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Tag:Matt Bradley
Posted on: February 8, 2012 1:32 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2012 6:17 pm
 

Panthers clawing to stay in playoff picture

Florida is just one point behind Washington in the Southeast, two behind Ottawa in the East. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

WASHINGTON -- Washington Capitals coach Dale Hunter billed Tuesday's matchup in D.C. with the Florida Panthers as a playoff game.

Imagine that, the Florida Panthers and playoff games? That's something we haven't seen in a decade. At this point it seems as real as the idea of the lost city of Atlantis being not far from the shores of South Florida.

And probably just how you'd imagine it would go if the Panthers were in a playoff game, the Capitals scored just 13 seconds in. That was the beginning of a frustrating night for the Panthers who mustered 42 shots on goal against their former goaltender Tomas Vokoun and still lost 4-0. It restored first place in the Southeast Division to the Caps for the time being and dropped Florida to ninth in the East.

Of course it wasn't really a playoff game. There are still 30 games to go before we even hit the postseason. The whole goal for the Panthers is to get into one of those real playoff games, show South Florida what the Stanley Cup playoffs look like. It's been so long it has forgotten.

The question is, will they get there? There has only been one season in the last decade that the Panthers were even truly in the hunt. In 2008-09 they finished tied with the Montreal Canadiens for eighth in the East but lost on the tie-breakers. Outside of that, they have been clear sellers at the annual trade deadline.

It was just over a month ago the Panthers were cruising toward the playoffs. They were way up in the division and were playing legitimately good hockey. They've slowed down. A lot. Most will likely say it was crashing back to reality.

That could be the case. But it's worth mentioning that it is tough to truly assess this team, it just can't seem to stay healthy. For the last couple of weeks the Panthers have been playing without their No. 1 goaltender Jose Theodore (and No. 3 Jacob Markstrom) while also being down strong defensemen Dmitry Kulikov and Ed Jovanovski. It's understandable to struggle a bit in that situation.

More on the Panthers
Playoff picture

"You always miss guys that are in the lineup on a regular basis. But if you're a good team you have good depth," winger Matt Bradley said. "Strachs [defenseman Tyson Strachan] has done a great job up from the minors. Guys are doing good jobs getting bigger roles. So there's no excuses for guys out."

That's certainly true, there are no excuses. It's not as if they will get a free pass into the playoffs if you miss x amount of games of manpower.

"What are you going to do? I don't think you feel sorry for us and I don't think anybody on that team on the other side of the ice is feeling sorry for us," first-year coach Kevin Dineen said about Florida's two-game skid. "This is NHL hockey, it's the best league in the world. You've got to understand when you take a good tail-kicking you have to accept it, recognize it and be better the next one."

That started with a postgame meeting on Tuesday. The hallway doors were closed before the Panthers even left the ice and the wait was longer than usual for the locker room to open up. It was clear the team had a little chat after its second regulation loss in a row, the first time the Cats have done that since mid-October.

"Kevin was very positive with us," defenseman Brian Campbell said. "We're a team in here, we've got to find ways to get the job done and get it done more successfully on more nights than we are now. It seems like we're around .500 a lot and that's not good enough to get to where we want.

"We've got to stay positive. We stepped up our level. Some nights we're there, some nights we're not. It's these guys in the room. Nobody is going to be coming in to help us. We've got to get this job done in here."

This is new territory for the Panthers organization, being in the thick of a playoff chase. But it's not new for a lot of the players. Remember, GM Dale Tallon rebuilt this roster, there are a handful of guys who not only have experience with playoff races but winning a Stanley Cup, such as Campbell.

When you look at it, the Panthers are still in good shape. The East is whittling down to a nine- or 10-team race (if Winnipeg stays close) for the eight available spots. With the Senators hitting a wall and the Panthers having four games in hand on Ottawa, Florida still isn't in a bad position. But they have to figure things out, and quickly.

"There's urgency obviously within the division, with everyone," Kris Versteeg said. "I think you're going to see that on a nightly basis now. Obviously every team wants to win their division. It's something we want to do."

"It's not about just Washington," Campbell added. "It's about us winning games. If we put together some games and get going here we're going to find ourselves in a playoff spot. But if we don't we're going to be out of it."

One thing that helped launch the Panthers to the top of the Southeast in the first half of the season was their success away from home. They were able to pick up points in bunches while on the road, not easy for even the best teams in hockey to do.

