With round one of the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs in the book it is time to move on to our predictions for the semi-finals, which begin tonight. before doing so, let’s take a look back at our predictions and see just how well we did.
Minnesota Wild vs St. Louis Blues
Marc’s Prediction: St. Louis Blues, 6 games
Ryan’s Prediction: St. Louis Blues, 5 games
Nashville Predators vs Chicago Blackhawks
Marc’s Prediction: Chicago Blackhawks, 6 games
Ryan’s Prediction: Nashville Predators, 7 games
Anaheim Ducks vs Winnipeg Jets
Marc’s Prediction: Anaheim Ducks, 7 games
Ryan’s Prediction: Anaheim Ducks, 6 games
Vancouver Canucks vs Calgary Flames
Marc’s Prediction: Calgary Flames, 6 games
Ryan’s Prediction: Vancouver Canucks, 6 games
Montreal Canadiens vs Ottawa Senators
Marc’s Prediction: Montreal Canadiens, 7 games
Ryan’s Prediction: Ottawa Senators, 7 games
Tampa Bay Lightning vs Detroit Red Wings
Marc’s Prediction: Tampa Bay Lightning, 5 games
Ryan’s Prediction: Tampa Bay Lightning, 7 games
New York Rangers vs Pittsburgh Penguins
Marc’s Prediction: New York Rangers, 4 games
Ryan’s Prediction: New York Rangers, 6 games
Washington Capitals vs New York Islanders
Marc’s Prediction: Washington Capitals, 6 games
Ryan’s Prediction: Washington Capitals, 7 games
Marc: 7-1 teams, 3-5 games
Ryan: 4-4 teams, 3-5 games
Round 2 Predictions
Over the next two days 16 teams will begin their quest to be named the 2015 Stanley Cup Champions. This season there are a few teams missing that are usually regulars in the playoffs, such as the Boston Bruins and last year’s champions, the Los Angeles Kings. They can thank the Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, Ottawa Senators, and New York Islanders, all teams that have not frequented the playoff picture in recent years, but have had a change in fortune this season. The 2014-2015 campaign was a tight race to the postseason, so hockey fans are guaranteed tough match-ups throughout the first round and beyond. That is why it will be harder this year than in the past to predict which club will come out on top, but we are going to give it our best try.
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.
When goaltenders Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya both suffered injuries on March 3rd against the Toronto Maple Leafs someone inside the Florida Panthers organization came up with an interesting contest titled goal of a lifetime. The contest, which at first was supposed to be for Florida residents, was to give one lucky winner the chance to be the Panthers backup goalie for a day. Little did the organization know that this humorous idea would turn into something nationally covered.
As word began spreading about the contest major news sources even reported it, including ESPN and Good Morning America. With all of the added interest Florida decided to accept entries from other states. This led to ESPN’s own Linda Cohn, who played goalie on her high school’s hockey team, to try out. The Cats were even able to bring former players on board to help choose the two finalist out of the thousands that entered, such as Bryan McCabe, Radek Dvorak, and Marco Sturm.
After open tryouts were completed Monday afternoon the Panthers had their two finalist; Dustin Smith and Bill Ruggiero. These two goaltenders competed on Tuesday night during the first intermission of Montreal vs Florida in an awkward shootout that only had Marco Sturm and Radek Dvorak as shooters. The end result to a contest that received so much nation attention? A tie. This means that both Dustin and Bill will participate in a practice with the Florida Panthers.
While the overall concept for goal of a lifetime was a good idea the end result left many fans scratching their heads. When the shootout began fans inside the BB&T Center did not even know what was going on. Bill Murphy, public address announcer for the Panthers, tried his best to call the play-by-play, but it was just hard to follow. Most people had no idea that Radek Dvorak and Marco Sturm were the shooters until half way through the contest. Fans on Twitter expressed their disappointment as well, and some even questioned if the contest was rigged.
With that said, Sunshine State Hockey would like to extend congratulations to both men who won the contest. Hopefully the Florida Panthers organization will take the end result seriously next time they host an event that received so much publicity.