« March 2009 | Main | May 2009 »

38 posts from April 2009

April 30, 2009

Congrats to Richard Zednik ... Goodbye to Richard Zednik

Zednik Just got off a plane and got a number of interesting bits of news regarding Richard Zednik.

First off, Zednik is one of three finalists for the Masterton Award along with Chris Chelios and Steve Sullivan. After what Zednik went through last year, you have to think he's going to win this thing.

Of course, the NHL may not give it to a player no longer in their league. I kid, of course. I know I voted for him.

According to the team's official website (which I had to have translated), Zednik is now a former member of the Florida Panthers as he has signed a contract with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the KHL in Russia.

In two seasons with the Panthers, Zednik played in 124 games, scoring 32 goals with 27 goals.

But he'll forever be known for that night in Buffal when he was struck in the neck by teammate Olli Jokinen's skate. The incident happened on Feb. 10, 2008, and Zednik almost lost his life. Doctors on the scene and at Buffalo General saved his life, and Zednik returned to the Panthers in the summer primed for a big season. He didn't really get one, but he had a solid season.

Here's what I wrote when he was nominated for the Masterton Award on April 1:

Florida winger Richard Zednik has been selected by the Florida chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association as the team's nominee for the annual Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for his perseverance in returning to the ice after a horrific injury on Feb. 10, 2008.

Zednik, who sustained a severed carotid artery after being accidentally cut by teammate Olli Jokinen's skate, missed the end of the 2007-08 season but returned this season. Zednik scored in the second period of Tuesday's game, his 200th career goal.

''I'm pretty surprised, I can't believe it,'' Zednik said Tuesday morning. ``It's a great honor to be nominated for a trophy. We'll see what happens. It's a nice surprise.''


The Panthers have never had a player win the Masterton, an award given annually to the NHL player who ''best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.'' The award honors the late Bill Masterton, a player for the Minnesota North Stars who died on Jan. 15, 1968, as a result of an on-ice injury. The award will be given out at the 2009 NHL Awards show June 18 in Las Vegas.

''Until your are in a situation like that, you don't know how you would react,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. 'You could make a pretty good case for saying, `I made enough money.' He'd be able to put his feet up, enjoy his wife and kids and call it a career. I give him all the credit in the world. He jumped right back in the fire.''

Added Zednik: ``I never had a question that I wouldn't come back. I was even more eager to come back and prove I could still play the way I was playing before.''

April 25, 2009

The NHL on NBC -- Watch Along With Tortorella!

Gatorade Quick update from the NHL: John Tortorella has been suspended one game for his actions in Friday night's game at Verizon Center in Washington.

Torts threw a water bottle into the crowd after he apparently got doused in some kind of liquid (probably beer). The NHL is saying Torts squirted a fan with water before he himself got doused.

He then grabbed a stick and tried jousting with an unruly Washington chap who probably wasn't using the Queen's English at the time.

Torts will miss Sunday's game at Madison Square Garden.

Here's the NHL's official release. I have to get back to writing basketball.

The National Hockey League announced today that New York Rangers coach John Tortorella has been suspended for one game
for squirting a fan with water and throwing a water bottle that struck a
fan during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarter-Final Series with the
Washington Capitals Apr. 24 in Washington.

The incident occurred 6:33 into the third period.

“While it is a difficult decision to suspend a coach at this point in
a Playoff Series, it has been made clear to all of our Players, Coaches and
other bench personnel that the National Hockey League cannot—and will not –
tolerate any physical contact with fans,” said NHL Senior Executive Vice
President and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell.

“We do not take this action lightly. It is the result of an entire day of investigation and
evaluation that included the retrieval and review of videotape of the
incident and discussions with Mr. Tortorella, other Rangers’ bench
personnel and a number of other people, including the security personnel at
the Verizon Center.

“That investigation revealed that Mr. Tortorella squirted a fan with
water before Mr. Tortorella was doused with a beverage.

“While, in these circumstances, it always is easy to allege
mitigating circumstances, the fact is we do not tolerate contact with our
fans in this manner. That is communicated before each season in a memo that
is issued by the League to all of the management, coaches and players of
every team.

“The Sept. 8, 2008, memo entitled, ‘SUPPLEMENTARY DISCIPLINE
REMINDERS FOR THE 2008-09 SEASON,’ included the following section regarding
Contact With Fans:

Even where a fan is verbally abusive, intoxicated, or profane,
personnel should either ignore the conduct or, where appropriate,
seek the
assistance of police or security personnel at the arena.

This prohibition extends to all forms of physical contact,
whether it be direct
physical contact, the throwing of objects (including hockey sticks
and other
equipment), or even the squirting of water. While the latter form of
conduct may
have, in the past, seemed to be of a minor or harmless character,
such conduct
may serve only to incite and provoke an unruly fan and may ultimately
lead to
unforeseen consequences.

Accordingly, please be on notice that all Club personnel
(management, coaches, trainers, and/or players) who engage in any
form of physical contact with fans, including the squirting of water,
will, on a going forward basis, be subject to discipline in the form
of a suspension. The Club involved will also be subject to a fine.

The suspension was issued pursuant to the Commissioner's authority
under Section 6.3(j)(1)(a) of the NHL Constitution. Tortorella will miss
the Rangers’ next game – tomorrow afternoon vs. Washington

Philadelphia Phailure: Flyers Down and Now Out

Crosbyflyers How everyone was anticipating a Game 7 in Pittsburgh.

It was early in the second period of Game 6 and the Flyers were in command, taking a 3-0 lead on their hated rivals from the west. City of Brotherly Love? Not in this case pal.

Then, the Penguins woke up. Maxime Talbot took on Dan Carcillo in a nice little brawl leading to a Ruslan Fedotenko goal off a Evgeni Malkin rebound that set off another fight.

The Penguins were officially awake.

Pittsburgh scores four more unanswered goals and leave Philly stunned, winning the decisive sixth game 5-3 as Sir Sidney got an empty net to finish the deal.

So what next for Philly? They have two UFA goalies in Martin Biron and Antero Niittymaki, the two of them making about $5 million combined this season.

You think the Flyers are in the market for a starting goaltender? I think they just might be. So where does Philly go? Well, Florida has a starter in Tomas Vokoun who is probably in play. You have to think the Panthers will talk to Philly about a deal. JM the GM certainly knows what Philly would have to offer considering he spent so much time at the trade deadline scouting them out in the Jay Bouwmeester Deal That Never Happened.

Does Philly want Vokoun? I don't know. I do think the Panthers would talk to anyone interested though.

Florida, in their perfect world, could swing a deal for Vokoun (which will be tough considering he makes $5.7 next year, then when the cap goes down in 2010-11, his contract goes up to $6.3) before July 1 enabaling them to make a deal with Craig Anderson before he goes all UFA.

Of course, the Panthers may just want to keep what they've got. TVo wasn't perfect last season, but he's still a top goalie who can carry the load. Last year's struggles may be the impetus to him spending one heck of an offseason in an effort to come back better than ever.

