Now that the playoff schedules are set, who you like in Round 1?
2011 EASTERN CONFERENCE QUARTER-FINALS
SERIES A TIME (ET) #1 Washington vs. #8 NY Rangers
Wednesday, April 13, 2011 7:30 p.m. NY Rangers at Washington
Friday, April 15, 2011 7:30 p.m. NY Rangers at Washington
Sunday, April 17, 2011 3 p.m. Washington at NY Rangers
Wednesday, April 20, 2011 7 p.m. Washington at NY Rangers
*Saturday, April 23, 2011 3 p.m. NY Rangers at Washington
*Monday, April 25, 2011 TBD Washington at NY Rangers
*Wednesday, April 27, 2011 TBD NY Rangers at Washington
SERIES B TIME (ET) #2 Philadelphia vs. #7 Buffalo
Thursday, April 14, 2011 7:30 p.m. Buffalo at Philadelphia
Saturday, April 16, 2011 5 p.m. Buffalo at Philadelphia
Monday, April 18, 2011 7 p.m. Philadelphia at Buffalo
Wednesday, April 20, 2011 7:30 p.m. Philadelphia at Buffalo
*Friday, April 22, 2011 7:30 p.m. Buffalo at Philadelphia
*Sunday, April 24, 2011 3 p.m. Philadelphia at Buffalo
*Tuesday, April 26, 2011 TBD Buffalo at Philadelphia
SERIES C TIME (ET) #3 Boston vs. #6 Montreal
Thursday, April 14, 2011 7 p.m. Montreal at Boston
Saturday, April 16, 2011 7 p.m. Montreal at Boston
Monday, April 18, 2011 7:30 p.m. Boston at Montreal
Thursday, April 21, 2011 7 p.m. Boston at Montreal
*Saturday, April 23, 2011 7 p.m. Montreal at Boston
*Tuesday, April 26, 2011 TBD Boston at Montreal
*Wednesday, April 27, 2011 TBD Montreal at Boston
SERIES D TIME (ET) #4 Pittsburgh vs. #5 Tampa Bay
Wednesday, April 13, 2011 7 p.m. Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh
Friday, April 15, 2011 7 p.m. Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh
Monday, April 18, 2011 7:30 p.m. Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay
Wednesday, April 20, 2011 7:30 p.m. Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay
*Saturday, April 23, 2011 TBD Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh
*Monday, April 25, 2011 TBD Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay
*Wednesday, April 27, 2011 TBD Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh
2011 WESTERN CONFERENCE QUARTER-FINALS
SERIES E TIME (ET) #1 Vancouver vs. #8 Chicago
Wednesday, April 13, 2011 10 p.m. Chicago at Vancouver
Friday, April 15, 2011 10 p.m. Chicago at Vancouver
Sunday, April 17, 2011 8 p.m. Vancouver at Chicago
Tuesday, April 19, 2011 8 p.m. Vancouver at Chicago
*Thursday, April 21, 2011 10 p.m. Chicago at Vancouver
*Sunday, April 24, 2011 8 p.m. Vancouver at Chicago
*Tuesday, April 26, 2011 TBD Chicago at Vancouver
SERIES F TIME (ET) #2 San Jose vs. #7 Los Angeles
Thursday, April 14, 2011 10 p.m. Los Angeles at San Jose
Saturday, April 16, 2011 10 p.m. Los Angeles at San Jose
Tuesday, April 19, 2011 10:30 p.m. San Jose at Los Angeles
Thursday, April 21, 2011 10:30 p.m. San Jose at Los Angeles
*Saturday, April 23, 2011 10:30 p.m. Los Angeles at San Jose
*Monday, April 25, 2011 TBD San Jose at Los Angeles
*Wednesday, April 27, 2011 TBD Los Angeles at San Jose
SERIES G TIME (ET) #3 Detroit vs. #6 Phoenix
Wednesday, April 13, 2011 7 p.m. Phoenix at Detroit
Saturday, April 16, 2011 1 p.m. Phoenix at Detroit
Monday, April 18, 2011 10:30 p.m. Detroit at Phoenix
Wednesday, April 20, 2011 10:30 p.m. Detroit at Phoenix
*Friday, April 22, 2011 7 p.m. Phoenix at Detroit
*Sunday, April 24, 2011 TBD Detroit at Phoenix
*Wednesday, April 27, 2011 TBD Phoenix at Detroit
SERIES H TIME (ET) #4 Anaheim vs. #5 Nashville
Wednesday, April 13, 2011 10:30 p.m. Nashville at Anaheim
Friday, April 15, 2011 10:30 p.m. Nashville at Anaheim
Sunday, April 17, 2011 TBD Anaheim at Nashville
Wednesday, April 20, 2011 TBD Anaheim at Nashville
*Friday, April 22, 2011 10 p.m. Nashville at Anaheim
*Sunday, April 24, 2011 TBD Anaheim at Nashville
*Tuesday, April 26, 2011 TBD Nashville at Anaheim
* if necessary
JIP – Joined In Progress
Congratulations are in order for the University of Miami roller hockey team as they went to Middleton, Wisconsin, and won the Division II national title with a 4-3 double overtime win over cross-Alligator Alley rivals Florida Gulf Coast.
