Toronto Maple Leafs: The Richard Panik Show
The Toronto Maple Leafs were in fine form this weekend as they recorded wins in back-to-back games. They beat the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 on Saturday and then had to grind out a 4-3 shootout victory against the Los Angeles Kings on short rest the following night.
There were many great things to take out of this weekend. As of Sunday night, the Leafs are now just one point behind the Montreal Canadiens for third place in the division, with a game in hand.
With all that the Leafs accomplished this weekend, there was one guy in particular who stood out to me. Richard Panik scored one of the prettiest goals I have seen in a while on Saturday night. I have already watched this video 700 times, but it’s still worth another look.
The back-hand toe drag. It was a ridiculous goal from the 23-year old and the timing could not have been better. Panik’s beautiful breakaway goal broke a 1-1 deadlock and eventually held up as the game winner for the Leafs. The goal itself was a spectacular move. He pulled off a “Datsyukian deke” at full speed, with the magician himself at the other end of the ice.
Dec 13, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Richard Panik (18) scores on a breakaway on Detroit Red Wings goaltender Petr Mrazek (34) during the second period at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
His teammates said after the game that they had seen those hands before in practice and reminded the media that he is a very skilled player. He did show premature signs of dangles back in his Tampa Bay days as well.
Panik has played well since the Leafs claimed him off waivers from the
back on October 9th. The former second round draft pick had been struggling to come up with an identity with the Lightning, but has flourished in his fourth line role in Toronto.
“I’m just trying my best every shift, it doesn’t matter if I play five minutes, I’m just focusing on the next shift. Now it’s going in the net so I’m really happy and glad about it. Hopefully it will just keep going this way.”
The highlight-reel goal was his sixth in 27 games this season. His production is exceptional if you consider he is playing on the fourth line and is averaging just 8:35 in ice time. The contributions of the fourth line are a major part in the difference between this team and last years Leafs line-up. Here is how his six goals stack up against last years fourth liners.
Jay McClement – 81 Games Played, 4 Goals
Colton Orr – 54 Games Played, 0 Goals
Carter Ashton – 32 Games Played, 0 Goals
Frazer McLaren – 27 Games Played, 0 Goals
Panik has been a nice addition to the Leafs, especially considering it took nothing but a sheet of paper to get him on board. He can provide an extra offensive touch, he plays extremely hard, and he also added another skill to his resume on Saturday for good measure.
Brendan Smith took exception after two big bumps were delivered to him via the Panik Express. After taking a two-handed slash and then a cross-check to the back, Panik decided to drop his gloves instead of using his stick as a sword. He threw a couple of haymakers at Smith and really held his own in the scrap–with a big smile on his face.
It was another great edition of Hockey Night In Canada on Saturday, featuring the Richard Panik show as he put on a phenomenal display of skill and grit. Having these contributions from the back-end of the Leafs line-up has been crucial to this teams recent success.
Leafs fans, what do you think about the Panik-Smith-Booth line? How important is their production to the Leafs’ success? Let us know in the comments section below.
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