One thing that may keep Anderson from making all the money he thinks he's entitled to this offseason since there will be competition. Andy proved he deserves a shot at being a No. 1 goalie somewhere (and again, that could be here), but so did Scott Clemmensen in New Jersey. Someone just might give him a shot over Anderson based on what he did when Martin Brodeur was out.

We shall see how this plays out, obviously. But don't be surprised to see the Flyers out on the goalie market. And don't be surprised if one of Florida's goalies from last season ends up in the Keystone State.

-- Been a while since I've been to a Heat game, but they have advertising hanging from the rafters. Don't let Michael Yormark see that or that Celine Dion banner might be toast! Just kidding Michael. Kind of.

Fun in the District: Fine for Tortorella? ... Huge Game in Philly ...

Torts3 Here's Rangers coach John Tortorella in happier times, coaching the Lighting, doing the Miami 'U' gesture with his hands.

Last night, old Torts wasn't real happy.

Not only did his team play like dreck in a 4-0 pasting to the host Capitals, but the Rangers' coach got into a bit of an altercation with a fan. Tortorella apparently got doused with beer or water from the stands and decided to fight back with a water bottle and a stick. Fun, fun stuff.

I don't expect Torts to be suspended for this, but his check will be a little lighter this week after the commissioner gets through with some deductions.

-- I love Tortorella's fire and passion, but I am real glad I don't have to cover him on a daily basis. The guy benches Sean Avery for Game 5 and refuses to discuss why. Then, he gets into it with a fan and won't talk about it. This guy never talks about anything ''but the game.'' But then you ask him stuff about the game, and he won't talk about it.

Tough guy to deal with, but the NY writers knew that going in.

Kind of like dealing with Pete DeBoer. Geez, what a pain that is.

Just kidding.

-- Anyone else excited about a Game 6 in this series at MSG? I know I can't wait to watch this one play out.

-- Big game in Philadelphia today; can the Flyers stay alive and force a Game 7? Of course they can. Just depends on if they get another big game out of Martin Biron -- who shut out the Pens @ the Igloo the other night.

-- Don't forget to follow along at Twitter this Panthers offseason/NHL Stanley Cup playoff time. Feel free to jump into the fun and frivolity that Twitter has to offer. Actually, I'm still trying to figure out what it's all about.


April 24, 2009

Times Set for Playoff Finales ... Hoops and Hockey

Flav The NHL has come up with the starting times for the remaining first round playoff games, getting rid of all those pesky TBA's that we who like to plan hate so much.

Carolina will play host to New Jersey for Game 6 of that series on Sunday at 7:30. A Game 7, if needed, would be played in Newark on Tuesday at 7:30.

A possible Game 7 of the Pitt-Philly series would be Monday at 7 at the Igloo.

Game 6 in Calgary will by at 9:30 MT (Miami Time) on Monday, with Game 7 back in Chicago on Wednesday at 9.

Game 6 in Anaheim (if necessary, and based on how San Jose looked last night, it won't be) will be Monday at 10:30.

If the Capitals can force a Game 7, they'll play host to the Rangers at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. I, for one, am hoping for this.

-- For those of you looking for a Heat fix, I'll be covering the Miami basketball bunch through the rest of this playoff series.

I would invite you to visit 'On Frozen Pond: Miami Heat Edition' right here. Hope the Heat ice the puck a few times.

Anyone know where I can find the Heat's power play statistics?

-- Big game tonight on the tube; the Capitals play host to the Rangers at 7 on, well, you know where.

April 23, 2009

Versus Getting it Right? ... Panthers on World Stage ... News, Notes ... Goalie Night, Save for in Columbus ... Mad Marty Makes 44 Saves; The Other Marty (Biron) Makes 28

Oln Have to give credit where it's due and it looks like tonight could be a good night for Versus and the Comcast bunch. Yes there are a lot of games going at once tonight, and it appears Versus is going to try and show as much of them as they can.

They didn't do that on Tuesday when the schedule was really jam packed. So good for them for trying to fix it.

During the second break, the Versus bunch took us live to Newark, then showed Detroit/C-Bus highlights. They say they are going to head to Newark and follow the game ''to conclusion'' after the Flyers/Pens game. Wish they would have stuck with Tuesday's game ''to conclusion.''

Had an electronic conversation with a few Versus people after Tuesday's posts, and while I agree they cover the playoff better than ESPN did back in the day (I do appreciate the bonus games broadcast by TSN/CBC), they should. They have nothing else to show. We, as a sports viewing public, are spoiled these days. We expect coverage of other games when the games you decide to show go to break or are over. Not everyone has Center Ice. If they did, you wouldn't need to put games on Versus in the first place.

-- I was having problems with my NHL.com online viewing account that has since been fixed. Thought they were blacking everything out. Not the case. I am happy now. Thanks tech support.

Great games in C-Bus and Newark, Delaware. Been enjoying them all online.

-- The Panthers, as usual, will be well represented at the World Championships.

Keith Ballard will be playing for Team USA after David Booth and Craig Anderson said thanks, but no thanks.

No one will be playing for Team Canada after Jay Bouwmeester said no and Stephen Weiss needs surrgery.

Michael Frolik and Rostislav Olesz will be playing for Team Czech, with Karlis Skrastins playing for Latvia. Janis Sprukts used to play for the Panthers, but he doesn't anymore. He's also playing for Latvia.

-- See, this is why the only hockey bets I make are the $1.50 variety with Steve X. during the season: The Hockey News' Adam Proteau said earlier in the year that the Blue Jackets wouldn't make the playoffs. Well, they did. And there he is.

-- Got this cool video from Puck Daddy: Carey Price says goodbye to the Montreal fans...

-- Roberto Luongo is happy to be getting some rest. Dude does deserve it.

-- Um, how good has Olli Jokinen looked the past two games for the Flames? Yes, he didn't score in Ollicalgary Game 3, but he played a real strong game. Then he got two last night for the winner. Strong No. 12, strong.

-- Olli Jokinen doesn't wear No. 12 in Calgary? Ha! I suppose you're going to tell me Todd Bertuzzi got rid of his No. 44 too.

Bert2 -- Yes, that was only an excuse to use another Bert picture. Been too long.

-- The Globe and Mail says there is strong pressure to put a second team in Toronto on land near the TO airport (and thereby close to the horsey track). 

The NHL says don't get too ahead of yourself.

"There is no consideration of bringing a second franchise to Toronto," the league said in a statement. "We have no intention to expand in the foreseeable future, and there is no desire to relocate any of our existing franchises."

-- That arena site may or may not be close to Woodbine. I have no clue. The only time I ever go out that way is to a) go to the airport and b) go to the horsey track.

Horseymachine -- Ever play the horsey machine in Las Vegas? It's been so long since I've been out there don't even know if anyone has it. But it's cool.

So bad it's cool. 

Seriously addictive. Like Vegas itself.

-- From a friend named Luke (who never goes out anymore):

They have it at Casino de Montreal, on the third floor, up against the wall behind the craps tables.

