Columbus Blue Jackets Staring Down the Barrel: Florida in the Sunshine

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 16: Jonathan Huberdeau
COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 16: Jonathan Huberdeau /

The Columbus Blue Jackets face the Florida Panthers in their annual sunshine state trip. Couldn’t it come in January for our Jackets to escape the Ohio winter?

The Columbus Blue Jackets, with unfortunate timing, make their annual trip to Florida this week. They will face the league’s best team in Tampa Bay and the Florida Panthers.

The Panthers are a scrappy team whose record doesn’t fully reflect their overall talent level. They have had a tough schedule up to this point and are sitting at 4-6-1.

I sat down and talked to Danny Janicas from to talk about the Panthers and the season they’ve had so far. Be sure to check out Danny and his work over at

Lansing Murphy (LM): How would you grade the performance of the Panthers thus far? They have had a really tough schedule already having played the Bolts three times.

Danny Janicas (DJ): To start, I would probably give the Florida Panthers a C+ grade. Going into this season, all of us (fans, commentators, etc.) believed that scoring was going to be our primary issue. Considering who we lost last off season (Reilly Smith, Jussi Jokinen, Jonathan Marchessault, Thomas Vanek and Jaromir Jagr) we’ve been scoring actually at a better rate than last season so far. Injuries to our top players really killed us last year, but this year we’ve been staying healthy. Guys like Huberdeau, Bjugstad, Barkov, Dadonov and others, are all stepping up to the plate and producing on a consistent basis. Offense has been great (thus far) and it hasn’t been an issue.

What’s been the issue is our defense. Our defense looks sloppy and disorganized in our own zone, which ultimately leads to high scoring games. The majority of the games played this season, this group has given up at least four goals a night and it’s what’s really killed us so far.

A lot of games where we’ve scored three, four and even five, we go out and then allow our opponents to pot six or seven in the back of our own goal. Giving up four plus goals a night isn’t doable in this league, nor will you be successful the majority of the time either.

I give this group a C+ because of the poor defending, bad coverage/turnovers and overall, the amount of goals we’re giving up on a nightly basis. If the Panthers can tighten up defensively and find their rhythm with this new defensive system, then they should start to notice more “W’s” going into our win column.

Hey, Florida has a new Russian too!

LM: Has Dadonov been everything Florida fans expected him to be?

DJ: Evgeni Dadonov has CERTAINLY been everything us Panthers’ fans have expected from him. Evgeni was formerly drafted by the Florida Panthers back in 2007 (71st overall). Going back to 2007, he wasn’t the player he is today. His time in FLA then didn’t quite work out and he was eventually traded to the Carolina Hurricanes (then headed back home to Russia after).

SUNRISE, FL – OCTOBER 26: Evgeni Dadonov
SUNRISE, FL – OCTOBER 26: Evgeni Dadonov /

Fast forward to 2017, after killing it in the KHL, the Panthers felt he was going to be a good line mate for both Huberdeau and Barkov. Dale had previously scouted Evgeni at international tournaments, where he put on quite the show.

So far, Evgeni has recorded six goals, eight assist and 14 points in 11 games played. He is currently over a point per-game pace right now and even holds a strong CF% of 59.1%.

His defensive game has been pretty solid to and has been a reflection of his DZS% (Defensive Zone Start) which is 54.9%. Dadonov has really meshed well with his new line mates and it was expected of him heading into this season. Dadonov’s transition back into the NHL has been stellar and his time in Russia has really completed his game.

Goaltending Situation Down South

LM: What can the Panthers do about the goaltending situation? Is the corps you have enough to make it to the playoffs?

Columbus Blue Jackets
Columbus Blue Jackets /

Columbus Blue Jackets

DJ: What the Panthers need to do is to start giving our young goalies, like Samuel Motembeault, a chance in the big league’s soon and see what they all have to offer. The Cats haven’t really given their young goalies a chance over the years with Luongo coming back and considering how old Luongo is getting, it will be time soon to eventually find a replacement.

The Panthers have a trio of young goalies in Samuel Motembeault, Harri Sateri and Evan Cowley. Between the three, each of them have been really poor in the AHL this season (all hold SV% under .900), so it’s been really hard to gage which one could step in right away and earn themselves a spot on this roster. When Luongo immediately went down, Sateri, who is the oldest amongst the three, (27 now) was seen on the Panthers bench serving as a back up to James Reimer.

Unfortunately, he saw no ice time and only spent a couple of games sitting on the bench. Antti Niemi was then picked up from waivers days later. It will be crucial for the Panthers to figure out which young goalie will best represent the team in play, in the coming years.

So far, our goalie tandem (between Lu and Reimer) is pretty solid when healthy. Unfortunately, Roberto Luongo has already gone down with injury, thus leaving Reimer to become the starter once again. Reimer has been pretty solid, but has been left hung to dry by his defense on several occasions. Luongo has also been solid this year, but hasn’t seen much of the ice due to injury. Goaltending is good enough to win games, but it’s certainly not good enough to single handedly take us deep into the playoffs.

Game Prediction

LM: How do you see the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets playing out?

DJ: I see a low-mid scoring game between both teams. I think a final score of 4-2 (on average) should be the best bet for the outcome of this game. But honestly, you never know with my Panthers.

We’re really an unpredictable team and can beat/lose to anyone on any given night. Considering we’ve lost our last couple of games, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Panthers get off to an early start.

What I don’t see us doing is potting five goals against Sergei Bobrovsky. He’s just too good of a goalie and even scoring two or three on him is tough enough as it is.

I definitely see the Jackets scoring at least three or four on us tonight, given our defensive state of mind. This game won’t be a blowout, but it will come down to a goal or two. Because the Columbus Blue Jackets have been better this year, it would be silly of me not to give them the upper hand in tonight’s match. I’ll go with 4-2 Jackets.

Next: Checking in on Wild Bill

Thanks again Danny for taking the time to talk to us and thank you for the kind prediction of the Jackets winning. Danny has now clearly jinxed us.