Sounds like we could have saved a lot of time and money by just setting up camp at the rest stop at Mile Marker 115 and played the game there.
All kidding aside, this was a nice little run for a Miami team that wasn't sure it would even be invited to nationals after losing to Gulf Coast on Feb. 27.
Miami came into the tournament a very pedestrian 9-9-2 but ran off seven straight wins to take the championship and finish 16-9-2.
The Canes, who beat FIU in that much-ballyhooed ice hockey game in Kendall last month, trailed 3-1 midway through the second period on Sunday before getting goals from Joshua Shuman on a feed from Michael Crow to pull the Canes within one.
In the third, Shuman and Crow hooked up again with a power play goal at 5:16 to tie things up. It stayed that way until Shuman scored at 2:59 of the second overtime to give Miami the victory. Guess who scored Miami's first goal?
Yup, Shuman scored all four goals for the Hurricanes.
In a surprising twist, Shuman was named the game's top star. Goalie Paul DeSilva earned second star honors for making 37 saves.
Miami advanced to the title game by beating Bethel University 5-4 on Sunday morning; FGCU beat Southern Cal in the other semifinal.
The Canes beat Ball State, Binghamton and New Orleans before dropping Cal and East Carolina to reach the Final Four.
We both knew what was going to happen, and you can definitely read between the lines in his answers.
Also, if you want to go back in time, feel free to visit a few of my old posts from back in 2008 when Pete was hired.
Don't forget to check in here (or Twitter @OnFrozenPond and Facebook 'On Frozen Pond') throughout checkout day on Monday.
Going to be at Incredible Ice early in the morning and will be talking with players throughout the day.
Also speaking with Pete, Dale Tallon and Mike Santos in the afternoon.
Should be a lot of good stuff.
OK, now my interview with Pete DeBoer from Friday:
Looking back at this season, it's a two-part story. Game 1 through 60, we played hard every night, were one of the least penalized teams in the league. We managed to overcome some of the deficiencies we anticipated coming in and that was scoring goals. We moved Nathan Horton before the season but found away to find enough offense to stay competitive every night. We played hard, we played the right way.
Game 60-82 is a second season and obviously when the bubble burst, you go into a different mode, a teaching mode. I read something about Pat Gillick with the Blue Jays in that you can never believe – good or bad – what a non-contending team does during September baseball. It's the same in hockey. You're not as bad as it looks and you're not as good as it looks when you're out of it down the stretch. You have to take that perspective here in our last 20 games.
The effort for me has been there since Day 1 for me. A lot of the deficiencies that we identified early have caught up to us. The No. 1 being is goal scoring. Look at the playoff teams. If you can't score more than one or two a night, you're not going to win. Part of that as a coaching staff, we need to try and manufacture goals. There's no doubt our power play needs to be better. But look at some of the lower power play teams and there's some good coaches there: Barry Trotz (Nashville), Jacques Lemaire (New Jersey). It's a combination of some technical changes, but personnel too.
PROUD OF THE THREE YEARS?
I have no regrets and I don't have trouble sleeping at night. I know as a coaching staff, we emptied the tank and got this team as prepared as they could be. When I came here, it was to instill structure and accountability. While it hasn't resulted in a playoff appearance or as many wins as people would like or we would like, there's no doubt those things are evident in the way we play. We haven't ducked tough decisions in holding good players accountable. That's all you can do. I'm comfortable with what we've done.
MISSING PLAYOFFS BY ONE POINT IN 2009
It was so close, but would that have made a difference? Would Jay Bouwmeester have stayed if we got that point? I don't know. You can't have those kind of regrets in this game. You do the best you can. I'm a much better coach today and did a much better job with this team than I did with that one in the first year. That's my take on it.
NEGATIVES FROM THIS SEASON
It was a tale of two seasons. We had a team that just about every publication picked to finish dead last. For 60 games they battled, scratched and clawed. They stayed in the pack, stayed in the hunt. And then there's the last 22 games.
I think Dale has it right. The approach isn't to just get into the playoffs, get the eighth spot and get two home games as you get swept. You want to be in the playoffs and have a chance to actually win. I understand and support the decisions made, the direction they are taking. It's not easy being a competitive person and being on the front lines every day. But that's what you enherit with this job.
Pete DeBoer learned a valuable lesson during his three years in the National Hockey League.