Sincerely, your source for everything hockey, gambling and Montreal..

-- Al Strachan says Jacques Martin's job is still in danger. OK.

Here's what he writes on Fox Sports:

Florida: Whispers continue to circulate that GM Jacques Martin is in trouble because he lost Jay Bouwmeester and missed the playoffs. One of those circumstances might have been acceptable but not both. Technically, Bouwmeester won't be lost until at least July 1, but no one expects him to return to Florida. Expectations for Martin are not much higher.

-- A lot of people don't like the Tampa Bay Lightning's management. Including Bob Gainey. Join the club Bob.

-- Looks like all those Columbus fans can go back to preparing for college football season as the Red Wings move on with a sweep of the Blue Jackets. Hey, congrats to the Blue Jackets and their fans for making it to the big dance. They had a nice run, but it's Detroit. They are a machine when they want to be.

Your final from Nationwide: 6-5 Detroit.

Belle Tire.

-- Got to love Philly's resolve. Lost two in Pitt, split one of two at home, then go to Pitt and win Game 5. Solid. They have a chance now. Martin Biron is solid in net, makes 28 saves for the win.

-- How about a little love for Martin Brodeur and the Devils? Brodeur makes 44 saves and beats Cam Ward's 41 saves as the Devils are now a win away from moving on. Devils win 1-0, go back to Raleigh with a 3-2 series lead. Lets hope this one goes back to Newark. Fun series.

April 22, 2009

Sharktown: San Jose's Big Win ... Vancouver Moves On ... Carolina Loses It, Wins It ... PENSylvania

Sharks Huge win for the San Jose Sharks tonight, the West's (so-called) Best bouncing back from losing two straight at home to winning in Anaheim tonight in Game 3.

The Sharks, like the Washington Capitals before them, have new life. Once more, this is a series that's a long way from being done.

Anaheim did a lot of good things in the first two games, and also did a lot tonight. The Sharks scored, Anaheim answered. But San Jose had a little something extra tonight.

This one is going to be a battle to the end, although you have to think Anaheim still has the edge. The Ducks have done this before, and they still have home ice. Anaheim can win Game 4 in SoCal, lose in San Jose and take Game 6 in the O.C. Should be a real good series.

-- Congrats to the Vancouver Luongos for their sweep of St. Louis in the opening round. The Cancuks won tonight in OT and are the first team to move into hockey's Elite Eight. Roberto Luongo, well, he was the difference. As if we hadn't heard that before.

-- Carolina blows a 3-0 lead to visiting New Jersey, only to get a goal with .02 seconds left to beat the Devils 4-3. Martin Brodeur didn't like that he got beat, but, he did. Like a rented goalie, not the Hall of Famer that he is. Marty, relax; you're heading back to Newark tied 2-2.

-- Looks like the Pens are going to rule the Keystone State once more. Philadelphia fans? At least you got the Phillies.

April 21, 2009

How to Fix Versus? Hire Charles Barkley

Barkleypumpkin Instead of going live to the Vancouver-St. Louis overtime game during the first intermission of tonight's late game, your Comcraptastic crew went to the studio.

Where they showed old highlights of the Vancouver-St. Louis game and had their always exciting in-studio crew tell you the game was in overtime.

Then we went to an ad for ATVs, fertilizer and an in-house NHL ad.

Then back to the studio for more fantastic analysis.

Just bad. For a network with everything available to them, they seem to hit the fail button more often than not.

Maybe TNT would be interested in picking up hockey coverage.

Ten bucks says Charles Barkley would do a better job than this.

Need a deal on gold dollar coins? If so, Versus is your place.

-- At least when Vancouver won in overtime to sweep the series, they did a 'Game Break' to let everyone know something happened of note. So congrats for that.

Soto One thing right this night (save for the Dave Strader/Billy Jaffe/Christine Simpson trifecta and the Lindsay Soto 'coverup' during the second period bench interview) was better than none.

It's Craptastic: NHL on Versus

Nhlfox Anyone else had enough of Versus' coverage of the NHL postseason?

How is it that they pull away from a 3-3 game in Carolina to open a game in Anaheim that wasn't going to start for another 30 minutes? How about skipping the exciting finish in Raleigh for yet another viewing of an Esurance commercial we all know by heart?

In case you missed it, which I'm sure many of you did, the Hurricanes took Game 4 by scoring against the Devils with .02 seconds left.

What was Versus showing? Who cares. It sure wasn't hockey. Heck, they weren't even showing a tied game in St. Louis.

The NHL kowtows to Versus so much it isn't even funny.

It sure as hell isn't deserved.

The managers at the Quarterdeck in Sunrise seem to have as much knowledge about the NHL than those Comcast folks who run Versus.

At least the guys at Quarterdeck change the channel every once in a while, and yeah, they show a game other than one involving the Penguins.

Shame on the NHL for letting this happen night after night after night. Your fans deserve better (and that statement goes to the NHL; Versus has no fans. Nor good spots on the dial save for the gifts handed out from their parent cable network - which sucks Comcastically.)

Where was the Detroit-Columbus game? The entire Carolina-New Jersey series?

Oh yes, I forgot the Comcast-owned Flyers had to be shown on the Comcast-owned 'national' network.

Good thing there wasn't a bull rodeo coming up after the Pens/Flyers game or no one would have seen Carolina's awesome goal just before time expired.

The NHL needs to get off this crummy network pronto.

That said, Versus has Anaheim-San Jose coming up next. Unless the third period gets preempted by a fishing show.

Let's hope the bass aren't biting tonight.

April 20, 2009

What Should Have Been: Monday Night Hockey in Sunrise ... Louie, Louie ... Choking in the Shark Tank

Bruinsign Had a nice lunch with Randy 'Ma! The Meatloaf!' Moller today at the old QD. We talked a little hockey. Talked about what should have been.

A hockey game at The Billboard tonight.

Yes, tonight would have been Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals with the Panthers playing host to the Bruins. Montreal, as everyone knows, finished with the same record as the Panthers and won the tiebreaker for eighth by winning three of four against Florida this season.

Panbruins So, the Canadiens deserved to beat out the Panthers. But the way Montreal is playing tells me they really don't care that they're in the playoffs or not.

That probably changes tonight when the Habs return home, but it may not either. This team is running on empty and could possibly be swept out of the playoffs.

Way to celebrate 100 seasons.

-- Since I don't have to be at the arena tonight, I'm going golfing. See you all tomorrow.

(*) Playoff meeting at Quarterdeck tonight for those interested. We'll have the 7 p.m. Versus game (Washington/Rangers) on as well as the Montreal/Boston game. Then at 9:30, it's Chicago @ Calgary. Will also have various baseball games on the big screens, including Marlins/Pirates at 7. Come one, come all...

-- As we expected, Boston will be without Milan Lucic tonight as he was suspended for one game after crosschecking Maxim Lapierre Saturday night in Boston.

