When the Panthers take the ice at BankAtlantic Center this evening to face the Calgary Flames, they’ll do so sporting one of the NHL’s top power play units.
Through their first 29 games, the Panthers’ power play is scoring at a 23.9 percent clip overall and, at home, a league-leading 27.4 percent clip, scoring on 17 of 62 chances. And this without quarterback Cory Murphy, who has missed 11 games with a shoulder injury.
Martin says there’s several reasons for the teams success.
“I think early in the season, Cory Murphy was definitely a big plus on our power play,” Martin said Tuesday morning. “Before he got injured, he did an excellent job as quarterback. He has great vision, he moves the puck well. I think maybe we keep things more simple at home.
Panthers defenseman Steve Montador has been one of the main reasons why the Panthers power play has remained deadly even with the injury to defenseman Cory Murphy. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
“Look at power plays, why they’re so effective. A lot of times it’s a willingness to get pucks at the net with some traffic. Look at most teams, most penalty killing teams, they’re aggressive and try to take advantage. Once you beat one man, it’s just get the puck at the net and converge at the net and win the battles and get a screen on goalies.
“I think when you look at power plays that are effective, it’s what you see. It’s not so much the tic-tac-toe because teams know what the opposition will do, they’re looked at tapes and know the tendencies. So quite often it’s a matter of getting pucks at the net and getting rebounds and having some people in front.”
Martin credits Steve Montador with getting pucks on net in place of Murphy and Rostislav Olesz and Richard Zednik with creating traffic in front of the net.
“I think Olesz has definitely best our best forward as far as getting a presence in front,” Martin said. “Since the beginning of the season he’s been very effective. And on the other (power play) unit, Zednik.”
REUNITING IN SOUTH FLORIDA
Former Panther coach and GM Mike Keenan returns to South Florida tonight for the first time since taking over as coach in Calgary, and he brings with them a couple players he coached here in Kristian Huselius and Marcus Nilson.
When asked if the return of Keenan added significance to the game, Martin said winning a second consecutive game before heading on the road trip was incentive enough.
“All games are so important,” he said. “You look at the standings, it’s so close you need to win games. For us, it’s the last game at home before going on a four game road trip, and we need to make some ground.”
Mikka Kiprusoff seems to be rounding into form after stopping 35 shots Sunday to carry the Flames to victory in Chicago. But Panther goalie Tomas Vokoun enters tonight’s game off a shutout victory Friday and is 11-3-3 lifetime against the Flames with a 2.03 goals against.