The Florida Panthers are building a nucleus of young, talented skaters on the offensive end that could become consistent goalscorers in Sunrise for years to come. 2012 Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau headlines this group of players that are learning how to play together and become a formidable force inside the opponent’s blue line.
While these young players find their way, there is a big issue at the other end putting unnecessary pressure on the green skaters. The combination of an oft-injured and moderately effective Tim Thomas and a mediocre-at-best Jacob Markstrom in goal is killing Florida’s chances to get two points night in and night out.
The Panthers’ last game against the Tampa Bay Lightning was another example of Florida’s front lines playing well enough to win, only to have that effort wasted on poor goalkeeping. Three Panther goals in regulation weren’t enough of a cushion for Markstrom to fend off the Lightning; in the shootout, Tampa Bay was able to take advantage of Markstrom and leave with the extra point.
Markstrom and Thomas’ combined goals against average is fourth-worst in the NHL. Thomas’ save percentage is 43rd in the league while Markstrom’s is 51st. Neither Markstrom nor Thomas can use the excuse of having to work too much. 24 goalies have seen more shots than Markstrom and 30 other goalies have had to try stop more pucks than Thomas. As a team, the Panthers are 13th in fewest shots against per game in the NHL. The problem isn’t with the lines in front of the goal.
Sadly for Florida fans, Markstrom and Thomas are the best options the Panthers have to put in the net right now. Scott Clemmensen, once a vital part of the 2011 Southeast Division championship team in Sunrise, has struggled in the minors and only been called up when Thomas has been hurt.
While the skaters develop their skills and chemistry, the poor play in goal is just something the Panthers’ lines have to deal with. Markstrom and Thomas aren’t just Plan A for Florida — they are the only plan. Unfortunately, until better options arise, the chances of the Panthers putting together wins will continue to slide right by.
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