A new rivalry is brewing down south!

The Cardiac Cats are back and secured their first victory after the All-Star break in a thrilling fashion.

Last night the Panthers took on the Canes in Raleigh as both teams battle for supremacy in not just the Eastern Conference, but the NHL standings.

For those who didn’t get to watch it, you missed out on what could only be described as a playoff like atmosphere.

The game was physical from the jump including multiple scrums in the first 10 minutes that stemmed from a hit that Svechnikov took exception to from Tippett.

From there, the game got nasty and quick. Svech decided to extract his revenge on Weegar, because that makes total sense, so all the boys jumped in and it turned to a giant wrestling match in front of the benches.

The Cats were able to weather the storm and fight back to not just tie the game, but to also get an improbably overtime win.

Just like everything else in life, while there were a lot of good things, there were also a few areas that were quite concerning.

The Good

One of the great things in last night’s game is that the Cats shook off the rust and never gave up. They could have written the game off as a “good loss to a tough competitor” and settled for a 2-1 loss.

Instead, they fought and clawed their way back, with Reinhart scoring this beauty with just 49 seconds left.

Additionally, in the 3rd period, the Cats did something they rarely do and shutdown the high-powered Canes offense, holding them to only 2 shots.

Normally the Panthers play a run-and-gun style which scores a lot of goals, but also gives up a lot of opportunities. Look at the shots against in some of their wins like the Flames where they gave us 49 shots in a 6-2 victory.

Playing a shutdown style of hockey and limiting your opponent to under 25 shots is how you win playoff games and that is why the Panthers were able to steal this victory from the Canes.

Another positive note was that the Cats did not shy away from the physical play and were even dishing out some big hits. According to the game stats, the Cats even led in the hits department 34-28!

I don’t know about you, but it was great watching Trocheck get clobbered and then receive a penalty for playing without a helmet. Talk about adding insult to injury for that clown.

While the Canes have Martinook, they do not have a true heavy weight like Wilson (more like wannabe heavy weight), Reaves, Fat Pat, or Lucic. The toughness and sandpaper finish was there, but the Panthers need to add a bit more grit and meat if they want to go far in the playoffs. While this may sound negative, I was still pleased with the way the Cats responded and showed they had some balls and were no longer the pussy cats they used to be!

Finally, the real highlight of last night’s game had to be Lucas Carlsson doing his best Bobrovsky impression and keeping it a one goal game early in the 2nd. Talk about a stick save and a beauty!

Carlsson for the Vezina? Let’s make this a thing!

The Bad

While this was a great win, the Cats played a very undisciplined first 2 periods and if it weren’t for a phenomenal PK, this game could have gotten sideways quickly!

The Panthers accrued 10 penalty minutes in the first 2 periods, which is ¼ of the game leading in to the 3rd period. The worst part is some of these penalties were not just unnecessary, but flat out stupid.

A prime example was Duclair pushing the stick away from a Canes defender while the Cats are on the PP. Duke, what about that seemed like a good idea? Sure, tempers were flared and everyone was doing some dumb stuff; however, you have a PP opportunity in a tight game. Do not waste it because a guy hurt your feelings or was running his mouth!

Dumb and untimely penalties like this killed the Cats in their playoff series against the Lightning last year. The Panthers played undisciplined and gave up too many PP opportunities. The Canes might not have taken advantage of it, but teams like Tampa and Toronto will when it comes time for the playoffs!

Physical play is another subject I would like to touch on as well. I know many of you are asking “well didn’t you just include physicality as a positive?” And yes, but it wasn’t all good.

Did the Cats lead in hits? Yes, I already answered that.

However, the physical play from the Canes seemed to attribute to the lack of discipline as the Panthers were using their sticks and letting their frustration show by taking dumbdick like penalties.

In the words of legendary hockey coach, Shawn Fucking Perry, “get his number and get him later”. What good does two handing a guy in the back of the legs after he hit you do? Nothing besides make you sit in the box for 2 minutes!

Plus, the ref always catches the retaliation.

The Panthers needed to keep their emotions in check and get their revenge when the time is right instead of turning around like a pissed off peewee and slashing a guy when the ref is watching.

Again, the Canes did not have a true heavy weight or guy who can throw his body on the same level as the big boys, but if Tampa does this with The Worm or Fat Pat, the Panthers could be in for a long playoff series.

I know in previous articles I speculated that the Cats should go after a guy like Giroux; however, I think it is more important to add some meat and grit to the lineup.

While Nick Ritchie did not seem to be a fit in either Boston or Toronto, he could be a good option for the Panthers. This is assuming he doesn’t take his dumbdick penalties like he did for the B’s. He has been on Toronto’s trade block; however, I highly doubt the Leafs would want to send him to a team within the division.

And I am not limiting him to being the only meaty player on the market, but adding a player like him would be a great asset, especially come playoffs.

Finally, the Panthers powerplay was absolutely horrendous again last night.

They do not attack the offensive zone with speed, but rather take their time and when the other team stands them up at the blue line, they pass it to the defensemen and take a long, slow sweep through their own zone.

The Cats need to hit with speed and establish possession inside the offensive zone. They went 0 for 5 on the PP last night and have a season PP% of 20.4%. While this is not terrible and has them sitting in the middle of the pack, everyone knows the Panthers will not get far in the playoffs unless they start capitalizing on their special teams’ opportunities.

Why they have not changed what they are doing is beyond me. It is clear that their current scheme is no longer working and Brunette needs to start mixing things up. Whether it be different players on the PP or trying a different attack, it is easy to see that what they are doing now is not working.

In summary, it was a fantastic game last night and the Cats showed a lot of heart in a playoff like atmosphere. If they can tighten up a few things then maybe the league will start taking them seriously as a true contender.

As always Panthers fans, in Zito we trust!

PS: I know some of you other “reporters” are stealing my content regarding Giordano and Giroux. Don’t try to play it off as your own because I am always watching. At least give credit where credit is due!

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