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The Rat Review – Panthers Weekly Recap 4/7

Photo Credit: NHL.com via Getty Images

Heartbreak City

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.

Ageless Wonders

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.



photo credit: University of Minnesota AthleticsPhoto Credit: SBNation - College Hockey - Matt Dewkett

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.

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The Playoff Race: By The Numbers

playoff push

The Florida Panthers, Ottawa Senators, and Boston Bruins are currently locked into the tightest playoff race in recent years. Only four points separate the three teams, with Boston holding onto the final wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference. The Senators and Panthers are right behind the Bruins, with ten games remaining for the Cats, nine for the B’s, and eleven for the Sens. To makes things easier to follow here is a statistical breakdown for all three clubs.

standings

Points For

As stated above, only four points separate The Bruins, Senators, and Panthers from the final wildcard spot. Florida’s win in the shootout against Boston, and Ottawa’s regulation victory over Toronto on March 21st gives BOS 84, OTT 83, and FLA 80 points. This means that the Senators are only one point away from passing the Bruins, with two games in hand. Meanwhile, Florida sits three points behind Ottawa and four behind Boston with one game remaining against the Sens and two versus the B’s.

The Last Ten

The record of a hockey team is a good indication of how well that club is playing, and the last ten shows just how hot, or cold, they are. With a record of 9-1 in their last ten games there is no team in the NHL hotter than the Ottawa Senators. A lot of their success is thanks to 27 year old rookie goaltender, Andrew Hammond. The Sens netminder has posted a record of 13-0-1 with a .947 save percentage and 1.65 goals against average. If Ottawa wants to make the playoffs they are going to need the hamburglar at his best for their final eleven games.

Boston is currently trending in the opposite direction, losing their last five games. They have struggled offensively and on their powerplay while posting a 5-3-2 record in ten games. The Bruins slump has allowed the Panthers and Senators to gain ground on that final wildcard position in the Eastern Conference. If Boston wants to stay ahead in the playoff race they will need to fix their special teams.

The Panthers just refuse to die, but have the toughest challenge ahead of them. Giving Boston a loser point in the shootout on Saturday night did not help their cause, but at least they gained an extra point in the wildcard race. Florida is 6-3-1 in their last ten and have ten games remaining. Included in those final contests are two meetings against Boston and one versus Ottawa. Members of the media state that the Panthers will have to go 8-2 in their final ten games to have a chance at making the postseason, and that includes picking up wins against The Bruins and Senators.

What’s Left

bosDucks @ Bruins – 3/26
Rangers @ Bruins – 3/28
Bruins @ Hurricanes – 3/29
Panthers @ Bruins – 3/31
Bruins @ Red Wings – 4/2
Maple Leafs @ Bruins – 4/4
Bruins @ Capitals – 4/8
Bruins @ Panthers – 4/9
Bruins @ Lightning – 4/11

flaPanthers @ Lightning – 3/24
Panthers @ Maple Leafs – 3/26
Panthers @ Canadiens – 3/28
Panthers @ Senators – 3/29
Panthers @ Bruins – 3/31
Hurricanes @ Panthers – 4/2
Lightning @ Panthers – 4/4
Canadiens @ Panthers – 4/5
Bruins @ Panthers – 4/9
Devils @ Panthers – 4/11

ottSharks @ Senators – 3/23
Rangers @ Senators – 3/26
Senators @ Maple Leafs – 3/28
Panthers @ Senators – 3/29
Senators @ Red Wings – 3/31
Lightning @ Senators – 4/2
Capitals @ Senators – 4/4
Senators @ Maple Leafs – 4/5
Penguins @ Senators – 4/7
Senators @ Rangers – 4/9
Senators @ Flyers – 4/11

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Free Agency Fallout: Panthers Sign Kuba And Parros

Day one of the 2012 NHL free agency period has passed and surprisingly all of the top players on the market remain unsigned. Fans and their favorite teams are still waiting to see where free agents like Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, and Martin Brodeur will end up. Of course the first day of free agency did see its fair share of players signed to new clubs, with 40 men signing the dotted line with different organizations, but the majority of moves made were to improve depth.

