Sunday, March 15, 2009

3 Straight Losses

Well, since I last wrote quite a bit has happened in Panther Land. JM chose to turn down every offer made to him for Jay Bouwmeester on the trade deadline and keep him until the end of the season. At the time, I thought JM made the right choice. Now, with injuries to Bryan McCabe and Nathan Horton, and watching Bouwmeester's play, I wish JM had traded him and I think he would have if he could have seen these things coming.

Last night, the Panthers gave up a 2 goal lead in less than 7 minutes to the Tampa Bay Lightning. I was at the game, and I could not help but feel as if I was watching the same old Panthers team from the past blowing it in the final minutes of the third period. They lost in the shootout, and watched a precious point slip right through their fingers. They should have had this game. Even in their worst times, the Panthers have shown that they can dominate the Lightning. We dominated for 2 periods last night, and then the Panthers got a few penalties in the 3rd which hurt them pretty badly. I was pretty much livid after I left the BAC last night. These were my thoughts right after the game ended. I kinda went and vented on The NHL Arena:

"This team has to be the most frustrating franchise in the history of sports, especially for the fans. It's like they always find a way to lose at critical points of the season. March is usually the time where the Panthers tease us by making it oh-so-close to getting into a playoff spot by having a rally of wins. This season, they come into March with a playoff spot and are fucking blowing it. I bet that even if the Panthers came into March in 1st place, they'd somehow find a way to miss the playoffs. Come on... blowing a 2 goal lead in 15 minutes when you know a win would put you back into a playoff position? Seriously, I knew once the Lightning tied it that we were likely going to lose if it went into a shootout. Our shootout is a fucking joke, no one can ever score. They might as well let Stanley C. Panther shoot, I think he has a better shot of scoring. I just hope McCabe gets back in the lineup soon, obviously we suck without him. Now the Panthers have lost 3 straight, so much for that "playoff promise" shit."

So yeah, as you can see, I was VERY angry after last night's loss. Before blowing the game against the Lightning, the Panthers lost to the Sabres on Thursday night and to the Penguins in the shootout on Tuesday night. So, now the Panthers are once again out of a playoff spot, sitting in 9th place in the Eastern Conference. The next few upcoming games are critical. We have Washington, Toronto, and Columbus coming up this week followed by a HUGE game against the Carolina Hurricanes on March 23rd. In fact, I think that game is so pivotal that I'm taking that Monday off work just so that I can go to that Panthers vs Hurricanes game. I'm hoping McCabe will be back in on Tuesday, we really need him back.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Trade Deadline Is Here!

Well, the trade deadline is finally here. I've already started watching TradeCentre. I'm curious to see what will happen with the Panthers between now and 3:00 PM. Will JBouw sign, stay until July, or get traded today? I think that's the big question on all Panther fans' minds right now. Bouwmeester signing is doubtful, and if he doesn't, my opinion is that JM will trade him today. Maybe JM will make some other surprise moves, but I doubt he'll do something real major that would disrupt the chemistry of this team. I guess all there is to do now is sit back, wait, and see what happens.

Yesterday in Atlanta, the Panthers finished their road trip 3-2-0. I'll take it, especially when we just wrapped up our toughest part of the schedule so far. No more Boston, Montreal, or New Jersey. Now we play teams behind us who are fighting for a playoff spot like the Blues, Penguins, Sabres, and Hurricanes during March. I'm not too worried since the Panthers usually play well in March (hey, we're 2-0 so far!), but the 9th and 10th place teams are only a few points behind us, one minor slip up can cost the Panthers bigtime.

Huge game coming up against the Penguins on Thursday night. I kinda hope Crosby is back in the lineup because lately, the Pens won every game that he's been out with that groin injury.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Ride on the Panthers Roller Coaster

Since I last wrote after getting crushed by Boston, the Panthers had a 3rd period comeback win against the Rangers on Thursday night, Nick Boynton got sent home for disciplinary reasons, got crushed 7-2 by the Devils on Saturday afternoon, then won 6-2 over the Capitals the very next day. Can someone say "Rollercoaster"?? Ok, I'm going to start my commentary on the order in which things happened.

