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Taking Steps Forward

Just over a month into the job, interim head coach Peter Horachek has seen progress.

Thursday, 12.12.2013 / 6:20 PM ET / News
By Alexandra Maass  - FloridaPanthers.com
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Taking Steps Forward
Just over a month into the job, interim head coach Peter Horachek has seen progress.

It’s been just over a month since Peter Horachek began as Interim Head Coach for the Florida Panthers. Since then, the team holds a 7-8-1 mark under him, and is 3-1 in the last four games played. Since day one, Horachek has brought a new energy to the team, advocated mental toughness, and a work ethic that continues to rub off on the players.

Horachek has seen the progress over the last couple of weeks.

“They’re doing what they need to do or playing better in the direction I want them to go,” said Horachek.

He has a clear image on the direction of the team, and he wants it to be consistent progress to get to the level of the best teams in the league.

“What we have to do if we want to become one of those teams, we have to get better on the defensive side of it,” said Horachek. “If we want to become one of those teams we have to make sure special teams continues to get better, because one night our power play looks good and we’re getting chances, and one night it looks like we can’t set up and we’re not poised and we’re not protecting pucks and doing what we have to do with it. It’s a continuing process.”

There’s obviously things that can be cleaned up as the Panthers hope to improve on a day-by-day and game-by-game basis.

“I think we still make a lot of mistakes on the defensive side, and that’s a lesson learned, we have to keep getting better and better,” said Horachek. “Offensively were creating a lot of opportunities and they aren’t always going in, but we’re creating chances.”

Tuesday’s shootout victory against Detroit brought a spotlight on the importance of overtime and shootout points. Earning a point in an overtime or shootout loss can make a huge difference in the long-run, especially when it’s time for playoffs.

“The way I look at the thing is, is when you get to 60 minutes of hockey, the game is a tie so you really should get a point,” said Horachek. “I mean that’s the way it is, what you’re really getting in a shootout is the marketing point. The shootout is for the fans it’s not for coaches. Sometimes you’re successful at it, and you get in those situations sometimes you don’t.”

So where is the recent shootout success sparking from?

It’s coming from the likes of confident goaltender Tim Thomas, sharp shooter Brad Boyes, and crafty young stars Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau.

“Well, you look at the personnel, you look at Timmy, obviously he is as we all know is a pretty good goaltender and he’s good on the shootouts,” said Horachek. “He’s done a pretty good job. When you have the goaltending you can win with just that and get one, but then our shooters I think are pretty good, especially the guys who have been going as of late, you know Huberdeau, Barkov and Boyes have all done a pretty good job.

“When you’ve got guys who can finish in those situations and a goaltender in the back, you hope you can go into those situations feeling confident.”

Confidence and mental toughness seems to be one of the biggest points that Horachek preaches to the team. And you can see it in the young players that have stepped up their game in the past few weeks. After Barkov danced around Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard in the shootout, it was pretty obvious how much skill the young, 18-year old has.

“Well when he can do that, you say ‘go for it,’” said Horachek. “He’s got a few things he can do in those situations, and it’s almost like a novelty the way he comes in and pulls it back or same thing with Huby, a spin-around move. It’s entertaining but they’re pretty good at it so you know, you say ‘go for it.’”

Barkov and Huberdeau aren’t the only young players making huge impacts on the team. Nick Bjugstad also came up with a spectacular goal against the Red Wings on Tuesday that tied the game and sent it into overtime.

“He’s doing a pretty good job, coming up with a huge goal like he did last night against Datsyuk, I mean that’s not done very often,” said Horachek. “Because he’s so big and strong I think that that makes a difference. He’s done a really good job; he’s playing in a big role. We’re obviously keen on keeping him energized and focused on playing his best hockey.”

After many years of coaching, Horachek knows what it takes to get the players confident and strong in their play. He has has led the movement towards a completely re-energized Panthers team, taking steps forward.

“It’s a continuing process that I want to see us get consistently better,” said Horachek.

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - MTL 76 47 21 8 200 169 102
2 x - NYR 74 47 20 7 226 172 101
3 TBL 76 46 23 7 244 198 99
4 PIT 75 41 23 11 207 188 93
5 NYI 76 44 27 5 230 211 93
6 DET 74 40 22 12 216 201 92
7 WSH 75 40 25 10 218 186 90
8 BOS 75 37 25 13 199 195 87
9 OTT 74 37 25 12 216 199 86
10 FLA 75 34 26 15 186 205 83
11 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
12 CBJ 75 36 35 4 207 232 76
13 NJD 75 31 32 12 167 192 74
14 CAR 74 28 36 10 173 202 66
15 TOR 76 28 42 6 198 244 62
16 BUF 75 20 47 8 144 254 48

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Huberdeau 72 13 34 8 47
N. Bjugstad 72 24 19 -7 43
J. Jokinen 74 7 33 -1 40
J. Jagr 70 13 26 -3 39
B. Boyes 73 12 23 10 35
A. Ekblad 74 11 24 11 35
J. Hayes 65 18 13 -5 31
A. Barkov 64 14 17 -2 31
B. Campbell 75 3 21 2 24
B. Pirri 42 20 2 5 22
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 26 17 12 .921 2.33
A. Montoya 5 7 2 .888 3.08
 
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