Florida Panthers: Week That Was and the Week to Come
Dec 16th – Panthers vs Ottawa
The Florida Panthers opened the week by finishing off a 9 game home stand, the longest in franchise history. Ottawa came to town on Monday night, and it was a 6-1 victory for the Panthers. Sergei Bobrovsky was great in net, making 29 saves on the night to help the Panthers break out of their mini 3 game slide. The offense on this night was carried by none other then Noel Acciari, who netted his first career hat-trick. Acciari had a career high of 10 goals entering the night, and the hat-trick left him at 8 for the season.
Dec 20th – Panthers vs Dallas
The Panthers had 3 days off following the Ottawa victory, and hit the ice again Friday at home against Dallas. Bobrovsky was given the net again for this one, and the potential did exist for him to play both of this back-to-back with the Christmas break coming up. His performance though did leave a little bit to be desired, allowing 4 goals on 31 shots. On this night it mattered not, as Noel Acciari scored his second straight hat-trick, this one in style. Acciari scored his hat-trick goal short-handed on a penalty shot. Theo Fleury in 1996 is the only other player to accomplish this unusual feat. Acciari’s hat-trick also gave him 11 on the season, breaking his career high after his monster two-game performance. Acciari’s third goal made the game 7-1, all but ending Dallas’s chances, but Florida fell asleep and allowed Dallas to get back in the game. It was not enough, but allowing Dallas to score 3 goals to pull it back to 7-4 would drive any coach mad.
Dec 21st – Panthers @ Carolina
Back at it in Carolina on Saturday night, the Florida Panthers decided to sit Bobrovsky. His poor showing against Dallas was enough for the coach. 25-year-old Chris Driedger took the cage in only his 3rd career start. Driedger, a Senators 2012 3rd round pick, was fantastic between the pipes for the Panthers on this night. Florida got the kid a 3-0 lead on goals from Evgenii Dadonov, Brian Boyle, and Jonathan Huberdeau. After allowing one, the red hot Noel Acciari made it 4-1. This gave Driedger a big enough lead to hold onto. He made 41 saves, including 18 in the 3rd period. This kind of backup goaltending is exactly what the Panthers need when Bobrovsky is not at his best. This kid is not pushing Bobrovsky out of his starting job anytime soon, but it is a nice boost for the team knowing that you have 2 goalies that you can rely upon.
What’s Next: Dec 22-29th
The Panthers hit the road on Monday to play against their cross-state rivals, the Tampa Bay Lightning. This will be the last game before the Panthers have their 3 day Christmas break. They will then return home to play back-to-back games against the Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens on the 28th and 29th respectively. The Panthers wins this week have put them back into the 3rd playoff spot in the Atlantic Division, 1 point behind the Toronto Maple Leafs with two games in hand. The Buffalo Sabres are also right on their tails, tied with the Panthers in points. It should be a fight right until the end, and every point from here on out will matter. On the injury front, the Panthers look incredible, only Jayce Hawryluk is listed as day-to-day, with no other major injuries of note.
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