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.

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Clemm’s Comeback

Veteran goalie Scott Clemmensen has rediscovered his form of two years ago while coming up big during the absence of Tim Thomas.

Wednesday, 12.18.2013 / 3:15 PM ET / From The Press Box
By Alain Poupart  - FloridaPanthers.com
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Clemm\u2019s Comeback
Goaltender Scott Clemmensen makes a save in Sunday's game in Montreal. (Getty Images)

The Panthers are in the midst of their longest winning streak since March of 2012, and we can point to several factors for an inspiring run that has them back in the playoff conversation.

Young centers Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad have become big factors on a nightly basis; young defenseman Dylan Olsen continues his surprising offensive surge; Dmitry Kulikov has responded to a one-game benching by playing stellar hockey; Erik Gudbranson is playing rock-solid defense in the Panthers zone. And we could go on and on.

But near the top of the list, if not the very top, has to be goaltending. Quite simply, the Panthers wouldn’t be on this run of four consecutive victories and six out of seven without quality goaltending. And the man doing the job right now is Scott Clemmensen.

The veteran backup is playing his best hockey since the playoff season of 2011-12, and that is just one of the many encouraging signs for the Panthers right now.

Having quality goaltending is key for any team in the National Hockey League, but it’s especially important for teams without marquee offensive players like Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin or Patrick Kane or the Sedin twins.

The Panthers soon might have one of those types of players — and maybe more than just one — if Jonathan Huberdeau, Bjugstad and Barkov continue to progress and build off the solid starts all have had in the NHL. As it stands right now, though, the Panthers need to work hard for their goals and they simply can’t afford to give up shaky goals.

Unfortunately, it happened too often last season and it happened too often early this season. Make no mistake, that was a big reason for the Panthers’ struggles.

For the Panthers to have success, they need for their goaltending to be a strength, not a concern. Again, while that sounds obvious, it’s more important for a team that operates with a smaller margin for error.

For example, it’s a lot less damaging for the Penguins to give up a bad goal when they can just watch Evgeni Malkin go out on the next shift, skate through three defenders and score a goal.

If you think back to the Panthers’ Southeast Division title run in 2012, the contributions of a Brian Campbell or the top line of Stephen Weiss, Kris Versteeg and Fleischmann quickly come to mind. But the Panthers also had strong goaltending that year from both Jose Theodore and Clemmensen.

For assorted reasons, including the lockout of 2012 and a knee operation before the start of this season, Clemmensen simply hadn’t been the same goalie until recently. The numbers bear that out: His save percentage his first three seasons in Florida was between .911 and .913 before dipping to .874 last season and .857 through his first five appearances this year.

But something clearly has clicked for “Clemm.” With Tim Thomas sidelined with a groin injury, Clemmensen has started the last three games. In those three games, he has given up four goals and stopped 68 of 72 shots, a save percentage of .944.

The hope coming into the season was that Thomas would be able to steal some victories for the Panthers. That was part of the formula for the Panthers to be able to contend for a playoff spot.

Quality goaltending is at the forefront of the Panthers’ current winning streak when you consider they beat Detroit, Washington and Montreal with two goals each time, earning the extra point in the shootout against the Red Wings and Capitals.

Thomas was playing perhaps his best hockey of the season when he was injured in practice last week and the hope is he can pick up where he left off when he returns, which should be soon. In the meantime, Clemmensen is holding down the fort in a most impressive way.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Jagr 79 27 39 23 66
J. Jokinen 81 18 42 25 60
A. Barkov 66 28 31 18 59
J. Huberdeau 76 20 39 17 59
V. Trocheck 76 25 28 15 53
R. Smith 82 25 25 19 50
A. Ekblad 78 15 21 18 36
N. Bjugstad 67 15 19 -8 34
B. Campbell 82 6 25 31 31
B. Pirri 52 11 13 -4 24
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 35 19 6 .922 2.35
A. Montoya 12 7 3 .919 2.18

 
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