The Florida Panthers are the third-worst team in the Eastern Conference at 10-17-5. They give up 3.19 goals per game, fourth-most in the NHL, have the second-worst power play conversion rate (11 percent) and the third-lowest penalty kill (74 percent). And on Thursday the Panthers lost goaltender Tim Thomas, who has been in net for all but one of their wins, to what is believed to be a groin injury.
Coach Adam Oates is well aware of all that, and he wants the Capitals to ignore it.
“Don’t take them lightly. We’re going to talk about that in the morning,” Oates said when asked about the Panthers. “They’ve got some young guys that are playing and they’re playing free, loose because they’ve got nothing to lose. We’re going to stress a lot to not take them lightly. Sometimes its tough in that building because they’re not generating the crowds they should right now. Every once in a while it’s hard to get going and we’re going to talk about our start.”
Ten days ago, after the Capitals fell 4-1 to the Carolina Hurricanes, defenseman Karl Alzner admitted that they didn’t take their foes as seriously as they should have.
“Took the team too lightly, I think. We watched the video saw how things were going, they’ve got injuries all that kind of stuff. That’s bad on us we took them way too light,” Alzner said after the loss to Carolina. “We need to create our own life and our own energy, and we didn’t do a good enough job doing it.”
That has happened to Washington on trips to Sunrise, Fla., as well. Outside it’s 80 degrees, sunny and it doesn’t feel like a hockey season. Inside the BB&T Center, the Panthers are rarely among the league’s best, crowds are scant and visiting teams seem to sleepwalk through games on a regular basis. (Remember back in 2012 when Alzner cited that as part of a loss in Florida that cost the Capitals a chance to move up in the Southeast Division standings?)
Given that the Capitals have had their own issues with getting off to strong starts and consistency this season regardless of the venue, they don’t need to help the Panthers out by taking them lightly.