By Bill Whitehead
I wish I had some explanation for what we’re seeing at Florida Panthers’ home games this season, but it seems to be inexplicable.
I’m talking about the Buzz.
In a number of games this year, Florida has started out as if they’re already trailing, jumping on the opponent for the early portion of the game and desperately acting as if they’re trying to get back in it. They did it against Buffalo, Tampa Bay and, most recently, a woeful Edmonton team. The Buzz is when Florida simply seems to have more jump in their step than the opposition, creating more puck possession and better scoring opportunities. Typically, they haven’t scored when the Buzz was in full force. A great first 20 minutes against Buffalo yielded just one goal despite 18 shots on goaltender Jhonas Enroth.
Some times, though, the Buzz does work like a charm late – and it results in scoring. It did against Boston, Chicago, Minnesota and, most recently, well, against that woeful Edmonton club. The Jesse Winchester-Nick Bjugstad-Scottie Upshall line turned into a terror in the last 10 minutes, solely because they were buzzing. Uppy’s first goal of the season was a beauty and cut the Oilers’ lead to 3-2. He stopped a clearing attempt by sliding, then banged home a pass from Winchester with 9:56 left. He tied it with just 57 seconds left in regulation when Marcel Goc’s pass went off the leg of Boyd Gordon. Upshall tossed toward goalie Devan Dubnyk what analyst Bill Lindsay called a Tim Wakefield-like knuckleball, though Billy could’ve gone old school with a Charlie Hough or even Wilbur Wood reference.
The Buzz does exist. We see it almost every game, but at random points and not for any extended amount of time. Certainly not the majority of the game. Yet it’s there. You can see those 10-minute spurts where good things are happening on the ice for the guys in red and they look like a competitive team, but then it expires like Florida’s recent power plays.
Bottom line: Why does Florida often start with The Buzz and end with it? What causes it? What driving force suddenly springs alive in a player like Upshall, quickens his step and creates manic, positive play around the opposing goal? And more importantly, how does the team oddly transition from buzzing to mailing it in and just floating around out there for 20 or 30 minutes?
I don’t know those answers. However, Kevin Dineen had better be trying to find one or two of them and figure out a way to capture that Buzz in a bottle.
The B’s – Speaking of buzzing, Florida takes on the Bruins tonight, or as my younger son calls them, the B’s. The Panthers must be buzzing like a ticked off hive of angry worker bees tonight, and that’s what it will take – a workman-like effort – to get a win. See Shawn Matthias’s hard-working goal last year as Exhibit A on how hard Florida will need to work to win tonight. Here are some stats:
- Florida is 32-32-6-5 all-time against Boston
- The Cats begin a 3-game road trip; 8 of the next 9 are on the road
- D Matt Gilroy played at Boston University, G Scott Clemmensen at Boston College
- Two Florida draft picks, Michael Matheson and Ian McCoshen, play for BC
- Florida is 3-8-4 while Boston is 8-5-1
- Milan Lucic has 7 goals while David Krejci has 12 assists
- Ex-Bruin Brad Boyes leads Florida with 5 goals, Tomas Fleischmann has 8 assists
The puck drops on Game 16 at 7 p.m. Watch on Fox Sports Florida or listen on 560 WQAM.
Also, there’s a watch party at Duffy’s in Plantation. It begins at 6 p.m.