Sometimes One Word Just Not Enough
By Bill Whitehead
Writers try constantly to find that right word to summarize a moment. I’ve sat in press boxes covering the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball, NASCAR, and college and high school football, trying at length to grab that elusive word. You know, that perfect description to paint the picture of two teammates drafting together in NASCAR (teammating?) or a bone-crushing tackle in a football game (maybe bone-crushing will simply have to do).
That being said, it’s a little taxing and a bit restrictive to try to use just a single word to describe what the Florida Panthers did to the Stars in Dallas Tuesday night. Did they simply dull or completely extinguish the Stars, who didn’t shine so brightly in a 6-0 thumping? Maybe they trimmed the D off Dallas — leaving them as Allas — because there wasn’t much D being played by anyone wearing the home colors.
Here are a few words that would apply to the big road win:
Relentless. What better word to describe the offensive attack the Panthers (9-5-3) threw at the Stars. At one point, shots on goal were 19-4 in favor of Florida. Early in the third period, the Panthers led in attempted shots 64-19, a staggering number, and Dallas was on its heels in front of goalie Kari Lehtonen much of the time.
Mismatch. Perhaps it was just one of those nights where everything worked for the Cats or maybe just an off one for the Stars, who had just returned home after being on the road for over a week. Whatever the case, Dallas rarely had a pulse in the game, save for a slight push early in the second. In fact, the contest kind of resembled one of those early group games in the World Championships, where one team spends most of the time in its offensive end and repeatedly beats its opponent to the puck.
Fearless. That’s how the Cats must feel when they leave South Florida. The Panthers own a league-best 7-3 road record and will try to add to that tomorrow night in St. Louis, a team 3-0-1 since replacing Davis Payne with Ken Hitchcock. You will hear it often and perhaps grow tired of it, but the Panthers have become the Road Warriors of the NHL through nearly a quarter of the season.
Redundant. That’s an accurate portrayal of what it felt like — again — when Florida held a 4-0 lead in the third quarter of its third consecutive road game while the home crowd (officially announced, without laughter, as 10,175) booed its team’s poor play. Surely it won’t be the norm, but these big leads late on the road are like waking up as Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.
Superb. An apt description of the play of Stephen Weiss (G, 2A, plus-6), Kris Versteeg (G, A, plus-3), Brian Campbell (A, plus-5), Tomas Fleischmann (highlight reel G, A), Jason Garrison (NHL-best 7th G for defensemen), Evgeny Dadonov (2 Gs in 2 games) and goalie Scott Clemmensen (25 saves in first start). Also throw in the tic-tac-toe goal (maybe gorgeous is a better word for that one) at the end of the second period. Weiss initiated it with a strong rush, but Versteeg, who looked up at the game clock in the closing seconds, knew he had enough time when he took a pass in the low slot from Fleischmann and deftly fed it to Weiss for an easy goal with eight seconds left for a 4-0 lead.
One word to describe what the Panthers dished out for 60 minutes in Texas, where everything is supposedly bigger?
I know. That’s two.
By Bill Whitehead
NHLHS Florida Panthers Credentialed Correspondent