Goal Box

JONATHAN HUBERDEAU, PANTHERS — DR. JONATHAN AND MR. HUBERDEAU

2017-04-11T12:15:58+00:00 April 11th, 2017|Goal Box|

JONATHAN HUBERDEAU, Panthers
DR. JONATHAN AND MR. HUBERDEAU
  • Slide
  • Crease
  • Rebound
  • Second Period

Jonathan Huberdeau of the Panthers experienced one of those conflicts many midget hockey players routinely face. Should I be a goalie or a skater? But Huberdeau encountered the dilemma at the National Hockey League level against Buffalo. What’s more, he confronted the predicament on the same play.

Utlimately, Huberdeau chose “skater.” But for a moment, it looked as though he wanted to have his cake and eat it too.

With chaos enveloping the Sabres net following a Jonathan Marchessault rush and the puck still bouncing around, Huberdeau took up residence not in the blue paint, but in the Buffalo cage itself. And there was the puck! Motionless in the crease, bodies all around! Is this my chance to live out my repressed dream of playing goalie in the NHL?!?

It was then Huberdeau exploded his duality with a come-to-papa moment. He cradled the puck on his backhand and then drew it toward the goal line. Apparently Dr. Jonathan had won.

But wait! Just as the puck was about to cross the line, Mr. Huberdeau sprung to life and tried to intercept it with with the toe of his left skate before it made its way to the red light district.

Ultimately Huberdeau would not give in to his sublimated desires, however. Just as the puck was about to meet his skate, he not only lifted it off the ice, but toppled backward into the net, landing on his backside with a crash, as his dream of stopping a puck gave in to the reality of his societal goal . . . to score goals.

The strange case of Dr. Jonathan and Mr. Huberdeau had yielded to the usual reality: Alight to Treasure Island.

4/8/2017 vs. Buffalo.
Highlight available at NHL.com.

SHAWN THORNTON, PANTHERS — A SHRINKING TARGET

2017-03-24T14:21:38+00:00 March 24th, 2017|Goal Box|

SHAWN THORNTON, Panthers
A SHRINKING TARGET
  • Wrist Shot
  • Crease
  • Own Rebound
  • Second Period

When you play on the fourth line and your responsibility to the team isn’t first and foremost to score goals, sometimes the net’s dimensions can look significantly smaller than its 6 x 4 foot opening. Shawn Thornton, who has made a good living in the NHL looking out for his teammates and going bump in the night in arenas across the land, must have had a surrealistic brush with this impression of the size of a goal net last night against the Coyotes.

Thornton, who used to bring the house down in Boston with his fighting prowess and occasional goals, had to blink twice when he saw the net falling before him just as he had a juicy scoring opportunity on the door step.

With Arizona goaltender Mike Smith out of position, clinging to the right post while outside the crease, Thornton found himself with the puck on his stick right in front of the unoccupied net. Smith then made a miraculous — and dare we say “cagey” — play, as he dove into the crease and blocked Thornton’s point-blank shot.

While this was happening, the goal itself tilted forward and down, giving Thornton an ever-decreasing window to shoot through. But then he got the puck back on his stick! But like a rapidly-disappearing escape route in an Indiana Jones movie, the net continued to close down, with the crossbar gaining speed toward the ice.

With the collapsing net about 18 inches from completely sealing off Thornton’s attempt at his second goal of the year, he managed to squeeze the puck through the narrow opening to — what? the back of the net? No, the end boards.

And in perfect Spielberg fashion, the denouement featured the villain Smith — it turns out it was he who pushed the net forward — sprawled out at the scene of the crime with the crossbar draped across the back of his neck.

Then one more cut — to hero Thornton skating away with a broad, gleaming, matinee-idol smile on his face.

3/23/2017 vs. Arizona.
Highlight available at NHL.com.