The two biggest names removed from the free agent market on Sunday both have ties with the Florida Panthers. Ray Whitney, who played for the Panthers from 1998 to 2001, left Phoenix after signing a two year contract worth $9 million with the Dallas Stars. In an interview with TSN the 40 year old winger stated that the reason he joined the Stars was because “they were the only team to offer me a two year contract”. That statement, if true, is surprising considering Whitney’s production last year with the Coyotes, no matter his age.

Jason Garrison, Florida’s biggest weapon on the power play last season, was the other big name on the move Sunday as he signed a six year deal with the Vancouver Canucks for a whopping $27.6 million. General manager Mike Gillis and his club are investing a lot of years and money in a player who had one good season with the Panthers. It is completely understandable why Tallon did not want to invest that many years in Garrison considering that top blueline prospects like Colby Robak and Alex Petrovic will be ready to step into the lineup within the next couple of years. With that said we wish Jason the best of luck in Vancouver and we hope he has great success in his hometown, except when he plays the Panthers.

After last year’s free agent frenzy for the Panthers it was no surprise that Tallon and Co. were busy on the first day of free agency once again. Florida’s GM all but knew that Garrison would not be returning to the Cats so he went out and signed defenseman, and former Panthers draft pick, Filip Kuba as his replacement. Kuba was given $4 million a season over the next two years for his services. “Filip is an experienced player who adds further depth to our blue line,” Tallon said. “He is a big, strong and responsible, shutdown defenseman who averaged more than 23 minutes of ice time per-game last season. We are confident that he will fit very well into our top six and help our power play. We look forward to his contributions to our team.”

Kuba was not the only new face joining the Panthers after day one of free agency. Tallon also addressed Florida’s toughness, or lack thereof, by signing George Parros and his mustache to a two year deal. We are willing to bet that Parros, who tweets frequently under the handle @Stache16, will become a fan favorite in South Florida just like he was in Anaheim.

The Panthers also added to the goalie drama surrounding the club by re-signing Scott Clemmensen for another two years. Adding Clemmensen back into the fold increases the confusion surrounding the team and their goaltending situation, especially since there are even more reports coming in that Florida is still interested in either Roberto Luongo or Martin Brodeur. If the Panthers were to still make a run at either all-star netminder they would most definitely have to trade Jose Theodore or Scott Clemmensen. All we can do at this point is wait and see what Tallon has planned and hope that he has not given up on Jacob Markstrom.

Sunshine State Hockey will have even more coverage for day two and beyond of the free agent frenzy. We will also be attending the Panthers development camp one day this week to see how Florida’s prospects look this time around. Be sure to keep checking back with SSH for updates all off-season long.

Source(s): Florida Panthers, TSN

Free Agent Insanity

Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Shane Doan, Jaromir Jagr, Jason Garrison. That reads like a potential line for an NHL All-Star game, when in reality it could be a new line for one of the league’s 30 teams, if they want to spend that kind of money. Having players of that caliber available at this time of year could only mean one thing, free agent frenzy.

The National Hockey League’s free agency period kicks off today at 12:00 PM EST and all 30 NHL GM’s will be looking to improve their respective clubs while also filling the holes created by UFA’s who decide it is time for a change of scenery (or a chance at more money). Speaking of filling holes, that may be the theme of New Jersey’s free agency, especially if they lose both Zach Parise and Martin Brodeur. Shockingly that is a very real possibility considering the team’s current financial issues. It must be a tough time to be Lou Lamoriello.

While there are plenty of big names on the free agent market there are also just as many on the trading block. Columbus continues to try and find a trade partner that will take superstar Rick Nash off their hands but the Jackets are having a tough time doing so because of their understandably high asking price. The Canucks are in a similar position in regards to goaltender Roberto Luongo, but at this point the return they are asking for my not be justified because of his big contract. There are teams interested in Luongo’s services, including the Florida Panthers, but Canucks general manager Mike Gillis will have to lower his asking price before a deal gets done.

