The Chicago Blackhawks welcomed the Florida Panthers tonight as an opportunity to end their three-game skid. Florida delivered a relatively easy win for Chicago, and the Blackhawks haven’t provided the only illustration of a depth and talent disadvantage that the Panthers have right now.
Despite losing goalie Corey Crawford in the first period, Chicago still won 6-2 and looked better in one aspect of the game that they have statistically been deplorable at all season long: the penalty kill. The Blackhawks came into the game ranking 29th of 30 teams in the penalty kill, as opponents have been finding the back of the net on the man advantage over 71 percent of the time.
Tonight, however, the ineptitude of Florida’s own special teams trumped Chicago’s. The Blackhawks killed off all five Panthers power plays and were able to cash in on three of their four man-advantages themselves. Once again, the disparity in talent was evident on the ice.
In games against the top five teams in points on their schedule so far (Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Chicago, Los Angeles Kings, and Pittsburgh Penguins), the Panthers have been outscored 29-17 and are 2-6-0 in those eight contests. 21 of those 29 goals have come on the opponents’ power plays, and conversely Florida has netted only two goals when it has had the man advantage in those games.
Special teams haven’t been the only area of concern against the top competition, however. Tonight, Chicago’s defense protected Crawford’s replacement, Antti Raanta, by blocking 23 Panthers shots. Once again, this is a trend for Florida against the NHL‘s best. Against those top-five squads, the Panthers are averaging having 19.7 blocked shots per game. This indicates that the Florida skaters are simply outclassed by their competition.
While the Panthers have fared better against lesser competition, in order to be the best, you have to beat the best. Tonight’s game in Chicago was another indicator of how far Florida still has to go in order to compete with those teams in the NHL’s upper echelon.