Panthers vs. Rangers- This game was basically a must win for the Panthers. They were 2-0-1 against the Rangers this season and considering that the Cats would face 2 of their toughest opponents (Devils and Capitals) after this game, this was one of their better chances of picking up points on the road trip. The Rangers scored first, and the Cats did not score until about halfway through the 3rd period, scoring 2 goals in about a minute, giving them a 2-1 regulation victory over the Rangers. This win was especially important because that same night, Buffalo and Carolina went into a shootout where Carolina won, but it was the worst possible scenario since 3 points were given out. Nick Boynton was benched in the 3rd period and appearantly he had a verbal altercation with coach DeBoer in which he was sent home and would not play for the rest of the road trip with the rest of the Panthers.

Panthers vs. Devils- With Vokoun still out with an ear infection, and Boynton and Stillman out, I honestly was not very confident going into this game. The Panthers played one of their worst games I've seen this entire season with the final score of 7-2. Pathetic.

Panthers vs. Capitals- Okay, I honestly thought that the Panthers were never going to be able to beat Washington again this season (especially at home), and I'm eating my words right now because somehow, without Vokoun, Stillman and Boynton and Booth getting injured during that game, the Cats skated off with a 6-2 win over the Washington Capitals. Not only that, but they scored 3 consecutive powerplay goals in the first period! I'm completely baffled as to how they were able to win this one. I guess they were embarassed and bothered about that humiliating loss in New Jersey the night before and really got their act together. You know, one of the things that I noticed about the crowd at the Verizon Center yesterday is that it was PACKED, I believe the game was sold out. I was thinking to myself "where were all these fans about 2 years ago when the Capitals were at the bottom of the standings?". Appearantly, VanMurph was thinking the same thing and posted a photo of the "crowd" at the Verizon Center during a game he went to in 2007 when the Cats were playing the Caps on his blog. I suggest you go check that out on the official Panthers website in "VanMurph's View" if you want to be amused. Well, I do have a couple of more thoughts but I'll post those later tonight. I'm off to work for now.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Cats Crushed in Boston 6-1

Why, oh why did Tomas Vokoun have to get the flu AGAIN?! The Panthers lost 6-1 in Boston with Craig Anderson in net last night. I did expect him to be a little rusty since he hadn't played for a few weeks, but I wasn't expecting him to let in 6 goals. I'm not completely blaming him for the loss, but I can't help but wonder what the outcome would have been if Vokoun was in net instead. Panthers got screwed over by the refs for like the 3rd game in a row. It's really getting to be ridiculous. Again, I don't usually like to complain about officiating because I don't like to sound like I'm whining, but Kreps had a breakaway and he was hooked. There was a ref standing right in front of it, and he saw what happened. No call. It actually wasn't until there was about 20 seconds left in the game that the refs gave us a "powerplay". There have been times where the Cats were able to beat the refs AND the opposing team at the same time, which says a lot about them, but really... why should we have to play against the zebras in addition to the opposing team? Is it so hard for them to call a fair game for BOTH teams? As I said, this is the third consecutive game where the Panthers have clearly been shafted by the referees. When is this bias going to stop?

At least Carolina and Buffalo lost last night too so we didn't really lose ground. Carolina plays Buffalo on Thursday night so one of them has to win. Panthers really need to beat the Rangers that night to keep ahead. I hope Carolina ends up kicking Buffalo out of the playoffs when all of this is said and done. I don't like the Hurricanes, but personally I can't stand the Sabres.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Panthers Shutout Bruins

Going into the BAC for last night's game, if you would've told me that the Panthers were going to shutout the #1 team in the East, I would've betted against you with every cent I had in my wallet. Last night was another one of those nights were I was pleasantly surprised by the Cats. Vokoun was the difference for the Panthers, he made some INSANE saves and kept the Cats in the game for the first two periods until finally, Dvorak scored another shorthanded goal to put the Cats up on the board in the 3rd period. He followed it up with a 2nd goal a few minutes afterward and ALMOST had the hat trick when Boston pulled Tim Thomas in the last 2 minutes, but his shot was blocked by one of the Bruins players so the Cats won 2-0. The penalty kill was outstanding by the Panthers, but I can't say much about their powerplay because EVERY time the Panthers did manage to get a powerplay, it was quickly negated by another penalty by the Panthers. The only Panthers powerplay that was not negated was the meaningless one that the refs called with only 5 seconds left in the 3rd. We had an awesome time at the game with good company from my best friend Michelle and her boyfriend Laz.

