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From The Press Box


From The Press Box is a weekly column written by FloridaPanthers.com and NHL.com writer Alain Poupart. Poupart has been covering the Panthers and the NHL for 20 years.

Have a question for Alain? Be sure to ask him through twitter @apoupartFins.


 
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Big Building Blocks

Young centers Nick Bjugstad and Aleksander Barkov again show that the Panthers have a great foundation in place.

Wednesday, 12.11.2013 / 11:50 AM ET / From The Press Box
By Alain Poupart  - FloridaPanthers.com
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Big Building Blocks

In looking back at the impressive come-from-behind victory against the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday night, one question stood out.

What was the Panthers’ most impressive individual effort during the game? Was it Nick Bjugstad’s game-tying goal in the third period? Or was it Aleksander Barkov’s goal in the first round of the shootout?

On the one hand, Bjugstad showed power and skill in getting past Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk along the boards and then a nice touch in lifting a high shot over goalie Jimmy Howard. And let’s add to the degree of difficulty on this goal, the fact that Datsyuk isn’t just one of the most gifted stickhandlers and playmakers in the NHL, he’s also a three-time winner and six-time finalist of the Selke Award as the league’s best defensive forward.

But on the other hand, Barkov’s shootout goal was just sick, as he deked to his forehand, moved his body that way, then at the last second put the puck on his backhand and slid it into the open net after Howard had followed him all the way.

After the game, Panthers coach Peter Horachek described Bjugstad’s play as a “world-class goal” and called Barkov “pretty slick.”

So what’s the verdict? More importantly, does it really matter?

What’s important is that the Panthers got two big plays from their two big building blocks.

We’ve heard on more than one occasion Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon talk about how he wants to build a team with size and skill down the middle, and the Panthers sure look like they’ve got two keepers in Bjugstad and Barkov.

When you look back at what they did Tuesday night, just remember that both are rookies, that Bjugstad is only 21 years old and Barkov just happens to be the youngest player in the NHL, having just turned 18 back in September.

Think about that last one for a second. Barkov is 18 years old. For those who have watched the Panthers all season, has he once looked out of place on the ice? Like he didn’t belong?

The answer is a resounding no. In fact, he’s already one of the most well-rounded forwards on the Panthers roster. He’s strong on the puck, responsible defensively and shows tremendous vision on the ice.

Sure, his offensive numbers aren’t overwhelming and if there’s one area where he could improve it’s becoming more assertive offensively instead of almost always looking for the pass, but it’s not like he doesn’t have the skills to get that done. His shootout ability — just go back and watch some of his Finland highlights if last night’s goal wasn’t enough — is great evidence of that.

And again, he’s 18 years old.

Bjugstad, meanwhile, just has that tremendous combination of size and skill, the kind of physical attributes that just can’t be taught. The beautiful thing about it for the Panthers is that Bjugstad is using his size to his advantage more and more as the weeks go by.

Bjugstad didn’t just have that spectacular goal against Detroit, he had several other scoring chances as he led all Panthers players with five shots on goal.

Again, he’s only 21 years old.

Like Barkov, there’s no reason to think he won’t do anything but get better.

The play of Barkov and Bjugstad early in the 2013-14 season without question has to rank as the most positive development for the Panthers.

Now, back to the original question. OK, we’ll go with the Bjugstad goal because of the way he got past Datsyuk. On second thought, let’s go with the Barkov shootout move because of how silly he made Howard look.

Ah, never mind, let’s call it a tie.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 53 40 9 4 175 120 84
2 FLA 55 32 17 6 153 127 70
3 NYR 55 31 18 6 157 140 68
4 BOS 55 30 19 6 163 150 66
5 DET 55 28 18 9 138 134 65
6 NYI 53 29 18 6 150 131 64
7 TBL 54 30 20 4 144 130 64
8 PIT 54 28 19 7 139 136 63
9 NJD 56 28 21 7 124 124 63
10 PHI 54 24 20 10 128 140 58
11 CAR 55 24 21 10 131 143 58
12 MTL 56 27 25 4 151 151 58
13 OTT 56 25 25 6 157 173 56
14 BUF 56 22 28 6 131 155 50
15 CBJ 56 22 28 6 140 173 50
16 TOR 53 19 25 9 122 149 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Jagr 52 17 23 14 40
J. Huberdeau 55 11 29 12 40
J. Jokinen 55 11 27 12 38
V. Trocheck 55 17 18 3 35
A. Barkov 43 16 19 13 35
R. Smith 55 18 16 12 34
B. Pirri 51 11 13 -3 24
A. Ekblad 51 11 13 19 24
B. Campbell 55 5 18 20 23
N. Bjugstad 40 9 10 -3 19
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 24 13 5 .927 2.23
A. Montoya 8 4 1 .926 2.06

 
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