Florida Panthers: Michael Matheson has become a liability

Florida Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson is costing his team games.

Since entering the NHL’s Toronto playoff bubble, Florida Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson hasn’t been much help to his team. His play since the NHL season resumed has been noticeably bad. Matheson has been a liability to his team and is jeopardizing their chances of moving on in the postseason.

Before the playoffs got underway, Florida took on their in-state rival Tampa Bay Lightning in an exhibition game. Matheson was a -4 in the 5-0 Panthers loss. Normally known for his skating abilities, Matheson couldn’t keep up with Tampa’s Brayden Point. Point blew by Matheson multiple times on the wing and it led to two Tampa goals.

Matheson was on the ice for all five of Tampa’s goals. This was only an exhibition game yet many Panthers fans were already calling for Matheson to be dropped from the lineup.

In Game 1 of the Panthers’ qualifying round against the New York Islanders, Matheson’s play didn’t improve. In the first period, Matheson went for a change when the Islanders dumped the puck into the Panthers’ zone. By the time the line change finished the Islanders had already buried the puck into the back of the net.

The defender that came on for Matheson couldn’t reach the front of the net in time, resulting in a 1-0 Islanders lead. This bad line change from him left the slot wide open and gave the Islanders the first goal of the series.

Later in the period, Matheson was penalized after laying a questionable hit on Islanders defensemen Johnny Boychuk. Matheson seemed to make contact with Boychuck’s head after he had released the puck. The officials originally gave Matheson a major penalty before switching the call to a minor after review.

Boychuk ended up leaving the game and hasn’t returned to the lineup since. New York’s Anthony Beauvillier capitalized on Matheson’s penalty, giving his team a two-goal lead earlier on in the second period. Florida was able to make it a one-goal game, but the Islanders tight defensive play allowed them to hold on and take a 1-0 series lead.

In Game 2, Matheson had six penalty minutes in the first period. Luckily for Florida, they were able to kill it off. Florida had all the momentum in the game up to Matheson’s penalties. Despite not giving up a goal while he was in the box, they lost valuable even strength time and much-needed momentum in a tight series.

In his first shift of the second period, when Matheson went to hit an Islanders forward, he ended up making contact with his teammate Bryan Boyle, allowing the Islanders to walk in on goal and tie the game at one.

Towards the end of the second, Matheson was once again on the ice for an Islanders goal when Jordan Eberle gave his team a 3-2 lead after a short side shot on Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. Florida had two leads in the game but ended up losing 4-2, giving the Islanders a 2-0 series lead.

Matheson’s stats aren’t the only noticeable negatives in his game. He has turned over the puck many times, is unable to clear out the front of the net, and has constantly lost 50/50 battles. His team lost momentum multiple times in game two, in large part to his lackluster play. With the qualifying round being a best-of-five series, every game matters and Matheson hasn’t done anything but put his team into challenging situations.

 

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Florida is now facing elimination as the Islanders only need to win one more game out of a potential three. If Florida has any chance of coming back in this series, Matheson shouldn’t be part of their gameplan.