Panthers still have a few tough games to go, facing the Bruins again at Boston on Tuesday, followed by games in Atlanta, Washington, and New Jersey. They need to keep it up and pick up as many points as they can on this road trip. Go Panthers!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Pre-Game Thoughts: Panthers vs Bruins

Well, here we go. The Panthers start their back to back games against the top team in the Eastern Conference tomorrow night. After last night's shutout against the Blackhawks I can't say I feel too confident going into this one. The Bruins lost 3 in a row before beating the Hurricanes Tuesday night, so I don't know what to expect from them or the Panthers. Panthers lost both previous meetings against the Bruins: 4-2 loss on November 21st, and 4-0 shutout on December 6th. The odds don't look good for Florida, but they have pleasantly surprised me many times this season so here's to a Panthers victory tomorrow night (or at least a point!). I'll be at the game!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Ref-hawks Shutout Panthers

You may have noticed I titled this entry "Ref-hawks" shutout the Panthers. This is because the zebras were out in full force tonight.

Of all the Panthers games I have watched this season, this was the worstly officiated game I have seen (and believe me, I see plenty). The Panthers did not get their first powerplay until halfway through the 2nd period while the refs let several calls slide for the Blackhawks. Seriously, if the refs are going to call a close game, call it for both sides. If you're going to let calls slide, let them slide for both teams. I don't usually complain about the refs, but there was some serious bias against the Cats tonight.

The few powerplays that the Cats did get, they were either negated by a Panthers penalty shortly afterward or pretty much nonexistant because the Panthers did not capitalize on any of them. However, when the Cats weren't busy killing off penalties, they did not manage to get many shots on Huet- particularly in the 3rd period. Huet made some sensational saves against Booth, Zednik and Horton. For some reason the Panthers can't ever really score much on Huet. The way he played tonight reminded me of that 5-1 loss to Montreal in December of last season at the BAC when he was in net. He frustrated the hell out of the Panthers and ME! I was cursing at my TV screen yelling "f*cking Huet! F*ck you!!" pretty much every time he robbed one of our players of a sure goal. Horton had practically an empty net and he couldn't get one by him. Ugh... this game pretty much sucked all around.

Meanwhile, Carolina gained some ground by stomping the Islanders tonight. At least Buffalo and Montreal lost.

Well, the Panthers better take what they learned tonight and put it behind them quick because the Bruins are in town Saturday night. I'll be at that game and I hope I'm not disappointed!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pre-Game Thoughts: Panthers vs. Blackhawks

So tomorrow the Chicago Blackhawks come to the BAC for the only matchup between the Panthers and Blackhawks this season. Being from Chicago myself, the Blackhawks are my favorite team in the Western Conference. Much like the Panthers, the Blackhawks are a team that has turned it around tremendously from last year and a lot of it has to do with new coaching for both teams. I'm looking forward to watching the Panthers take on the talent on the Blackhawks team, especially Toews and Kane. The victory the Cats had over New Jersey last night makes me feel confident that we can win this one. Once again, as much as I would LOVE to be at the BAC tomorrow to watch this game live, I'll have to catch it on TV because of work.

Here's to the Islanders beating the Rangers and Washington beating Montreal tonight!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Panthers Give the Devils Hell

What a SOLID performance by the Panthers tonight against the Devils. I wish I could have been at the BAC for tonight's victory, but because of work I had to catch this one on the radio for the first period, then on tv for periods 2 and 3. I was really nervous about this one. New Jersey was one of the hottest teams in the league coming into this game, and their similar style of play compared to the Panthers kind of worried me.

The Panthers put together a solid effort:
-Vokoun was exceptional
-Penalty kill was perfect
-Panthers had a powerplay goal
-Panthers were hitting (hell, even Vokoun hit twice!)
-Offensive contributions from the big guys (Horton, Stillman, Zednik and Weiss)
-Excellent defense

Everything just seemed to click tonight. I thought the second period was a COMPLETE domination by the Panthers. That powerplay goal by Zednik in the 2nd was key. That was a HUGE goal which built up the Panthers' confidence and they never looked back after that. I knew once Horton scored the third goal shortly after that we would likely get a shutout. They looked so confident out there tonight.

Just some observations:
How hot are Horton and Zednik right now?! Horton with 4 goals in his last 5 games, Zednik with those 2 against Toronto, the shootout winner against the Rangers, and now that powerplay goal tonight. I'm glad these guys are heating up, this is the perfect time. We are going to need them to stay hot throughout this stretch and into the playoffs.