But since their very impressive 2-0 win in Boston on Dec. 8, Florida is just 1-6-4 as the visitor. The difference is made even more clear when you look at what the Panthers have done in their two trips to Washington this season. In 120 minutes of game action thus far, they have been beaten 7-0. Vokoun has stopped all 62 shots he has faced. At home they have outscored the Caps 9-6 in two games.

Getting going on the road again would be a nice way to restart the batteries, give them a jump.

"I don't know. Whether it's line matches or who knows what it is?" Versteeg said. "Sometimes things happen and I'm not sure for whatever reason we've been good at home and not on the road. Obviously you want to be good at home. We've got to find some ways to win on the road, that's for sure."

The scoring for the Panthers has been done largely by the combination of Versteeg, Stephen Weiss and Tomas Fleischmann. Together, the line has accounted for nearly 40 percent of the team's scoring. So when they have tapered off, it's no mystery the team has too.

But don't expect the Panthers to be busy when it comes to the trade deadline, trying to add the missing pieces to bolster their offense. It's important to remember that whatever Florida does now is bonus, it is building for the future. Tallon has built a roster that hopefully can win in the interim before the team is turned over to the younger players that make up arguably the best farm system in hockey now, players like Erik Gudbranson, who are being slowly phased in.

Don't look for them to do anything to disrupt the long-term plan, the blueprint.

In the meantime, Florida gets to experience a playoff race. Those are as rare as snowy days in South Florida. But actually making the playoffs? Well that hasn't been done since Bill Clinton was the president.

Hopefully for Florida's sake Tuesday's loss in D.C. isn't the closest they get to a playoff game this season.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 17, 2011 3:17 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2011 3:46 pm
 

Bradley is sorry for criticizing Alexander Semin

MB1By: Adam Gretz

After signing a two-year contract with the Florida Panthers this summer, veteran forward Matt Bradley made an appearance on an Ottawa radio station and used that opportunity to call out some of his former teammates with the Washington Capitals. During the slow dog days of the NHL's offseason, it turned out to be a pretty big deal, at least for a couple of days.

Now that we've all forgotten about it, Bradley has taken the time to apologize for his remarks.

Bradley, who spent the previous six years with the Capitals, said in the Aug. 17 interviews that there were a few players in Washington that didn't step up in the playoffs, while there were also problems with discipline and coach Bruce Boudreau sticking with players in the lineup perhaps longer than he should have. And while Bradley didn't mention many names, he did take time to single out Alexander Semin for not caring enough to be one of the best players in the league despite having all of the talent to do so.

In advance of the two teams meeting for the first time on Tuesday night, Bradley spoke with Harvey Fialkov of the Sun Sentinel and issued an apology to Semin. He also added that he has yet to speak with Semin since his radio appearance, but said that if he did see him on Tuesday he would apologize in person.

Said Bradley, via the Sentinel, “I wish I could take it back. I apologize for saying it. He’s a great player. It’s one of those things you wish you could take back, but you can’t, so all I could do is apologize and move forward." Along with that he also said, multiple times, that Semin is one of the top players in the league, and also added that it wasn't his place to say anything.

Whether it was his place or not, it was still an interesting take to hear from a player that had a first-hand look at the recent postseason struggles of what has been one of the NHL's best regular season teams.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: October 12, 2011 10:09 am
Edited on: October 12, 2011 10:31 am
 

Panthers still a work in progress

Panthers

By: Adam Gretz

PITTSBURGH -- No team in the NHL went through a larger roster overhaul this past summer than the one orchestrated by Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon. From the head coach (Kevin Dineen) to as many as 10 new players in the lineup on any given night, this year's Panthers squad doesn't look anything like the team -- on paper -- that stumbled to a 30-40-12 record a year ago, and missed the playoffs for a 10th straight season.

The combination of being in a situation where spending money was a necessity due to their need to reach the NHL's salary floor, as well as being mired in the longest non-playoff streak in league history, meant drastic changes were on the way. And were they ever. Along with hiring Dineen to take control behind the bench, Tallon was the busiest general manager in the NHL this offseason when it came to the trade and free-agent markets.

Veteran defenseman Brian Campbell and his once thought to be untradeable contract was acquired in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks. Kris Versteeg came over from the Philadelphia Flyers, and free agents Scottie Upshall, Tomas Fleischmann, Sean Bergenheim, Marcel Goc, Tomas Kopecky, Jose Theodore, Ed Jovanovski and Matt Bradley were signed to multi-year deals.