-- St. Louis gets an early goal on Roberto Luongo, but give up two in the second and one in the third and lose Game 3 at home and are now in a 0-3 hole to the Canucks in that first round series. Could see the Blues win Game 4, but the Canucks are taking this one and moving on. St. Loo is now 1-17 on the power play in this series. Who's coaching that power play, Mike Keenan?

-- Speaking of Calgary, they are desperate for a win tonight at the Saddledome. JokiKeenans are in an 0-2 hole to the Blackhawks and need to get a win, you know, for the effort. Here is some up-to-date Calgary news and notes.

-- So what to make of the San Jose Sharks? Usually they wait until the second round to bow out. Now the Sharks are down 0-2, the top-seeded team in the league losing both at home. Last night, the Ducks took a 3-1 lead before Jonathan Cheechoo scored 37 seconds later to cut the deficit back to one. But San Jose couldn't come any closer, and it lost its second straight in the series -- now, they're off to SoCal.

And give credit where it's due: Brian Burke.

-- Alex Ovechkin tries to tick off John Tortorella as he watches Rangers morning skate from the Caps bench. No. 8 is asked to leave.

Ovechkin probably ought to worry less about Torts and more about scoring some goals. Ovechkin has no goals against the Rangers, although he's taken 19 shots.

April 19, 2009

On the Brink: Washington Capitals in T-R-O-U-B-L-E ... Bounce Back Hawks ... NBA Especial: On Frozen Poll

Capsdown Good afternoon everyone, thanks for checking back. Been unavailable the past few days because I was in Tampa helping out a friend, but I'm back in the 954 and ready to talk a little hockey.

Thanks for understanding.

Anyway, been away but have been watching the games. Impressed with the bounce back of the Blackhawks (not so much the complaining of Mike Keenan), digging the Canucks and thinking my Cup pick of a Red Wings repeat wasn't a bad one. Detroit really needs to finish Columbus off quickly, in my opinion, but I don't think that will happen. Well, they'll be going back to Motown. I think C-bus wins one at home, leaving the Wings to win the series at home.

Oh, and how good do the Bruins look? Or is it that Montreal just sucks really bad? Honestly, the Canadiens look awful and, I know this sounds funny coming from a Florida hockey writer, but the Habs don't deserve to be here. They lost four straight to back into the playoffs and are looking like a team that should be playing golf right now.

The Panthers, in my opinion, would lose to Boston in 5 or 6, but would have put up a better show than this. We'll see what Montreal is made of when the series goes north, but I don't think they have anything left.

And you have to give credit to the Rangers for really turning their fortunes around. Since beating Montreal on March 7, New York has won five straight -- including the first two games of its series in Washington. On the Panthers final day at the arena, I went around asking guys who they liked in this series. Almost all of them picked the Rangers because of the goaltending issue. Henrik Lundqvist could save the Rangers; Jose Theodore could cost the Capitals.

Well, in Game 1, that's what happened. Lundqvist survived a hard-charging Caps team in the first and lifts the Rangers to a 4-3 win. Theodore gives up four stoppable goals, and in a surprise, is lifted for Game 2 in favor of 20-year-old rook Simeon Varlamov. On Saturday, the Rangers took Game 2 in D.C., going back to NY with a 2-0 lead and complete control of this series. Even last year, the fresh-faced Caps at least got one win at home before going on the road.

Bruce Boudreau made a big move in pulling his starting goalie after one bad start in the playoffs. Say what you want, but Theodore put Boudreau in this situation. I don't think the coach should have panicked so quickly, but Theodore has shown no reason why he should be trusted he could come back either.

"Like I said the day before, I didn't see that coming, to be honest," Theodore told The Washington Post's Tarik El-Basir about getting the hook.

"As one thing through my career that no one could take away was I was always a fighter and able to bounce back through big challenges. And for me, that was a big challenge. But I didn't have a chance to bounce back because I didn't play."

Game 3 in tomorrow in NY, and the pressure is squarely on the Caps and their offensive stars. The Capitals have enough weapons to get back in this thing, and I don't think for one second that the series is over. Alexander Ovechkin could get rolling and Mike Green could start putting some pucks in and whomever is in goal (Varlamov gave up one yesterday but do you put the 20-year-old into a must-win at the Garden?) needs to make some stops.

The Rangers aren't a bunch of worldbeaters, but they are playing well right now, playing together. And Lundqvist is awesome. But the Caps can get back in this thing. They just better hurry up.

-- If you haven't done so, visit El-Bashir's Capitals Insiders site. Chock full of good Caps stuff. Would be remiss if I also didn't point out Corey Masisak's site @ The Washington Times. The Caps are well covered. And smothered.

-- Got to like the way Chicago has handled the postseason pressure. Sure, the home team is expected to go up 2-0, but the Blackhawks have been able to win two straight over the JokiKeenans by showing some real resiliency. In Game 1, the Hawks are down 2-1 after Mike Cammalleri scores early in the third, but Martin Havlat scored late to tie it then puts one past Kipper 12 seconds into overtime for the win.

Last night, the Hawks were down 2-0 but stormed back by getting three goals in the second period and held on for another 3-2 win. Jonathan Toews was the hero this time, getting the first and third goals for a Chicago team flying high as it heads to Calgary.

For some good Chicago info, check out Chris Kuk's site @ The Chicago Tribune. When I want Flames news, I go to Flames Insider.

-- Big game today in Philly as the Flyers try to get back in this series with the Pens. Game time @ 3 p.m. on NBC.

-- TSN says sources tell them that Paul Kariya will not play for the Blues tonight when they play host to the Luongos.

-- The Bs could be without Milan Lucic for a game or two after he crosschecked Maxim Lapierre last night. He's got a meeting with Gregory Campbell's dad today.

-- South Florida's other winter team makes its playoff debut tonight as the Heat visit Atlanta at 7:30 on Sunshine Network. Your thoughts on the Heat's postseason chances below as we offer a bonus On Frozen Poll!

Also, thanks to all who took part in our last poll (regarding the Panthers' logo in the urinal). Very popular poll, with votes coming from throughout North America, with votes coming in from Brazil, Israel, France, Germany, Finland, South Korea and even India. Not too late to vote. Most people think it was disrespectful, FYI....

April 15, 2009

The Road to Lord Stanley's Cup Starts Tonight

Staneycupcar The NHL's second season kicks off tonight in rinks around North America, although for the second straight spring, the Sunshine State will not be part of the party.

Oh well. We'll have our own party. Come on by the Sawgrass Quarterdeck tonight and we'll all watch some hockey.

Four games on tonight, and three of them will be going on around the same time.

Philadelphia and Pittsburgh square off in a rematch of the 2008 east finals at 7, with the Capitals and the Rangers going at the same time (don't worry; they have lots of TVs). At 7:30, we have Carolina and New Jersey, with Vancouver and the surprising Blues going at 10.

Here are my picks for the first round, feel free to make fun of them and offer your own picks in the comment section.

