggled in to BankAtlantic Center on July 8 for the press conference welcoming the club's new acquisitions, but I felt a tad excited about the talent GM Dale Tallon and assistant GM Mike Santos had brought to the Florida Panthers. I soon found out I was in the minority, however.

Not surprisingly considering all the new faces, expectations for Florida's 2011-2012 campaign ran the gamut, but most speculation wasn't encouraging. The media, particularly in Canada, felt the club's assembly was Tallon's Frankenstein experiment, a hodge-podge of skilled players who all carried some baggage that made them either expendable or not so desirable. Before the first skate was laced in camp, Tallon's efforts were deemed a failure.

Many surmised that Kris Versteeg and Scottie Upshall, while good players, never really fit in on clubs. Flashy Tomas Fleischmann couldn't stay healthy. Brian Campbell, a productive defenseman, had a terrifying contract. Jose Theodore was a backup goalie and past his prime, as was Ed Jovanovski. Sean Bergenheim only had that one good stretch for Tampa Bay in the playoffs, while Marcel Goc was unproven. Most pundits picked the Panthers to land in the bottom of the Eastern Conference, maybe 13th at best but likely 15th again.

The doubters in the media were simply wrong. Florida claimed first place in the Southeast Division for an extended period of time on Nov. 19 after beating Pittsburgh, holding it for the remainder of the first half until swapping it with Washington near the break. The Capitals' win over Boston coupled with Florida's shootout loss to Philadelphia -- a league-leading 11th overtime/shootout loss for the Cats -- left the two division rivals tied at 55 points.

That all leaves Florida where it stands right now at the All-Star Break: Tied with the Washington in points but trailing on a tiebreaker. With plenty of hockey left, the Panthers (22-15-11) hold on to seventh place and would face Boston if the playoffs started now. The standings will likely move a bunch, possibly for a team like Ottawa, who is five points ahead of Florida and in sixth but has played four more games than the Cats.
For Florida, the key is this: Score at least three goals and the club has a good chance of winning. Six teams average over three per game, but Florida is 21st at 2.48 and has struggled scoring most of the time.

The Panthers are 17-1-5 when scoring at least three goals in regulation. The lone regulation loss was at Ottawa on Oct. 27 when Versteeg's one-timer with 48 seconds left tied it at 3-3, but Nick Foligno scored with 2.5 seconds to go in a heartbreaking loss for Florida. The Panthers' third tally usually results in a close win or an OT loss, but it's points either way.

A major problem in getting that third goal has been special teams. Florida started out the season performing superbly on those two -- strong on the power play with Campbell quarterbacking it and Jason Garrison blasting away, exceptional on the penalty kill anchored by Tomas Kopecky. Currently eighth on the PP (19.0%) and 24th on the PK (80.7%), the Cats have spent too much time in the penalty box lately, negating scoring time and putting them on the defensive. The club went from one of the least penalized teams to now 12th, averaging 10.8 PIMs per game.

And when Florida doesn't get that third goal? Try a record of 5-14-6. A third goal might not help teams like Ottawa, Carolina, Columbus and Tampa Bay because they all give up more than that per game and have to outgun teams. For Florida, it's make or break, win or lose.

In fact, three -- a prime number -- will be the prime reason for the Cats getting in to or being left out of the playoffs.

By Bill Whitehead
Florida Panthers Credentialed Correspondent
Twitter: @BillWhiteheadFL
Email: BillWhiteheadFL@hotmail.com
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Bright future for Minnesota Timberwolves

Eli and Archie Manning say Peyton won’t likely leave Denver if he plays in 2016

NCAA mulls changes to graduate transfer and targeting rules

Cavs active in NBA trade market, covet Jared Dudley

Roger Goodell expectedly dodges Patriots-related questions at Super Bowl

Baltimore Orioles acquire starting pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

USC athletic director Pat Haden to retire in June

Report: Browns owner ‘frustrated, emotional’ about Johnny Manziel

Raiders and Texans to play MNF game in Mexico City in 2016

Goodell wants to keep Raiders, Chargers in home markets

Deadly shooting breaks out at Dublin boxing weigh-in

Mike Shula vs. Wade Phillips: The best story of Super Bowl 50

WATCH: Cubs' Kris Bryant went swimming with sharks

Sports Authority taking steps to file for bankruptcy

Major League Baseball threatens to disassociate from DraftKings

NFL considering moving Pro Bowl to Australia

Joe Montana warns NFL players about potential long-term damage after retirement

Report: Two people fired for leaking Jason Pierre-Paul information

USMNT are big favorites against Canada

‘Crying Jordan’ photographer had no idea it existed until this week

NHL nightmare: No Canadian teams in the NHL playoff hunt

Seven unheralded players set to make major impacts in SB 50

‘Actor’ Todd Gurley wants to make ‘billions’

The 14 biggest plays in Super Bowl history

David Price donates $300K to build field for special needs kids

NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The 14 biggest plays in Super Bowl history

Manziel's father fears for QB's life

Johnny Manziel dropped by agent

Michael Irvin: Cowboys should save Manziel

QUIZ: Name the Super Bowl halftime performers since 1991

The merits of trading Blake Griffin to the Hornets

X-factors in Super Bowl 50

Could the Marlins contend in 2016?

Report: Browns to cut Manziel in March

Browns rip Manziel in statement

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker