Last night as the Florida Panthers won in a shoot out over the Calgary Flames something happened. Something that may squelch the critics, calm the hand ringers and send a reassuring warmth over the Panthers fan base. What happened you ask? The game was won by a member of the VFW (Versteeg, Fleischmann & Weiss) line when Weiss scored the game winner in a shoot out over first time goalie Irving. The balance of the scoring in the game on the Panthers side however, came from Sean Bergenheim with two goals who is not a member of the VFW line. Shocked?
He scored both times with assists from Samuelsson and Matthias his linemates. What this means is that their line had a total of six much needed points last night. All season long the experts have been pointing to the fact that the offence was coming from one line the VFW line and then the Panthers big offensive weapons were defensemen which they site as a concern. Typically, teams win a Stanley Cup with at least offensive production from two top lines. So where does this leave the Panthers they asked and inferred that the Cats chances were not good.
The second line of Bergenheim, Matthias and Samuelsson have to contribute and become at least 50 point contributors whether through high goal production or assists. Mikael Samuelsson RW just back off of injury should provide this line with some experience and firepower. Last year with the Canucks Samuelsson gave them 50 points –(18 goals and 32 assists). He can bring stability to this line.
Shawn Matthias C is young very young at 23 if he can stay healthy paired with the veteran Samuelsson could provided the line with his assist capabilities and possibly pick up some dirty goals in front of the net or at least provide distraction for Samuelsson and Bergenheim.
Sean Bergenheim LW was signed as a free agent by Florida and while Bergie has never had more than 29 points in his career which he racked up last year with Tampa Bay. Bergie this year with the Panther will have more TOI and more shots on goal which should increase his production.
If this new line can gel and relieve some of the pressure off of the VFW line the Panthers could answer their critics with this new line of Samuelsson/Matthias/Bergenheim. If they can’t scoring can be found elsewhere. Where you ask? Well Mike Santorelli and Marco Sturm another former Canuck, could provide some punch. Tomas Kopecky you can always count on for those scrappy dirty goals and usually can give you 20-25 a year which will also help.
Maybe though, The Panthers can win with one line coupled with solid goaltending from Jose Theodore and their great two way play that they get from the forwards. The Panthers have gone against the odds all season so why can’t they go to the Stanley Cup Finals in an unconventional way? The experts say they can’t but then again the Cats have proved the experts wrong all season long. Let’s hope that trend continues into the post season.