-- Boston/Montreal: Bruins in 5
-- Washington/Rangers: Caps in 7
-- New Jersey/Carolina: Hurricanes in 6
-- Pittsburgh/Philadelphia: Penguins in 7
-- San Jose/Anaheim: Sharks in 7
-- Detroit/Columbus: Red Wings in 6
-- Vancouver/St. Louis: Canucks in 6
-- Chicago/Calgary: Blackhawks in 7


-- Craig MacTavish is out in Edmonton, so says Rogers Sportsnet...

-- Got this from PuckDaddy: Detroit giving Columbus fan club discount to games in Motown...

-- Olli Jokinen hits the playoffs...

-- Dan Cleary back for the Wings....

-- Martin Brodeur is well rested....good for him....

-- The Flyers have some leaders, eh...

2008-09 PLAYOFF PREVIEW (series that start on Wednesday)


-- (2) Washington Capitals vs. (7) New York Rangers

-- Season Series: Capitals won three of four, with the Rangers winning the final meeting on Feb. 11.

-- Recent postseason history: Washington won the Southeast Division for the second straight year, the Caps being knocked out in the first round last season. The Rangers beat New Jersey in the opening round before losing in the east semifinals.

-- What to Watch: The Capitals secured the second seed in the east with a win in Tampa last week. Led by Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green, Washington has plenty of firepower and can score plenty of goals. Which they just might have to do with the leaky Jose Theodore between the pipes. New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist is strong enough to carry the Rangers to an upset. Rangers won 12 of 21 since John Tortorella (who coached Tampa to the Cup in 2004) took over for Tom Renney.

-- Schedule -- Wednesday: @ Washington, 7; Saturday: @ Washington, 1 (NBC); Monday: @ Rangers, 7 (Vs.); April 22: @ Rangers, 7 (Vs.); April 24*: @ Washington, 7 (Vs.); April 26*: @ Rangers, 2 (NBC); April 28*: @ Washington, 7 (Vs.)

-- Prediction: Capitals in 7.

-- (3) New Jersey Devils vs. (6) Carolina Hurricanes

-- Season Series: Carolina won three of four, with the Devils winning the final meeting 3-2 on April 11.

-- Recent postseason history: Carolina is back in the playoffs for the first time since winning the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals. New Jersey was knocked out of the opening round in 2008 by the Rangers.

-- What to Watch: The rejuvenated Hurricanes storm into the postseason, with 2006 Conn Smythe winner Cam Ward winning 10 of 13 games in March and 14 of his final 20 games this season. Carolina is tough to beat in Raleigh, the Canes winning a franchise record 12 straight before losing to Buffalo in the final week. The loss to Buffalo also snapped a nine-game winning streak, Carolina's longest since 2006. New Jersey struggled in March, but finished strong by winning four of its final six games. If goalie Martin Brodeur is on, the Devils have a chance each and every night.

-- Schedule – Wednesday: @ New Jersey, 7:30; Friday: @ New Jersey, 7:30; Sunday: @ Carolina, 7:30; April 21: @ Carolina, 7:30; April 23*: @ New Jersey, 7:30; April 26*: @ Carolina, TBA (Vs.); April 28*: @ New Jersey, 7:30

--Prediction: Carolina in 6.

-- (4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (5) Philadelphia Flyers

-- Season series: Penguins won four of six with Flyers winning last meeting on March 22.

-- Recent postseason history: These two met in the 2008 Eastern Conference Finals, the first time the two Pennsylvania rivals met in the finals. The Penguins won and lost to Detroit in the Stanley Cup Finals.

-- What to Watch: The Flyers are one of the top offensive teams in the league, with Jeff Carter, Jeffrey Lupul, Simon Gagne and Mike Knuble combining for 15 goals in six games against the Penguins. Philadelphia will go with Martin Biron in net, hoping he matches last season's postseason success. The Pens were out of the postseason talk until Dan Bylsma came up from the minors to take over behind the bench, with defenseman Sergei Goncar returning helping out. The Pens have plenty of firepower and good defense. This could be a team back in the Finals.

-- Schedule – Wednesday: @ Pittsburgh, 7 (Vs.); Friday: @ Pittsburgh, 7 (Vs.); Sunday: @ Philadelphia, 3 (NBC); April 21: @ Philadelphia, 7 (Vs.); April 23*: @ Pittsburgh, 7 (Vs.); April 25*: @ Philadelphia, 3 (NBC); April 27*: @ Pittsburgh, TBA (Vs.)

-- Prediction: Pittsburgh in 7.


-- (3) Vancouver Canucks vs. (6) St. Louis Blues

-- Season series: Teams split four game series, St. Louis winning 4-2 on March 26.

-- Recent postseason history: Vancouver advanced to the second round in the west two seasons ago before losing to eventual champion Anaheim. St. Louis is in the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

-- What to Watch: The Blues are one of the best stories in hockey, St. Louis storming through the season's final month to make the playoffs for the first time in years. St. Louis, the west's second-worst team in 2007-08, won nine of 11 after losing to Vancouver on March 19. Vancouver is back in the playoffs after missing out in 2008, with goalie Roberto Luongo hoping to improve on 2007's five-game exit in Round 2 against the Ducks. The Canucks don't have much playoff experience, but adding Mats Sundin helped. Vancouver took advantage of Calgary's late-season swoon to pull into third in the west by capturing the Pacific Division.

-- Schedule – Wednesday: @ Vancouver, 10 (Vs.); Friday: @ Vancouver, 10 (Vs.); Sunday: @ St. Louis, 7 (Vs.); April 21: @ St. Louis, 8 (Vs.); April 24*: @ Vancouver, 10 (Vs.); April 26*: @ St. Louis, 8 (Vs.); April 28*: @ Vancouver, TBA (Vs.)

-- Prediction: Vancouver in 6.


April 13, 2009

LIVE! Shut 'er Down: Panther Packup ... Pete DeBoer: Play-in, Please ... Jay Bouwmeester: Gone for Good? ... Nick Boynton: I'm Out ... Craig Anderson: I'd Come Back, but...

Finalroom The Panthers are saying their goodbyes to the Billboard today, coming in for their final meetings with JM and coach Pete DeBoer.

It's an all-day affair, and so far, nothing all that newsworthy has transpired.

-- Spoke to Bryan McCabe about how things went down, and he expressed his disappointment in the team not making the playoffs.

When asked if he thought hockey should follow the baseball model and have a tiebreaking game to determined the eighth team, he said no. ''We had plenty of chances,'' he said.

Pete DeBoer, however, said there should be a play-in game.

''I like the playoff, and I came from a league where you had the one-game playoff as a rule,'' said DeBoer, who came to the Panthers after a decade-plus of coaching the Canadian junior leagues.

''It's appropriate after you play 82 games that if you are tied and have identical records, you should play once to decide the last spot. Use the mathematical formulas to decide who hosts. For me, that's a lot easier to swallow in your exit meetings than losing on a statistic.''