With so many new faces, as well as a new coaching staff, a new system, and an entirely new way of doing things, there is probably going to be some growing pains and bumps in the road. And through two games, a 2-0 win over the New York Islanders to open the season on Saturday, as well as a 4-2 loss in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night, things are still very much a work in progress for the Panthers.

"I thought we were stronger on Saturday," Dineen said following the loss on Tuesday. "We seemed to have more energy. I think we had our moments [on Tuesday], but it wasn't throughout the game and that's the way you have to play to have success."

It's not is if the Panthers played poorly throughout the game on Tuesday; they ended up finishing with a 34-29 edge in the shots department, while attempting 59 shots to Pittsburgh's 50. Still, there were some problems that need to be ironed out. Consistency and the power play being two of them, as well as their struggles to clear the crease and help get the puck away from new goaltender Jose Theodore after allowing the Penguins to score three goals from right in front of the net.

"We had our moments," said Dineen. "But we need more consistency to our game. It wasn't a complete game for us."

The power play, which featured Jovanovski and Campbell at the points, as well as Upshall and Fleischmann up front -- none of whom were on the team a year ago -- looked sloppy at times, finishing the night 0-for-5 while also giving up a game-changing shorthanded goal. And while there were periods of strong puck control in the offensive zone and some quality scoring chances, there were also periods of players appearing to be out of sync and not knowing where their linemates were going to be or what they were going to do. Case in point: a 3-on-1 rush in the second period when Jack Skille attempted a behind-the-back pass that ended up resulting in a missed opportunity.

"I found that part of our issue is that there were times we were very cute, and that doesn't always work," said Dineen. "It's fun to watch sometimes, but on a game like [Tuesday] where you can feel the momentum is still up for grabs, if you're starting to make those nice plays sometimes that's not the right choice. That's a good lesson for us that we need to stay with our program."

The Panthers, however, including Dineen, didn't want to blame any of their struggles on any perceived lack of chemistry.

"I'd love to blame it on that," Dineen said. "But I think that's just making sure we just bear down. Those are key moments in the game, and those pucks are just sitting around that crease, and I think they [Pittsburgh] scored three or four from right around there that you can't hang on Theo. There's a real possibility to get those things out and when they don't get out, and that's when ugly things happen to us."

Campbell, a 10-year veteran that owns a Stanley Cup ring thanks to his time with the Chicago Blackhawks, was a little more blunt and to the point when asked if the mistakes were a result of new players still working to get familiar with one another.

"We've all played hockey before," he said. "Everybody knows what they're doing. It's time to play hockey, it's the regular season and we have to be ready. I don't really believe in that stuff and I would hope that nobody else does."

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: September 20, 2011 9:52 am
Edited on: September 20, 2011 12:08 pm
 

Daily Skate: Second Stars suitor; Sid's bodyguard

By Brian Stubits

INTEREST IN BIG D: The Stars sale is actually moving along, with the team agreeing last week to sell the team to Vancouver businessman Tom Gagliardi. Now, enter former Texas Rangers owner Chuck Greenberg and we might actually have a bidding war for the debt-ridden franchise on our hands. (Biz Journal)

SID'S BODYGUARD: There is a new enforcer in Pittsburgh, and he knows exactly what he is supposed to do. Steve MacIntyre, one of the game's most feared, says "My job is to make sure [Sidney Crosby's] transition back to hockey goes smoothly." (Pittsburgh Tribune- Review)

BROTHERLY LOVE: Rangers defenseman Marc Staal is struggling with post-concussion symptoms and is sitting out the first three preseason games for precautionary reasons. He seems to be OK, but that isn't helping the man who caused the concussion, his own brother Eric Staal with the Hurricanes, to feel better. (News Observer)

PLAYING THE GOAT: Todd Bertuzzi has a new role this season with the Red Wings, dropping down to the more defensive-minded third line. There he joins Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader, resulting in one of the better line names: the Two Kids and a Goat line. For Bertuzzi, it's a whole new world. (Detroit Free Press)

SOPHOMORE STEP UP: In the playoffs, the Bruins had to turn to rookie Tyler Seguin in the playoffs after Nathan Horton's injury sidelined him. The former No. 2 pick responded immediately but then went quiet. After an offseason of heavy work, the B's might be ready to count on Seguin more. (Boston Herald)