The standings are JAM packed! There are now 4 teams with 66 pts, the Cats being one of them, along with Buffalo, New York Rangers, and the Montreal Canadiens. Every point the Panthers can get is crucial.

Vokoun is on FIRE! He has been amazing the past couple of games. Now I remember why we pay him 6 million dollars and why he's our #1 goaltender! I'm sorry I doubted you at the beginning of the season, TVo!

We got a little help out of town, Boston beat Carolina 5-1. Too bad Toronto couldn't beat Buffalo too, but oh well.

I just LOVE listening to Randy Moeller's goal calls on the radio! He's hysterical! Some of his very best:

AHHHH! I'M JUST SO HAPPY RIGHT NOW! With this victory I feel more confident that the Panthers really can compete with the top teams we face in the next couple of games. KEEP IT UP CATS!!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Pre-Game Thoughts: Panthers vs. Devils

Sitting here between classes at FIU I figured I would post some thoughts about tomorrow's upcoming game against the New Jersey Devils.

-We've lost both previous meetings with the Devils. On November 20th the Cats suffered a 3-1 loss against them. Just a few days later on November 26th we lost again in OT 3-2.
Thoughts: Looking at this statistic, the only positive I can dissect from this is that both losses came in the month of November, Cats went 6-5-3 that month and have since then picked up their play, improving to a 12-4-3 record since the beginning of January.

Speaking of this 12-4-3 record since the new year, looking at it made me feel a TINY bit better against our loss to the Caps. Only four regulation losses in 19 games is not bad at all, it's just that the Cats need to get as many points as they can at this point to keep pace with the playoff race. We got a little help last night with Montreal losing to Vancouver and the Sabres losing to the Canes, but we can't count on getting help from other teams losing. Sure, it would help us tremendously if the Islanders were somehow able to beat the Penguins and if the Rangers would lose to the Blues tonight, but the Panthers have to control their own destiny and rack up all the points they can. That's what frustrates me about not being able to at least get a point last night when we very easily could have.

With the tough schedule that lies ahead, the Panthers face the Devils twice, Bruins twice, Chicago, Rangers, and Capitals, all in their next 7 games. Throughout this stretch of games, we will see what the Panthers are really made of and what their playoff hopes and chances really are.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

K.O.'ed by A.O.

When I saw that red light go off behind Vokoun as Alex Ovechkin scored with 2 and half minutes left in the 3rd period, I knew it was over. The Panthers were unable to even get one point out of today's game. This game was extremely frustrating for me to watch. As I sat there in my seat at the game after Ovechkin scored that goal, I could not figure out what pissed me off more: 1)Knowing that we could have and SHOULD have won this game if it weren't for our abysmal powerplay OR 2)Knowing that if the Panthers had just been able to hang on for only two more minutes that we would've at least come out of this one with a point. Seriously... 1 for 8 on the powerplay? The Panthers seriously need to improve this statistic if they want to advance once they're in the playoffs. I felt optimistic earlier in the game when the Cats tied it up at 2-2 from a 2-0 deficit, but Ovechkin is just unstoppable. His drive and passion for the game is amazing. If only the Panthers had a clutch player like that. A finisher.

I hope the Cats are able to just shake this one off and re-focus for Tuesday's game against the Devils. That one's not going to be easy either, New Jersey is one of the hottest teams in the league right now. Cats got a little help out of town so far tonight. The Hurricanes beat the Sabres, so that stops Buffalo from leaping over us and the Rangers lost to Philadelphia. Hopefully Montreal loses to Vancouver later on tonight.

Pre-Game Thoughts: Panthers vs Caps

In a few hours I'll be taking off to the BAC to watch this afternoon's matchup between the Washington Capitals and the Florida Panthers. I have to admit, I'm quite nervous about this one. The Capitals kind of intimidate me this season. If the Panthers can come out of this one with 2 points, I'll be ecstatic! I hope the Cats end Green's scoring streak. He just set a record for defensemen by scoring in 8 consecutive games in Tampa Bay last night. This is a streak I would LOVE to see the Cats end. Carolina lost last night against the Blue Jackets, and Pittsburgh lost as well, so we got a little help out of town. That's all for now, I'll be back with post game thoughts and photos later tonight.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Panthers Won A Shootout?!

A shootout win? Who? THE PANTHERS?!