McCabe did say he enjoyed his first season with the Panthers, adding that ''living in the fishbowl'' of Toronto took its toll. ''Here, you can leave hockey at the rink,''Boothpuck McCabe said. ''Then you can go home and enjoy your family.''

-- Jay Bouwmeester says he has not made up his mind on where he will play next year and says he's going to clear his head over the next few weeks.

He added that he has heard the talk that there is no way he is back next year and made sure we all knew he never said that.

''I've never said that,'' he said. ''I've heard all that too. I guess until something is done, it's always a possibility. You have to take some time to step away and evaluate before you do anything.''

While Jay left the door open for his return, Nick Boynton pretty much assumes he will not return to the organization.

''This was a disappointing season for myself and for the team,'' Boynton said.

Do you expect to be back next year?

''No. I mean, I don't imagine it. I would know if they were interested. I don't think they are. That's something that will happen. I liked playing here, it was enjoyable. But we didn't make the playoffs and that's unfortunate. Everyone needs to do what they think is right.''

-- Craig Anderson said he enjoys the Panthers and would like to come back here. But, he wants to be a starter somewhere, saying he owes it to himself to pursue that. Now, if Florida needed a starting goalie...

-- DeBoer on the season ending: ''The season is such a grind, so many peaks and valleys. I likened it to my wife the other day as running 100 miles per hour then hitting a brick wall and stopping dead. You don't know what to do. You just wander around aimlessly. It's disappointing, no other word for it.''


How meeting went

It's always tough and disappointing when you don't achieve the goal you have. It was definitely the most disappointing years I played. We did some good things, but ultimately it wasn't good enough. Me, personally, and the team. I'm not saying it was a bad season, but it wasn't good enough. If we want to go forward we have to improve. It's everyone, not just one guy. We all need to be better. We talked about how the year went and I know I have to be better at the start. It's been a few years now since I've been here with the slow starts. It's something I'm going to address and try and be better.

You're the GM; what needs fixing?

It all depends on what happens with Bo. Every team has their strengths and their holes. If we lose Bo, we're going to need an adequate replacement. I think we have a good group of guys. I had as much fun this year as I did in any year in hockey. That's a good start. We're a pretty tight group. We have a lot of young guys in this room who are going to be good for years. If Bo goes, that's a big part of this team.

Bother you that Bo hasn't said he wants to stay?

It doesn't bother me. It's his choice. Every single day and every game he played as hard as he could. That's all you can ask. You don't get many choices, to make your own choices, to make decisions for yourself. You have to take advantage of it. That's what he wants to to and it's hard to blame him for it. I thought he was our best player all year, and that's all you can ask. He got paid to play here and he did his job well.

The ups and downs of this year

It was the most up and down season I've had in a long time. Sometimes you have to deal with different stuff. Andy had a great season and every start he got, he deserved. He helped this team a lot in tough times. He won big games. It's a team sport and we're all connected. We won and lost as a team. We had a lot of contributions from a lot of guys. Sometimes you play, sometimes you don't You like it or you don't. But the only thing that's important is you're winning. That's professional sports.

Would you waive your no-trade if Florida asked?

You don't want to be somewhere where you're not wanted nor the other way around. I haven't crossed that thought yet. I would have to know what the situation is, and what's going on. If they want to go in another direction, I need to know where that would be. Those are things you don't control. I'm here to do my job unless something else happens or I'm told something else. I'm going to prepare and do the best job I can next year.


Disappointment with the end

It's tough the way it worked out, we were that close and don't get in makes it tough. That's the way it goes I guess.

Assess your season

I'm happy, the personal things were all right. It's one of those things where you try to play well every night. You're going to have ups and downs throughout the year, but I can go home and think I worked hard. I don't have a lot of regrets.

Hard to leave the building with so much uncertainty?

I think you have to step back and take some time and really take some time away to clear your head. There's obviously decisions to be made, but right now is not the time.

Your plans for the upcoming weeks?

I'll be here for a couple of weeks, maybe a couple of weeks then head home. Just going to take 'er easy.

The likelihood you do come back?

I don't know. It's been, down the stretch here, a lot on your mind and to be quite honest, it's something I need to sit down and do some serious thinking. For me to say right now, I'm not really sure.

How did the end of the season affect your decision?

I don't know. It's tough we didn't make it, but we did show some strides. We're definitely going in the right direction and you have to process that.

Any chance you come back? Everyone says there's no way...

I've never said that. I've heard all that too. I guess until something is done, it's always a possibility. You have to take some time to step away and evaluate before you do anything.

April 12, 2009

Stuff to Chew On

Dogchew Now that the NHL season is done, let us look at some stats and see where the Florida Panthers ended up.

Cool? Cool.

Points: 93, tied for 14th; more than Western Conference playoff teams Columbus, St. Louis and Anaheim. Florida was 2-2 against those three teams.

Wins: 41, tied for 14th.

Overtime losses: 11, tied for fourth.

Goals per game: 2.82 (17th)

Goals against per game: 2.72 (T-9th)

Power play: 16.6 percent (24th)

Penalty kill: 82.6 percent (9th)

Shots per game: 29.4 (15th)

Shots against per game: 34.7 (30th)


Time on Ice: Bryan Allen 27:11 (1st); since he only played in two games, let's go with Jay Bouwmeester 26:59 (1st)

Goals: David Booth 31 (T-27)

Points: Stephen Weiss 61 (T-56)

Assists: Weiss 47 (T-26)

PIM: Nick Boynton 91 (T-75)

Shooting percentage: Nathan Horton 16.8 (T-16)

Game winners: David Booth 5 (T-32)

Total shots: Booth 246 (T-33)

Shorthanded goals: Radek Dvorak 4 (T-4)

Plus/minus: Weiss 19 (T-35)

Wins: Tomas Vokoun 26 (T-19)

GAA: Vokoun 2.49 (16); Craig Anderson 2.71 (24)

Save percentage: Vokoun .926 (2); Anderson .924 (3)

Shutouts: Vokoun 6 (T-6); Anderson 3 (T-17)

So You're Saying There's a Chance: NHL Draft Lottery on Tuesday

Dumber This just in: The Panthers have a slight chance of getting the top pick in the upcoming NHL draft.


Less than one percent.

Drawing will be Tuesday in Nueva York. Here's the release from the NHL. Islanders can do no worse than No. 2, so good for them.

-- We should be getting the complete schedule for the first round here in a little while. The matchups are set. When the full sked comes out, I'll post it. Unless I'm out.

Kareem Or am too busy watching Airplane! on Starz. Is that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? No way. That's Roger Murdoch, he's an airline pilot.


Series 'A' - #1 Boston Bruins vs. #8 Montreal Canadiens
Series 'B' - #2 Washington Capitals vs. #7 New York Rangers
Series 'C' - #3 New Jersey Devils vs. #6 Carolina Hurricanes
Series 'D' - #4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #5 Philadelphia Flyers


Series 'E' - #1 San Jose Sharks vs. #8 Anaheim Ducks
Series 'F' - #2 Detroit Red Wings vs. #7 Columbus Blue Jackets
Series 'G' - #3 Vancouver Canucks vs. #6 St. Louis Blues
Series 'H' - #4 Chicago Blackhawks vs. #5 Calgary Flames


The National Hockey League Draft Drawing, a weighted system to determine the order of selection for the first 14 picks of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, will take place Tuesday, April 14, at 8 p.m. ET at the NHL’s New York City office.

