This week started with an all-important matchup against the 8th place Boston Bruins, and things looked good for roughly 55 minutes. You had to know it was going to take a complete 60 minute effort to defeat the Bruins though, and the Panthers came up short. Florida’s 2-1 lead slipped away after a deflection by Ryan Spooner with a little more than ten minutes left to play tied the game, and Milan Lucic’s drive to the net resulted in the game winning goal with just 1:09 left in regulation. While a bitter pill to swallow at the time, the loss didn’t initially seem to break the Panthers’ spirits; they responded just 48 hours later with a 6-1 drubbing of the Carolina Hurricanes. The energy would not last however, as Florida was officially eliminated from playoff contention the following game, coming out on the wrong end of a 4-0 blanking to cross-state rival Tampa Bay on Saturday night. The Panthers would not have to wait long for a chance at redemption as they faced off against the divisional powerhouse Canadiens the very next day. They wouldn’t fare much better. A visibly deflated Florida just couldn’t shake the “no post-season blues”, and wound up falling 4-1 to the tune of three unanswered Montreal goals.
Jaromir Jagr and Roberto Luongo were both poised for milestone achievements this week; Jagr started the week at 1,796 career points (two shy of former Penguin teammate, and 4th all-time scorer Ron Francis) and Luongo could practically taste win number 400. Though the playoffs may elude them this season, it was nice to see the two veterans get over the proverbial hump in last Thursday’s win over Carolina. With his goal and assist, Jagr moved into a tie with Francis, and with the win, Luongo secured career win number 400. Not too shabby.
The kids are alright
Florida Panthers’ general manager Dale Tallon made a few ripples in the free agency pool this past week; signing prospects Kyle Rau (pictured above: left) and Michael Matheson (pictured above: right) to entry level contracts. Rau, a versatile center, finished his senior year with the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, serving as team captain and amassing 20 goals and 21 assists through 39 games. Matheson, a defenseman, also had a fine showing during his junior season at Boston College; netting 3 goals and 22 assists, all while wearing the “C” for the Eagles. Both players have been assigned to the AHL and made their debut with the San Antonio Rampage this past week.
The Road Ahead
While the Panthers have faded out of the playoff picture, the season is not yet over. Florida still has two games remaining in its season-ending home stand. The Panthers will play the second-to-last game of the season this Thursday at 7:30 against (who else?) the Boston Bruins, and will finish with game number 82 coming full circle at home against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday at 7:00.
The end of another Florida Panthers season is quickly approaching. While Florida will not be participating in the Stanley Cup playoffs they can be proud of the fact that they were in contention until game 80. This season was filled with many exciting moments on and off the ice, from Aaron Eklbad’s first NHL goal to the debut of the legend, Jaromir Jagr. From now until Saturday, leading right into the final game of the season, we will be listing our top five favorite moments from Florida’s 2014-2015 campaign. Let’s jump right into the countdown with moment #5.
#5 – #MulletNightInSunrise
Our number five moment should be fresh in the memory of Florida Panthers fans, considering it happened this past Thursday. In celebration of one Jaromir Jagr, the Panthers held mullet night in Sunrise during their game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Fans from all over South Florida and beyond came to the BB&T Center sporting their best mullet in honor of number 68, while trying to earn the right to join an elite group of fans, the traveling Jagrs. Truth be told, if it were not for the traveling Jagrs, mullet night in Sunrise would not have happened. That is how famous these globe trotting fans of the legendary number 68 are.
The traveling Jagrs did not make their way to South Florida just to see their favorite player, they had a job to do. Before the puck dropped on Thursday the men in mullets held open tryouts to find a representative for Jagr’s new team, the Florida Panthers. After putting numerous contestants through rigorous physical and mental challenges the traveling Jagrs found their man.
During a TV time out in the third period Jagr’s super fans took the stage to properly crown their newest member. The entire event was a huge success and everyone in attendance had fun with it. Having the traveling Jagrs in the crowd must have been a good luck charm because Florida defeated Carolina 6-1, and Jaromir Jagr recorded a goal and an assist in the victory.
Be sure to check back tomorrow for our number four favorite moment of the 2014-2015 Florida Panthers season.
Moves like Jagr
Maybe the fountain of youth is in Florida after all. Jaromir Jagr, The 43 year-old “Kid from Klando” has gone above and beyond the expectations that many set for him when he first arrived in south Florida just days before the NHL trade deadline. Though he was held of the score sheet in his Panther debut on February 28th against Buffalo, Jagr immediately made a tangible impact on Florida’s young core. He hasn’t looked back. In the 14 games he has played so far, he has 12 points. More importantly, in those same 14 games, his young line mates have benefited from his wisdom both on and off the ice. Jonathan Huberdeau (4G, 12A – 16P) and Alexander Barkov (5G,5A – 10P) both look like completely different players, and most of that is due to the sheer presence that a player of Jagr’s caliber brings.
399 and counting….
Roberto Luongo returned to the ice last week after a six game absence due to an upper body injury. He has picked up points in four out of his five starts (going 3-1-1) and has looked solid throughout most of those games. His most recent outing against Toronto earned him his 399th career victory, putting him one shy of the 400 mark. Roberto would like nothing more than to hit the 400 mark, and he couldn’t have picked a better time to do it, as what many are calling the single most important game of the season (thus far) looms large in Boston tomorrow night.
Nick Bjugstad has been a workhorse this season for the Florida Panthers; spending time on the top 2 lines and seeing regular shifts on the power play. He’s matched up against top-tier talent a nightly basis and has posted career highs in goals (24 – team high) and points (43 – second on team). Unfortunately, those numbers will both stay where they are at as it was announced earlier this week that Bjugstad underwent successful season-ending surgery to repair a nagging lower back injury. His presence will be sorely missed as Florida makes its final push to the playoffs with just six games remaining in the regular season.
The Road Ahead
As the season winds down, the points only become more valuable. Losing in overtime or the shootout, and beating teams you are chasing in extra time no longer suffice. Florida (85 points, 10th place) picked up a big win on Sunday against Ottawa (86 points, 9th place), winning in regulation 4-2. It will need to carry that same momentum into this week against division rival Boston (89 points, 8th place). Though the Panthers clawed their way to a 2-1 shootout victory over the Bruins in a thriller at the BB&T Center in Sunrise last week, they will need to take both points home in regulation if they want to gain any ground in the frenetic race for the final wild card spot. The puck drops tomorrow night at 7:00.