Panthers v Steelers v Panthers Christmas Preview

With the yuletide period almost upon us it is time once again to look forward to the post Christmas pantomime that is Panthers v Steelers (I’m hoping we’ll get plenty of opportunity to shout at John DeCaro ‘It’s behind you’!)

Panthers go into the game in an unusual position. Usually we’re needing to win these games to keep up with the title challenge but this year we’re in the unusual position of entering these games top of the pile.
On current form, both games should be nothing less than Panthers victories, however we all know that the form book goes right out of the window in these games and the four previous meetings this season have all been close, settled by either one goal, overtime or a shoot-out.

Looking at the form book, since the last time the teams met on 16th November the records are as follows:

Panthers: Played 12; Won 10; Lost 2; Goals For 55; Goals Against 22.
Steelers: Played 11; Won 7; Lost 2; Goals For 38; Goals Against 27.

In the last four games, since both sides lost 2-1 at home to the Edinburgh Capitals, the stats look like this:

Panthers: Won 4; Lost 0; Goals For 24; Goals Against 3; Shots on goal allowed 82.
Steelers: Won 3; Lost 1; Goals For 10; Goals Against 6; Shots on goal allowed 106.

It seems from those figures that the Panthers have responded better to the Caps defeat than the Steelers have, however let’s not forget that the Steelers have lost Colin Shields and are also playing an import down, whereas Panthers should have a full compliment of imports barring available with the only injury worry being Stevie Lee.

The key to the contest will be in defence. Steelers have a good defence but it will have to be at its best to keep out an attack that put six past Belfast and eight past Coventry in a rampant performance at the Skydome. The Panthers defence so far this season has been excellent and with Craig Kowalski in goal the Steelers are going to be at their very best to break through.
In the forward lines only the most die-hard and biased Steelers fan would argue that Panthers aren’t superior in this department. Sheffield are struggling to score goals and only have Jeff Legue currently on their roster averaging more than a point per game. Panthers have an abundance of goal scoring talent spread across the team. The 24 goals scored in the last four games have come from 12 different scorers.

The form book says Panthers, but I expect these both to be close affairs. There is no doubt that Ryan Finnerty will get the Steelers up for both games but will it be enough against a Panthers side that is in a rich vein of form at the moment? Not too long until we find out.

If you aren’t attending either game you can keep up to date with all the action via the excellent Panthers Hockey Live on Twitter. Give them a follow.

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