The Florida Panthers aren't a horrible team by any stretch of the imagination. They're outside of the playoffs looking in, but they're competently coached, better than average when it comes to possession, and stocked full of young talent. They also aren't very good. Florida is in a real transition period, with pieces that are too old, and pieces that are too young, and not much in between.
The Panthers do a lot of things well, but they don't have the scoring talent to stick with the top teams in the league. However their playing style and solid goaltending throughout the year has made them tough to beat anyway, forcing a ridiculous 17 games to shootouts. All this being said, you should expect the Panthers to play you tough, especially when you're in their barn, but that doesn't excuse the way the Montreal Canadiens played on Tuesday night.
Yes, they won. They won because Dustin Tokarski played perhaps his best game of the season, stopping 41 of 43 shots, and facing down a whopping 32 scoring chances according to War On Ice. The Canadiens meanwhile, produced just 14 chances of their own, continuing their trend of playing like a lottery team since around the time Jiri Sekac was traded. Not that trading Sekac is the cause for the Habs' downturn, he isn't the level of talent that can cause that kind of drop, and he wasn't playing anyway.
Since February 25th, the Canadiens have a worse scoring chance differential than every team in the NHL outside of the record-breakingly-bad Buffalo Sabres. If you look at shot attempts, the Habs jump ahead of Colorado and Calgary, but talk about your small victories.
I know there are a lot of folks who get upset when I harp on all these areas where the Habs aren't very good (Essentially every area that matters in the game of hockey except goaltending), but there are certain expectations for teams that hope to compete in the playoffs, and frankly the Canadiens as a whole aren't meeting them.
Some individual players are, namely Carey Price, P.K. Subban, Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, and Andrei Markov, but most of the lineup is sputtering to say the least.
During this current stretch of goal scoring woes, I started to wonder how this current team compared to Habs teams of yesteryear. When you discount shootout winners and empty net goals, the Habs are on pace for a dismal 195 goals this season. My first thought was to look at the 2009-10 Habs under Jacques Martin, a team that was eviscerated in the media for playing a boring style that didn't produce goals. As it turns out, that team scored 203 goals, and they did it without Max Pacioretty (Well, Max was there, he just couldn't score yet) or P.K. Subban, without Andrei Markov for half the year, and with their two top goal scorers in Brian Gionta and Mike Cammalleri missing a combined 38 games. They also lost Andrei Kostitsyn and Glen Metropolit (shockingly their 4th and 5th best scorers) for 36 combined games.
This was a team whose top-four defense for most of the season was the 35-year-old Czech duo of Roman Hamrlik and Jaroslav Spacek, along with Hal Gill and Josh Gorges. This was a team that could barely move the puck out of their own zone, and had next to zero scoring depth. Yet they outscored what the current Canadiens are pacing for.
In fact, you have to go all the way back to 1999-2000 to find a Canadiens team that put the puck in the net less often than this one, and that team lost their only noteworthy roster player, Saku Koivu, for all but 24 games due to injury. Look at the roster they were dealing with.
This is a team that has suffered one major injury all season, to P.A. Parenteau, a player the coach, and many fans believe the team didn't need, until of course they did.
No matter what your opinion of the talent level of the 2014-15 version of the Canadiens, I don't think anyone is quite insane enough to believe that this team should score less than the dead puck era team without Koivu. I don't think there are many who don't recognize that this roster is much more talented offensively than their 2010 counterparts either.
Teams that need their goaltenders to stop 95% of shots to beat the Florida Panthers have some deep, serious problems.
The fun stuff
P.K. Subban probably isn't even going to be nominated, because hockey writers aren't very aware of things outside their own markets, but the Habs best defenseman put another notch in his epic belt on Tuesday, leading the Habs to controlling 56.76% of all shot attempts while he was on the ice in Florida. When he was off the ice? The Habs were eaten alive to the tune of controlling just 26.93% of shot attempts. 11 of Montreal's 14 scoring chances occurred while Subban was on the ice, and he also scored the game winning goal off a nice feed by Lars Eller.
Then after the game, Subban give Tokarski a "Stone Cold" stunner, and when he was named a star, celebrated like a Tusken Raider from Star Wars. In his post game interview, he couldn't keep a straight face with Dale Weise singing in the background. We really should have a P.K. Subban Award that just goes to the person who is the best at everything ever. It'll go to P.K. for the rest of his career, then it might get interesting.