SUPER HUBER: The Florida Panthers' No. 3 pick in this summer's draft isn't likely to make the team as a rookie. But he's doing all he can to make the roster instead of going back to the junior level, scoring a goal and an assist in the Panthers' doubleheader game against the Predators on Monday. (Sun- Sentinel)

READY FOR MORE: Shea Weber took the role of captain last season and the Predators went further than they ever have before in the postseason. Now, armed with a huge new contract for this season, he's excited about Year 2 wearing the C having learned a lot already. (Hockey Night in Nashville)

HOCKEY CRAZE: Throw this under less-than surprising tid-bits: sports fans in Toronto chose the Maple Leafs' first preseason game over one of the Blue Jays' final home games of the season. More than 18,000 showed up to see the Leafs while just over 11,000 were on hand to see the Jays. (The Canadian Press)

CAPS GM DEFENDS SEMIN: Washington Capitals general manager took his chance to defend forward Alexander Semin after he took heat this summer from former teammate Matt Bradley, saying Semin is just a quiet kid and Bradley regrets having said it. You can watch the whole interview on NHL Live! below.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: September 19, 2011 9:54 am
 

Daily Skate: Leafs, Sens jersey leak; Semin talks

By Brian Stubits

SWEATER SLIP: Thanks to an error by Reebok, the Buffalo Sabres unknowingly revealed the third jerseys for the Senators and Maple Leafs this season in their team shop and icethetics got ahold of them. So, what do you think of the alternates?

SEMIN RESPONDS: Alexander Semin took an offseason hit from former teammate and current Florida Panthers forward Matt Bradley that included the comment that Semin doesn't care. The Russian forward talked to Puck Daddy about the perceptions, shrugging them off.

ALWAYS TWEAKING: The Boston Bruins just won the Stanley Cup and return almost the entire team that earned it. You might think that would to a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude, but Claude Julien apparently prefers the "if you aren't getting better you're getting worse" school of thought. The idea? Getting the defenseman to close the gap with the forwards. Boston Globe.

LEARNING CURVE: Speaking of coaching systems, the Flyers are getting used to Peter Laviolette's in Philadelphia and Dave Isaac says they are picking it up fast. That's good, considering how little time there is to implement such a system, especially one foreign to a lot of the players.

DEEP THOUGHTS: When you look at the top two lines, the Toronto Maple Leafs don't have much problem competing with the top teams in the East. In fact, only the Flyers and Lightning had more goals from their top four forwards. But the Leafs are sorely lacking in the depth department. James Mirtle delves deeper in the Globe and Mail.

GETTING OVER THE HILLER: Jonas Hiller is anticipating returning to the ice this preseason after missing the second half of last season because of vertigo. Jon Rosen at Fox Sports West says the Ducks better hope Hiller comes back symptom free.

TRADE TALK: Cory Schneider will remain the most-discussed goaltender on the trade market until the day the Canucks either move him or Roberto Luongo. And they aren't moving Luongo any time soon. Andy Strickland looks at the ever persistent rumors for Schneider, which include Phoenix and Columbus.

BE THE THUNDER: The Tampa Bay Lightning began running with a new promotion last season and into the playoffs of "Be the bolt." Now they have added a theme song to go with it called Be the Thunder from the Florida Orchestra. Nothing says hockey quite like violins.

SALVADOR BACK: It has been almost 12 months since Bryce Salvador left a preseason game injured (inner-ear concussion), but on Friday he was cleared to practice and has been loving being back on the ice with his Devils teammates. Tom Gulitti at the Berger Record has mroe.

STARTING FRESH: Andrew Cogliano was a first-round talent, drafted by the Oilers in 2005. But only once in his seasons in Edmonton did he hit 40 points. But with an offseason trade to the Ducks, he is hopeful a fresh start will help him reach his potential as "a lot of it had to do with the mental side of the game" in Edmonton.

MIGRATING NORTH: The Washington Capitals are going to play the Nashville Predators in Baltimore for their first exhibition game of the preseason. CSN Baltimore talks about the re-emerging of hockey in Charm City.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: August 31, 2011 2:04 pm
Edited on: August 31, 2011 3:35 pm
 

Former Capital Steckel talks Crosby hit, Semin

By Brian Stubits

David Steckel was a member of the Washington Capitals up until March of last year, so he knows a thing or two about a couple of the bigger stories/dramas of the hockey summer.