Speaking of the Panthers, they have come up in many conversations on the eve of free agency. Florida is rumored to be interested in such names as Ray Whitney, PA Parenteau, Jiri Hudler, and even Martin Brodeur. We would have to believe that the Cats signing Brodeur would only happen if Tallon and Co. remove themselves from the Luongo talks. At this point it is too early to tell what the Panthers plans are entering free agency, but one thing is certain. It is definitely exciting to hear Florida mentioned with the likes of Brodeur and Luongo. This just goes to show that having good ownership and management goes a long way in earning respect from the other 29 teams in the league and the players.

Marc’s take:

If anyone would have told me at the end of the playoffs that the Panthers would be involved in talks regarding Roberto Luongo or Martin Brodeur I would have laughed in their face. Now there is a very real possibility that one of the two superstar goalies (or both?) will end up in South Florida. Bringing in either netminder would be good for business in the sense of ticket sales, but if I were in the position Dale Tallon is in I would easily choose Brodeur over Luongo. While it may be a fun novelty to some to have Roberto return to Sunrise let’s not forget that there is this 22 year old goaltender in San Antonio named Jacob Markstrom that has been pegged as “the best goalie not playing in the National Hockey League” waiting for his turn between the Florida pipes. Martin Brodeur is the better choice at this time because of Luongo’s long contract, unless the Panthers have given up on Markstrom because of his recent injuries. That would be an entirely different, and highly disappointing, situation. No matter what happens between now and the start of the 2012-2013 season we all just have to remember “in Tallon we trust”. Right?

The following links are from various sources regarding free agency. We figured that this would make it easier on everyone to follow the insanity that is about to unfold. Be sure to keep checking back with Sunshine State Hockey for updates during this very busy time for the Florida Panthers and the 29 other teams in the NHL.

Top 30 UFA’s – The Fourth Period

Open For Business – On Frozen Pond

Eastern Conference Free Agents – TSN

Western Conference Free Agents – TSN

Free Agent Tracker – TSN

Don’t forget to tune in to the NHL Network’s live coverage of the first day of free agency starting at 12:00 PM EST.

Source(s): TFP, Miami Herald, TSN

Top 10 Moments Of The 2011-2012 Season: #2

Who is ready for us to finish our countdown of the top 10 moments from the Panthers 2011-2012 season? If all goes according to plan we should be able to reveal the #1 moment on Monday, but that depends if we can get everything together for our big surprise in time. It is looking like that will be the case but only time will tell for sure. Before getting to the top moment though we still have to reveal #2 on our list.

This next moment is going to go down as one of the greatest comebacks in franchise history, especially considering the circumstances. As everyone knows by now before this season the Panthers failed to make the playoffs for over 12 years, so it is understandable that the majority of “outsider” fans would write off the Cats in their first round series against the New Jersey Devils. After splitting the first two games in Sunrise it was up to Florida to make a statement on the road in game 3. They did just that in one of the greatest games in franchise history.

#2 – Deja vu, Florida completes another comeback against the Devils (April 17th, 2012)

Moment #2 on our countdown is very similar to #7, with the only difference being the setting. Florida quickly fell behind 3-0 in the first period, just like they did in November’s game against the Devils. Then, as the game progressed, the Cats found their groove and made an amazing comeback, just like they did in November’s game against the Devils. The difference this time around is that the Panthers managed to pull off the difficult task in game 3 of the Stanley Cup playoffs in New Jersey. With help from Sean Bergenheim, Jason Garrison, Mike Weaver, Brian Campbell, and most importantly Scott Clemmensen, the comeback Cats were able to claw their way back for the win, sending everyone in attendance at the Prudential Center home in shock.

Of course we all know what happened after game 3. The Devils currently trail the Los Angeles Kings 3-1 in the Stanley Cup final while the Panthers anxiously await the start of next season, knowing that they gave the Eastern Conference champions a harder time than any other conference opponent. If this season was a preview of things to come then Panthers fans have every right to be excited about the future of their team. We speak for all Cats fans when we say bring on the 2012-2013 season.

For the full experience of moment #2 be sure to click through all of the links below. Check back with Sunshine State Hockey on Monday when we (hopefully) reveal the #1 moment on our countdown.

NHL.com recap of moment #2

Litter Box Cats recap of moment #2

Stats from moment #2

Photos from moment #2

Source(s): Litter Box Cats, NHL