JAROMIR JAGR, PANTHERS — BEST IN CLASS (NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE ANGLE)

2017-03-12T18:06:47+00:00 March 12th, 2017|Goal Box|

JAROMIR JAGR, Panthers
BEST IN CLASS (NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE ANGLE)
  • Nearly Impossible Angle (Puck on or Just Inside End Line)
  • Slide
  • Rebound
  • First Period

If you’re a hockey writer, here’s a nearly impossible angle to conceive: In a sport which demands youth and a league which almost pathologically seems to pursue it, one of the most decorated players ever to lace up the skates takes regular shifts night in, night out at the age of 45. This is 18 years beyond the average age of NHL players.

Furthermore, this legend has played in every one of its teams games this year, and indeed only missed eight games over the the three previous seasons.

As the league’s third-highest goal scorer of all-time, you might be inclined to think some of this was possible if he was kept on as a power play specialist. And that he is — trailing the team leader by one in power play goals. But on a team which has given up 25 more goals than it has scored, he has produced a plus-8 during even-strength situations, only one back of the team leader in this critical category as well.

And like this imaginary writer, Jaromir Jagr proved to be the master of the impossible angle last night against cross-state rival Tampa Bay.

Jagr got Florida on the board in a critical late-season matchup with the Lightning, who are also desperate for points to close in on the eighth and final playoff spot in the Atlantic Conference. You can be forgiven if you’re of his age or older and could feel your arm loosening from its shoulder socket as you watched what Jagr accomplished.

With the puck dribbling just inside the end line below the bottom of the left circle in the Tampa Bay zone, Jagr bolted in for it. His back skate was even with the bottom of the hashmark connected to the faceoff dot when he extended his arms fully in pursuit of the puck. And then with one fell swoop — and was this ever one full swoop — Jagr, in one motion, reached for the puck and swept it from barely above the end line into the back of the net.

Actually the back of the net would truly be impossible. Jagr’s shot deviated from the straight edge of the goal line by about one degree — and that might be generous — as he tucked the puck just inside the far post.

Panthers analyst Denis Potvin, who has seen a remarkable play or two during his long career with some of the greatest whoever played the game, couldn’t silence himself as the puck ripped the twine. Then again he had no words either. He simply blurted out “OHHHH!”

And truly, no better description was possible in that moment.

3/11/2017 vs. Tampa Bay.
Highlight available at NHL.com.

AARON EKBLAD, PANTHERS — BEST IN CLASS (SHORTHANDED)

2017-03-03T17:38:23+00:00 March 3rd, 2017|Exclude From Main Feed, Goal Box|

AARON EKBLAD, Panthers
BEST IN CLASS (SHORTHANDED)
  • Right Circle (Upper, Inside Dot)
  • Snap Shot
  • Carry (2 Zones, Red Line In)
  • Shorthanded
  • Second Period

Midway through the game, the Panthers and Flyers were scoreless with Philadelphia’s lethal power play unit on the ice.

Perhaps from that lethality comes a little cockiness and the Flyers were called on it by Florida’s Aaron Ekblad.

Claude Giroux from deep in his own end blindly sent a pass to the opposite side of the ice up by the red line. Ekblad, a defenseman, was strangely in a position to hop the pass and he did so with speed. Giroux perhaps half out of fury and half out of panic made a beeline for Ekblad, rather than angling across the zone to stop him.

Ekblad saw Giroux coming and in full stride dipsy-doodled his way around him. This left the Panther defenseman with a clear path to the Flyers’ net just as he crossed the blue line. Not wishing to press his luck too much with a couple of Flyers hot on his tail, Ekblad let loose a snap shot from the top of the right circle that beat Philadelphia goaltender Steve Mason clean over his glove hand.

Shorthanded breakaways aren’t usually converted by defensemen, but the No. 1 pick from two years ago displayed acceleration that reminded Panthers fans that they potentially have one of the NHL’s top offensive backliners ready to come into his own.

3/2/2017 vs. Philadelphia.
Highlight available at NHL.com.