Skating at the Caps practice facility as he and his wife are back in the District to try and sell their Virginia house, Steckel took a little time to talk with the Washington Post's Tarik El-Bashir about a few lingering items. One regards the health of Sidney Crosby, the other the criticism levied on Alexander Semin by former Caps enforcer Matt Bradley.

First, to the Crosby treatment. Remember, it was Steckel that hit Crosby in the Winter Classic, rendering the Penguins star concussed. Since then, the argument has raged of whether or not it was a dirty play or intentional. Steckel, now with the Devils, says neither is the case.

"I had no intent to injure him. I feel just as bad as anybody. I don't want to see anybody out of the game for that long. It's bad enough with everything that's going around with other guys [and] head [injuries]. It's just so uncertain. I feel bad. I wish him the best. I don't wish that upon anybody."

Here's the hit heard 'round the NHL world in case you need a refresher.

To me it never appeared to be a malicious hit by any stretch. It appears to be an unfortunate accident. But it's certainly a debatable topic and the true verdict is always in the eye of the beholder in such situations.

However the majority of the talk with El-Bashir centered on Bradley's remarks about Semin, ya know the ones that Semin "just doesn't care?" Well here's what Steckel had to say on Wednesday.

“It's not like he went out and told lies,” Steckel said. “[He] didn't really say anything bad about anybody. He just stated what he felt. ... I don't have anything to say on what Brads said except that he was spot on. He mentioned Ovi, too, just not on a negative side. He hit it on the head for both guys."

It's nowhere near as inflammatory as the route Bradley took, but it's still no ringing endorsement of Semin.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: August 17, 2011 11:02 am
Edited on: August 17, 2011 4:06 pm
 

Matt Bradley calls out Alexander Semin

SeminBy: Adam Gretz

Matt Bradley, one of the Florida Panthers many offseason additions, appeared on TEAM 1200 radio in Ottawa this week and spent some time talking about his former team -- the Washington Capitals -- and what went wrong in the playoffs last season, particuarly why they were swept in the second round by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The 33-year-old Bradley said there were a few players that didn't show up in the playoffs, and that the locker room may have been a bit too nonchalant and undisciplined. He also added that some of the players that weren't playing well were getting the majority of the ice time.

His strongest words went in the direction of the supremely talented Alexander Semin, basically saying that he doesn't care to be one of the best players in the world (which he certainly has the talent to be).

Said Bradley, “I don’t mind saying Alexander Semin’s name because he’s one guy who has so much talent, he could easily be the best player in the league, and for whatever reason just doesn’t care. When you’ve got a guy like that you need him to be your best player, or one of your best players, and when he dosen’t show up, you almost get the sense that he wants to be back in Russia. That’s tough to win when you’ve got a guy like that who’s supposed to be your best player not being your best player. Or one of your best players."

After scoring 28 goals in 65 regular season games for the Capitals last season, Semin scored three goals in the Capitals five-game series with the New York Rangers in the opening round, before being limited to just one goal and an assist in the four-game series with Tampa Bay. He had just two assists for the Capitals during the first-round exit in 2009-10, but was also a point-per-game player in the playoffs during his first two postseason appearances in 2008 and 2009.

But the focal point of Bradley's comments were last season, where he was also asked if coach Bruce Boudreau maybe stuck with some of his star players a bit too long.

"There were a lot of guys who played well that didn’t probably play as much as they needed to," said Bradley. "But I love Bruce and Bruce is a great coach. He was in a very tough position there because in Washington our top guys are definitely the Stars and the guys that people want to see on the ice, so I totally understand. That just doesn’t happen on our team, it happens on a lot of teams. When you’re paying your top guys a lot of money and those guys carry you through the whole season, and if one of them isn’t going, it’s very hard not to play them. And I understand that’s tough. But I think in the end if you want to win, sometimes you have to sit some of those guys down and maybe send a message and try to get them going."

It wasn't all bad, however, as Bradley said he never worries about Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin and insisted that he's "all in" as far as winning. He did add that Ovechkin may need to grow up a little in terms of taking care of himself (perhaps he was referring to this?), but that he also simply wants to win hockey games.

You can listen to the interview in its entirety by clicking here.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com