Last night's dramatic shootout win was worth way more than the price I paid for my seats in section 122. As usual in any Panthers vs. Rangers game at the BAC, there was a huge crowd in attendance with plenty of Rangers fans there. Last night I felt that there was about a 70:30 ratio of Panther fans to Rangers fans as opposed to the usual 50:50 ratio during the holidays. I had the pleasure of sitting behind 4 drunk, hilarious Panther fans seemingly having a "guys night out". To my right I had an obnoxious Rangers fan (of course) and his girlfriend, but I didn't mind, it makes it more fun to sit next to those loudmouth fans, especially when your team is the one that wins in the end of it all. Watching the first period was frustrating. The Panthers had so many opportunities but Lundquvist was able to stop all the Panthers' shots during the first period. The only goal of the first period was Fredrik Sjostrom's goal for the Rangers, which he scored by jamming at Tomas Vokoun's leg until it went in. Shortly after, Gregory Campbell got into a fight with Dubinsky and each got 5 minute majors. Those were the only penalties of the first period. Two and a half minutes into the 2nd period, Frolik was able to get a slap shot past Lundqvist, tying the game at 1-1. Boynton was called for an instigator penalty, a 5 minute fighting major, and a 10 minute misconduct after his fight with Paul Mara. 17 minutes of penalties just because he stuck up for a fellow teammate was WAY too harsh in my opinion. Apparently the rest of the Panther fans at the BAC agreed because once the penalties were announced, the crowd erupted with BOOOOs. I noticed that the 4 drunk Panther fans in front of me were missing for most of the 2nd period. They returned early in the 3rd period with 3 Panthers Ice Dancer calendars and a hockey stick. One of the guys turned around to us and told us that his friend won all that free stuff. I asked him how and he said that his friend went to go use the restroom and a tube must have broken or something because he got splashed a lot of water when he flushed, so he complained to customer service and they gave him all that free stuff. He handed us one of the Ice Dancers calendars and told us to keep it. There was no scoring in the third period, but David Booth was called for a marginal hooking penalty late in the 3rd. The Panthers were able to kill it off and we were headed to OT. OT went by, no penalties were called, and at the end of those 5 minutes I thought "Great, a shootout. We're done. Oh well, at least we got a point." The crowd at the BAC was on their feet. The Panthers selected to shoot first. Lundqvist was able to top Stillman, Horton and Weiss. Vokoun was able to stop Naslund, Dawes, and Callahan. For the 4th round of the shootout, Zednik was up to shoot and.. HE SCORED! We began cheering so loud, and our drunk friends turned around for the high-fives. All Vokoun had to do was stop the last Rangers shooter and the Panthers would win and get the 2nd point in the standings. I covered my mouth and nose with my hands as I watched him start skating towards Vokoun. He took the shot, Vokoun made the save! I started jumping up and down, giving high fives, and screaming as the Panther fans at the BAC erupted with cheers while the Rangers fans walked towards the exit.

Just when you thought the Panthers had done the impossible by coming back from a 4-1 deficit against the Leafs and shutting out the Hurricanes 5-0 in Raleigh just the night before, they topped it yet again.... THE PANTHERS FINALLY WON A SHOOTOUT!!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Roaring through Raleigh

The Panthers took the Carolina Hurricanes by storm last night. I can't really say I was expecting things to turn out the way they did given the Panthers' record when playing at the RBC in Raleigh, NC. I remember thinking before the game started "This will probably be a really close one, it should be playoff-like." So, I turn on the game and watch the Panthers score first. Nathan Horton on a practically empty-net. I was glad, but I figured it was just luck. A few minutes later, Zednik scores. Florida is up 2-0 after the first period. I didn't want to be TOO optimistic, after all the Panthers have blown many leads in Raleigh before. Finally, the second period started and the Panthers start off taking penalties. I knew they were coming, the Panthers get calls o' plenty, especially against the Hurricanes. Vokoun came up BIG! He made some remarkable saves during the penalty kill and throughout the duration of the entire game. Then, all of a sudden, the Cats score two goals in 12 seconds. One by Anthony Stewart, the other by Gregory Campbell. I could not help but yell out "WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!" Even my sister came into my room to ask me what was going on! I started laughing and told her "CHECK THIS OUT! We're wrecking the Carolina Hurricanes!! I felt relieved and more comfortable now that the Cats had a 4-0 lead. Shortly afterward, Frolik scores to make it 5-0! At this point my sister and I were laughing and "WHOOOO-ing" at the same time. By the time the 3rd period rolled around all I kept hoping for was a shutout for Vokoun. He deserved one, and the Panthers got it!