Monday, February 13, 2012
Matthias on the Prowl!
Shawn Matthias is a Florida Panther. At six feet, five inches tall, plus or minus a bit on skates, he is a big cat. He patrols the rink in a sweeping fashion, unless a breakout opportunity arises. He relishes transition opportunities.
He recently notched his ninth goal of the season into an empty net. On our last visit to the Bank Atlantic Centre in Fort Lauderdale, he had a similar opportunity; however, the play materialized as a “two on one” situation. In other words, as he skated over centre ice with the puck, he realized that he had teammate Matt Bradley on his right, with a lone defenceman impeding their way to the empty net. Matthias threw the puck to Bradley, who deposited it into the “yawning cage”. (That is one of the most overworked and horrible clichés used in hockey circles, and I apologize for that.)
It was a most unselfish play, yet typical of Matthias. He is indeed quiet, and unassuming, and often defers to his teammates regarding special plays. Essentially, he is a good teammate. He always speaks in terms of “we” rather than “I”. For example, after the game he told me: “We played really hard tonight. It was a tough game for us, and it was a huge win. The game we lost in Washington really hurt.”
The Panthers had just defeated the Los Angeles Kings 3-1, by no means an easy victory. “They really play a hard system. They don’t allow much, in terms of offense.”
The Panthers’ “Game Day” magazine is entitled ”Growl”. I believe it is released on a monthly basis. The current issue contains an article about Matthias with some very honest dialogue.
Shawn began the year thinking that his time in Florida might be finished. “To be honest, I don’t know if they expected me to be here this year. They signed me to a two-way deal. You’ve just got to put your head down and work hard, and try to show them you’re better than what they projected you as.”
At this point in the season, The Panthers know that they made a good investment. Matthias has already topped his point production from previous NHL seasons. Confidence is a key factor.
Teammate Stephen Weiss has been with the Panthers since Shawn’s arrival. “He’s becoming way more confident on and off the ice. He’s starting to figure out if he plays a certain way, he’s going to have success, especially if he uses his size and speed and hangs onto the puck and makes plays.”
Matthias knows he is just at the start of his career. “I’m still young, still learning the league, and I still think there’s better hockey in me. I’m improving every day.”
All of this confidence has led to a good comfort level for Matthias. Add that to the fact that he is enjoying the game he loves, and you have a successful hockey player.
Next year Matthias will play on a one way contract. Assistant General Manager Mike Santos likes what he sees in Matthias’s play. “To his credit, Shawn was willing to earn his way to becoming a full-time NHL player.”
The Panthers have experienced team success thus far this year, to the surprise of most hockey pundits. They are inching toward the playoffs, something that has not happened in South East Florida in ten years.
Matthias has helped put smiles on the faces of the faithful at the Bank Atlantic Centre this year.