ALEKSANDR BARKOV, PANTHERS — BEST IN CLASS (CARRY – 2 ZONES, RED LINE IN)

2017-02-19T23:48:13+00:00 February 19th, 2017|Exclude From Main Feed, Featured Goal Box, Goal Box|

ALEKSANDR BARKOV, Panthers
BEST IN CLASS — CARRY (2 ZONES, RED LINE IN)

10 seconds into a period, about the last thing you ever see is a player barreling through the neutral zone and then carrying two players on his tail and one on his back as he marauds his way to the net.

But that’s the way the freshly-awakened Panthers have been going about their business lately. And Aleksandr Barkov made sure that Florida was going to take the action right to the Kings to start off the third period in a 2-2 game.

Perhaps finding the slick ice to his liking, Barkov fielded a little chip pass from Jaromir Jagr just over the red line, with three Los Angeles defenders flanking him closely enough that all four players could lock arms.

By the time Barkov hit the Kings blue line he’d gained a half step on two of them, but still had Jeff Carter poking and prodding him with his stick. Still the Panthers center refused to do anything except make a bull run at the goal.

Carter’s hounding was effective enough that Barkov couldn’t settle the puck for a shot — or even get in position for one. So he kept going as far as he could. Literally. With the puck on the end line, Carter finally gave some ground. Surely, he’d done his defensive job and now it was best to prevent a centering pass to the goal-mouth.

And that was a fatal mistake. The determined Barkov saw goaltender Peter Budaj react as Carter had — Barkov was out of room, protect the front of the net.

The puck still on his stick, Barkov saw the whole net open up for him. But he had to hit it while the puck was on the end line, which is kind of like trying to slip something through a door frame while you can’t even see a crack of daylight.

Remarkably Barkov managed to slide the puck under Budaj’s boot, as the goaltender had made an emergency move backward once he saw Barkov was going to try to finish what he started out at center ice.

The goal would hold up and Florida had three wins in the first three games of a five-game road trip.

2/18/2017 vs. Los Angeles

JAROMIR JAGR, PANTHERS — THE NERVES OF A CAT BURGLAR

2017-02-18T14:04:20+00:00 February 18th, 2017|Exclude From Main Feed, Featured Goal Box, Goal Box|

JAROMIR JAGR, Panthers
THE NERVES OF A CAT BURGLAR

23 seasons in the National Hockey League have left Jaromir Jagr with a pretty good internal clock about how long it’s safe to keep the puck on his stick.

So when Ducks defenseman Josh Manson unknowingly left it by the side of the Anaheim cage while skating out from behind the net, Jagr, who had been trailing him, found it on his stick with goaltender John Gibson at his mercy.

But for how long? As Jagr took over possession of the puck he could see that Manson had lost his balance and the nearest other Duck was a good 60 feet away.

Jagr determined he had time to skate out front with the puck, at the very least. Still feeling no immediate pressure, the uncaged Panther prowled the door step, stickhandling for a full two seconds while sizing up his prey in the net.

Manson finally recovered and as he clawed at Jagr’s jersey from behind, the 45-year-old phenom felt the trap about to close and sent the puck into the cage over Gibson’s right pad.

2/17/2017 vs. Anaheim

MICHAEL SGARBOSSA — FIRST NHL GOAL

2017-02-13T16:42:28+00:00 January 17th, 2017|Exclude From Main Feed, Goal Box|

MICHAEL SGARBOSSA, Panthers
FIRST NHL GOAL
  • Backhand
  • Door Step
  • Rebound
  • Power Play
  • Second Period
If you score your first NHL goal as part of the power play unit with your team trailing 2-1 late in the second period, chances are good that the coaching staff sees some magic on your stick.

The Panthers Michael Sgarbossa, afforded just such an opportunity against the Oilers, rewarded coach Tom Rowe’s confidence in him when he cashed in a rebound on his backhand before getting roughed a bit in the aftermath by Edmonton defenseman Kris Russell. It was just a little shove in frustration, but Sgarbossa’s thoughts were obviously elsewhere as he joined his teammates behind the net and exhibited a modest smile that was also just a little bit proud of his accomplishment.

1/18/2017 vs. Edmonton.
Highlight available at NHL.com.