The League will unveil the results of the Draft Drawing live during a 30-minute program produced and televised by TSN in Canada and simulcast on VERSUS in the U.S. The show also will be streamed live on NHL.com and TSN.ca. NHL Network will re-broadcast the Draft Drawing in the U.S. only at 9 p.m., ET.

Clubs that did not qualify for this season's Stanley Cup Playoffs, or clubs that acquired the first-round picks of those non-playoff clubs, will participate. Under the weighted lottery system, the club with the fewest regular-season points will have the greatest chance (25%) of winning the Draft Drawing and will pick no lower than second at the 2009 Entry Draft.

The club selected in the Draft Drawing may not move up more than four positions in the draft order; the only clubs with the opportunity to receive the first overall selection are the five with the lowest regular-season point totals, or those that acquired an eligible club's first-round draft picks. No club can move down more than one position as a result of the Draft Drawing.

The percentage chance of a team being selected in the Draft Drawing:

NY Islanders        25.0%
Tampa Bay        18.8%
Colorado        14.2%
Atlanta        10.7%
Los Angeles        8.1%
Phoenix        6.2%
Toronto        4.7%
Dallas        3.6%
Ottawa        2.7%
Edmonton        2.1%
Nashville        1.5%
Minnesota        1.1%
Buffalo        0.8%
Florida        0.5%

        The 2009 NHL Entry Draft will take place at Bell Centre in Montreal on Friday, June 26 (round one) and Saturday, June 27 (rounds 2-7).

April 11, 2009

The Ice Is Gone: Close the Book on the 2008-09 Florida Panthers

Lastice Well, that didn't take long. In less than an hour, a work crew at dismantled the ice at the Billboard and the 2008-09 Florida Panthers season is officially a memory.

The Panthers won their finale here on Saturday, beating the Capitals 7-4. David Booth got two, Nick Tarnasky and Steve Eminger each getting their first goals as members of the Panthers.

''It's nice to go out on a winning streak that's for sure,'' said Stephen Weiss. ''There's not much we can do about the result now, but it was good to win.''

The Panthers will end up officially in ninth place in the Eastern Conference standings, but with Montreal losing to Pittsburgh on Saturday, Florida and the Canadiens end with the same amount of points. If the Rangers lose in Philadelphia Sunday evening, Florida would also have the same number of points as the Rangers – meaning there could be a three-way tie for seventh.

The problem, however, is the first tiebreaker. Florida doesn't have as many victories as New York or Montreal, so the season is over. If the tiebreaker was head-to-head meetings, Florida would be in by virtue of beating the Rangers three of four times. Regulation wins would Lastice3 also work in Florida's favor. But alas, the current system didn't help the Panthers. And the Panthers really didn't help themselves.

"To miss on a technicality or by a point is something we have to live with," DeBoer said. "We made our own bed."

With the ice gone, there's no practice tomorrow.

Just kidding, there is.

No there's not.

All that's left now is the locker cleanout on Monday morning, with players holding individual meetings with Pete DeBoer and Jacques Martin throughouBelfour2 t that day. Then it's the player's party on South Beach (uh oh) on Tuesday and that will be that.

Been a good run, a fun run, but now it's a done run.

More later. But not tonight. Unless I think of something good.

Good night everyone.

Been fun hanging out with you this season.

Alan Cohen: Jacques Martin is Safe

Jacques3 You can put the rumors to bed: Despite the Panthers not making the playoffs again this season, general manager Jacques Martin will return next season.

Owner Alan Cohen told me in an email today that Martin will continue to oversee the team's hockey operations. Martin was relieved of his coaching duties after last season and reportedly signed a four-year deal to remain on as general manager.

Martin has been the team's GM the past three seasons, taking over for Mike Keenan on Labor Day weekend 2006. Martin has been with the Panthers since being fired as coach in Ottawa in 2004.

''Yes, Jacques' job is safe for certain,'' Mr. Cohen wrote. ''He has made the team and the farm system better. Hopefully we keep doing that.''

-- A report out of Rochester says center Janis Sprukts will leave the Florida organization after this season and return to Europe.

The Last Dance: Washington Capitals @ Florida Panthers ... Peltonen/Dvorak Back? ... Booth MVP ... Vokoun IN

Finalesign The Panthers had their last morning skate of the season earlier today, with coach Pete DeBoer saying it's tough going through the motions 'when you don't have a horse in the race.'

With a win tonight and losses by the Rangers and Canadiens, Florida would end up tied for seventh in the East yet still stay home.

'That's tough,' Radek Dvorak said.

-- Stephen Weiss will not play for Team Canada at the Worlds because he needs wrist surgery after the season.
Ville Peltonen and Dvorak, free agents both, say they want to come back next season.

Word was Peltonen was thinking about going back to play in Europe next season, but he said today he wants to play in the NHL and he wants to do so with the Panthers.

Dvorak says the Panthers are real close and he wants to be part of the playoffs with the Panthers next season.

I think the Panthers want them back. We'll see.

-- Michael Frolik leaves to join the Czech national team on Tuesday.

-- Have to assume David Booth, Keith Ballard and Craig Anderson will be invited to play for Team USA at the Worlds. Would also think all three would accept unless there is some injury concerns.

-- The team's 2008-09 awards which will be handed out before the game:

MVP -- Booth
Defenseman -- Jay Bouwmeester
Three Star -- Tomas Vokoun.

-- Vokoun in net tonight.

April 10, 2009

Sunset in Sunrise ... Season Finale Saturday: Washington Capitals @ Florida Panthers, 7 p.m.

Stillman ATLANTA -- Good morning hockey fans and early greetings from Terminal A at Hartsfield-Jackson International.

About to jump on my final flight home this hockey season, our next trip not scheduled until the NHL Draft takes over Montreal come June.

That's a long way away.

The Panthers play Game No. 82 on Saturday, the 18th hole of a season that won't be extended. The Panthers gave it a good run, winning five of their past seven but once more, it wasn't good enough.

The Panthers will have missed their eighth straight postseason when the playoffs for Lord Stanley's Cup kick off Wednesday night at a rink nowhere near you.

So who's to blame for Florida's failure to reach the postseason?

Hard to say. A lot of people have dumped their bitterness onto general manager Jacques Martin, and while he shouldn't get a free pass, some of y'all need to chill a bit.

Martin has been in this gig for three seasons now, and while there's no doubt the organization is better off now than that summer Sunday when he replaced a ''stepping down'' Mike Keenan, there are still holes.

