A chippy scoreless pre-season game that led to shoot outs, put the Panthers up 1-0 to top the Lightning in the pre-season finale. Last night was an unexpected neck and neck match up. The Panthers and the Lightning battled it out just to get on the board, the Panthers with 28 shots on goal to the Lightning’s 26, kept the score 0-0. In the first period, the Panthers looked to set up and maintain more puck possession than the Lightning, displaying Tampa’s defensemen’s strengths and of course it helps to have one of the best goalies in the net, Vasilevskiy.
The second period the Bolts came out skating a bit harder, we saw more play set ups and shooting, but seemed as if they Lightning were taking too much time to set up for goals. Early in the second period, Cedric Paquette got tangled up with a couple Panther players, causing an undisclosed injury. Shortly after Paquette left the game, Tyler Johnson got pulled, later Coach Jon Cooper said that he pulled Johnson for more precautionary measures rather than a worrisome injury. The loss of Paquette and Johnson was unfortunate, but we saw a lot of talent out of Verhaeghe with his skating and puck handling, Coach Cooper said that Verhaeghe has come a long way in the past two years and it’s been impressive to watch, he has good hockey smarts and we caught many glimpses of that in the game. As for Verhaeghe sealing a spot on the roaster, coach says we will see what takes course over the next couple days as they make their final cuts. Verhaeghe said that he’s played hard and at this point it’s not up to him if he makes the roster, so we will see what takes place soon.
Tampa Bay showed a lot of physicality through out the whole game, which will be a force in the coming season. An advantage that the Bolts are marinating is that they their defensive players are not afraid to take offensive opportunities. Defensive player, Luke Witkowski, has played Forward in the last two games, which can bring a versatility to this team. Another defense player stepping into a combination role is Erik Cernak, a physical defensive player who took 5 shots on goal. He’s not afraid to go for the slap shots on the perimeter.
Cooper said that regardless of the loss that he liked what he saw in the game, his players played very well and now it’s time to finalize the roster over the next couple of days and focus on the home opener. The Lightning will host the Panthers again Thursday night to officially begin the 2019-2020 NHL season.
Stay tune with Florida National News for this season’s Bolts coverage!