It’s do or die time today, probably a little earlier than any of us wanted. No use crying over spilled milk though, this is the situation the Panthers find themselves in, and there’s nothing that can be done about that now.
First, you should check out this piece by Arik Parnass over at Hockey Graphs on a new way to evaluate power plays. There is not an analysis of the Panthers in this piece per se, but the general gist of the message was that most teams generate shots and offense from being in formation and from generating rush opportunities. Inspired by this piece, I made it a point to watch the Panthers power plays over the first four games of this series (The games currently available to me. Thanks NHL.tv!). I did not have the time to track these plays in the same matter Parnass did, so I do not have numbers to offer. Anecdotally though, I noticed that both Panthers power play goals in this series came off in-formation situations, and that the Panthers generally struggled to enter the OZ with control and get setup. They Panthers also struggled to generate rush opportunities on the power play.
5 on 5 even strength play has been ruled by the Panthers. However, their failure on the power play, plus how well the Islanders have performed on their’s has the Panthers in a tough spot. There is not much that the Panthers need to make adjustments to, but the power play is one place they could improve.
Of course, that brings us to the subject of officiating. Has it been bad? Yes. There’s no way around it. The missed call on Vincent Trocheck prior to the double overtime winner is likely most glaring to us. It would not be a stretch to suggest it is the biggest missed call in the series so far. However, the bad calls do not exclusively harm the Panthers, there has been plenty of poor officiating that has impacted both sides. Vincent Trocheck handedly worked over an Islanders player in the corner earlier in the overtime session, and was not called for it. There are other examples all across the series going both ways, such as Matt Martin getting called for slashing after Brian Campbell broke his own stick over Martin’s.
What I’m saying is don’t fall into the trap of blaming officiating for all of the Panthers ills. There were plenty of opportunities to put away the Islanders in overtime, and the Panthers did not convert. There was Barkov’s penalty shot, which was a bold call to make in an overtime situation. There was also a play where Jagr had the Islanders defense dead to rights on a nasty Barkov drop pass. Greiss at his mercy with an ever changing shooting angle. Yet, there was not even an attempt made on net and the play evaporated. If either of those opportunities get converted on we are not talking about the non-call on Vincent Trocheck’s trip, and we are not talking about Alan Quine scoring a game winning goal on the power play. The Panthers cannot allow themselves to be rattled by things out of their control, they must take advantage of the opportunties that present themselves for the taking.
That’s all there really is to this. The Panthers are, in terms of process, doing nearly everything right. They just need to execute better. I am still confident they can do so, in spite of what the refs may call. Hopefully it starts tonight with a season saving effort.