Martin took over a foundering franchise, one that was trying to plug more holes than it had parts. Today, the Panthers are on the cusp of being a playoff team. Close, however, but not good enough. Martin probably should have addressed Florida's problems at forward at the trading deadline, but instead decided to bring in more defensive depth with Steve Eminger.

I stood behind JM when he decided to keep Jay Bouwmeester at the deadline, and I still do; that was the right decision at the time. Remember, Florida was not only in the thick of the playoff hunt at that time, they were a team that was looking to move forward and perhaps even overtake Philadelphia for fourth in the east.

Then they lost eight of 10, and well, here we are today.

At the deadline, JM had a few options at forward, but either couldn't get a deal done or decided against it. Knowing Rostislav Olesz would be coming back not long after the deadline, JM's hands were tied a bit. Florida needed Nick Tarnasky and Anthony Stewart (whose trade value probably wasn't much) for depth in case of injuries, but once Olesz came back, there was a stockpile. Tarnasky and Stewart haven't played much since Olesz returned.

It's easy to say JM should have brought in a forward or two, but for what? Brett McLean? Richard Zednik? Well, the answer would be Bouwmeester. He's really -- aside from Stephen Weiss, Nathan Horton and David Booth -- the only guy who would have brought anything of substancial value in a trade.

JM gambled that the team he was watching in February would be the same -- or even better -- in March and April. They showed flashes of that in the final weeks, but they didn't do so enough nor at the times needed. Thursday's win in Atlanta was nice, but it would have been better had they beaten the Thrashers at home a week before. Or not coughed up leads in Buffalo or at home against Columbus. Or done a touch better in shootouts this season.

There's plenty of reasons why the Panthers aren't in the playoffs this year, and plenty of blame to go around. But at the end of the day, Florida showed plenty of signs that they are a pretty good club. A few additions here, a few subtractions there and the Panthers are right in the thick of things, moving forward.

And, this may be hard to believe, but with a win Saturday against the Caps, Florida will end with 93 points. That's the second-highest total in franchise history, one better than the 1996 Panthers. That team, however, played a few more games once the regular season ended. This team will be looking for answers -- and good reads of the green.

-- Don't expect any news out of Pantherland today, coach Pete DeBoer giving the team the day off. So I booked a really early flight for nothing. Talk about gambling. You know what? Golf does sound good.

April 09, 2009

Turn Out the Lights: Florida Panthers Eliminated

Laptop As you all know by now, the Panthers season is over. The Panthers needed a regulation loss by Montreal and some sort of loss by the Rangers to stay alive.

Neither happened.

Below is the raw copy of my gamer from tonight. Here is the link for the edited copy.

Above is a picture of Steve Eminger (forefront) and general manager Jacques Martin watching the end of the Boston game from my laptop.

Luckily I had purchased NHL center ice on my laptop because for some reason Laptop2 the Philips Arena in-house feed couldn't get that one game. Anyway, more later...

On right, Nathan Horton and Rostislav Olesz watch the end of the Bruins/Canadiens game on the laptop.

BY GEORGE RICHARDS grichards@MiamiHerald.com

ATLANTA – All the Montreal Canadiens had to do was get one point and the Florida Panthers would be out of the playoffs.

The Panthers had just beat Atlanta 3-2 to keep their playoff hopes alive. One by one the players moved into a hallway outside their locker room to watch the Canadiens-Boston game on a laptop computer. As the seconds ticked away in the tie game, the Panthers knew they were done.

Brett McLean cursed, then headed to the showers. Radek Dvorak, clad only in a white towel, continued to stare at the computer's screen as if he couldn't believe it. Nathan Horton shook his head and headed to the bus. General manager Jacques Martin wasn't far behind him.

Montreal lost to Boston in overtime, but the final score means nothing to the Panthers. With Montreal getting one point and the New York Rangers beating Philadelphia, the Panthers were eliminated from the postseason once more. Florida has now missed the playoffs for eight consecutive seasons, the longest active streak in the league and second longest all-time.

''We left it up to other teams to lose,'' said Jay Bouwmeester. ''When you do that, it's never a good situation. We lost some pretty key games down the stretch. When teams were struggling, we didn't take advantage. We have no one to blame but ourselves. At the end, it really doesn't matter.''

Coach Pete DeBoer said before Thursday's game that he was confidence ''someone would drop the ball,'' meaning either Montreal or New York would falter in the final two games of the season. But the Rangers, who only needed a win to edge out the Panthers, jumped to a 2-0 lead over the Flyers and goalie Henrik Lundqvist held on for the 2-1 win.

Florida knew soon after its win over the Thrashers that New York had won. The Panthers only chance was a Montreal loss in regulation. The Philips Arena in-house system had every other game in the league going but couldn't pull in the only one the Panthers cared about. So, the team was forced to gather in front of a sports writer's computer to see their fate unfold.

''It's disappointing,'' DeBoer said. ''The goal from Day 1 was to get into the playoffs. I'm proud of our group. I couldn't ask for a better group of professionals to work with as a first year coach. We created an identity. We had some deficiencies in some areas that became obvious as the season went on, but it was never for lack of effort or commitment to the game plan.''

Florida didn't look like it was keeping to its plan early Thursday, the Panthers looking slow against the Thrashers team with nothing to lose. Atlanta flew by the Panthers, and took a 1-0 lead in the first when rookie Zach Bogosian scored his first of the night. Bogosian's goal came on a power play, not long after the Panthers were able to kill off a 5-on-3 disadvantage for two full minutes when Richard Zednik and David Booth each took penalties on the same play.

The Panthers tied the score in the second, Nathan Horton knocking in a puck that originally wasn't ruled a goal. Horton's shot went across the line, hit the back of the cage and came back out into play. Cory Stillman continued to play the puck, but when play stopped, NHL Central in Toronto reviewed the play and it was obviously a goal.

Atlanta took a 2-1 lead in the third when Bogosian scored again, but 50 seconds later, Stillman deflected a long shot from Gregory Campbell and knocked it through to tie the score. With 4:25 left, David Booth knocked in a shot to give Florida its first lead of the night. ''We gave it a chance,'' Booth said. It was a big one because it lasted, Tomas Vokoun making 23 saves for the win.

''After the first 10 minutes, we played really well,'' Vokoun said. ''It was tough playing a team with nothing to lose, especially because we had so much. I'm proud of the guys. We battled hard and won the game. That's all we could do.''

The Panthers have won five of their past seven games, but a rough stretch in March obviously cost them a trip to the postseason. Despite not making the playoffs again, the Panthers say they are excited about the future. The team has a pretty solid core group and made terrific strides. Thursday's win was Florida's 19th on the road this season, one shy of last year's franchise record.

Florida has 91 points, its most since the 1999-2000 Panthers earned 98. A win Saturday in the season finale against Washington would bring 93 points – the second-most points in franchise history. Last year's team ended with 85.

''There's a good foundation here,'' DeBoer said. ''The key is to keep it and add some pieces. I think we're real close.''



California/Cleveland/Minnesota 1970-79

Colorado/New Jersey 1978-1987



Boston 1959-67

Washington 1975-82