“When I first started, I was cocky, confident we could do it all,'' DeBoer said last week. “Then I realized it's all about the players. You have to have the horses to be successful in this league.''
DeBoer hasn't had many thoroughbreds during his time with the Florida Panthers and on Sunday, the team's lack of success during the past two seasons cost him his job. The Panthers announced that DeBoer would not return for the final year of his contract.
Assistant coach Jim Hulton and video coach Jamie Pringle will also not be retained. Gord Murphy and goalie coach Robb Tallas will be allowed to stay and interview with the new coach.
“I've never been fired before,'' DeBoer told The Miami Herald minutes after his departure was announced. “Strange feeling.''
DeBoer was a highly successful junior coach in the Ontario Hockey League, winning the Memorial Cup – the Canadian junior championship – in 2003.
At the end of the 2007-08 season, DeBoer decided he was ready to give the big leagues a try and interviewed with the Panthers, Senators and Kings before becoming the Panthers' 10th coach in franchise history on June 13, 2008 – DeBoer's 40th birthday.
A week later, leading scorer Olli Jokinen was traded to Phoenix, one of just a number of high-level players to depart (re: Nathan Horton, Bryan McCabe and Jay Bouwmeester) during DeBoer's tenure.
During the interview process, DeBoer was told by owner Alan Cohen and general manager Jacques Martin that the Panthers would do everything it took to win, and if that meant spending money to make a move if the team was close to a playoff spot, it would be done. DeBoer liked what he heard and signed on to coach in South Florida.
Those early promises were never fulfilled.
Cohen decided to divest himself of majority ownership sometime during DeBoer's first season as the Panthers missed the playoffs by a single point. Florida tied Montreal for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference but lost out on a tiebreaker. The Panthers big addition at the trade deadline that year: Seldom used defenseman Steve Eminger.
Florida hasn't been that close again. This year's team finished with 72 points – 21 points behind the eighth-seeded Rangers. The Panthers finished last in the Eastern Conference for the first time in franchise history. DeBoer finishes his Panthers reign 103-107-36.
“I think he's been a good coach. We had 93 points in his first year and he got a lot out of that group,'' center Stephen Weiss said. “At the end of the day, you need the players. I don't think he had that here, those guys you could lean on to get the job done. It's been a depleted lineup with injuries and everything. To be .500 or so, I think he did a great job with what he had.''
Martin left to become the Canadiens coach soon after that season ended as the team's ownership came into question. The Panthers were sellers at the past two trade deadlines as the roster was depleted for future considerations. Current general manager Dale Tallon came on last May and decided to keep DeBoer on as head coach and the two seemed to have a good relationship. But in a statement on Sunday, Tallon said it was time for a change.
“I think Dale has it right,'' DeBoer said Friday morning. “The approach isn't to just get into the playoffs, get the eighth spot and get two home games as you get swept. You want to be in the playoffs and have a chance to actually win. I understand and support the decisions made, the direction they are taking. It's not easy being a competitive person and being on the front lines every day. But that's what you inherit with this job.”
Tallon and DeBoer plan to meet with the South Florida media Monday at the team's training facility in Coral Springs as players gather for their season-ending exit interviews.
“These decisions are always tough to make, but we felt strongly that it was the right time to make a change,” Tallon said in the statement. “We need to go in a new direction with a fresh approach and philosophy as it relates to our head coaching position.''
Tallon has likely been looking for coaching candidates over the past few weeks despite publicly saying a decision on DeBoer and his staff hadn't been made. DeBoer said last month that he wanted to “finish the job” with the Panthers but knew Sunday's announcement was coming for weeks.
Florida's next coach will be its 11th in franchise history but only the third since Martin came to the Panthers from Ottawa at the end of the 2003-04 season. Coincidentally, DeBoer is expected to be a candidate with the Senators as he is said to have had good interviews with owner Eugene Melnyk and general manager Bryan Murray in Barbados back in 2008.
The Panthers haven't been to the playoffs since Murray was Florida's general manager in 2000. Florida has had seven general managers, (soon-to-be) seven coaches and two owners since firing Murray on Dec. 28, 2000.
“I have no regrets and I don't have trouble sleeping at night,'' DeBoer said Friday. “I know as a coaching staff, we emptied the tank and got this team as prepared as they could be. When I came here, it was to instill structure and accountability.
"While it hasn't resulted in a playoff appearance or as many wins as people would like or we would like, there's no doubt those things are evident in the way we play. We haven't ducked tough decisions in holding good players accountable. That's all you can do. I'm comfortable with what we've done.''
FLORIDA PANTHERS COACHES
Roger Neilson 1993-95
Doug MacLean 1995-97*
Bryan Murray 1997-98
Terry Murray 1998-2000*
Duane Sutter 2000-01
Mike Keenan 2001-03
Rick Dudley 2003-04
John Torchetti 2004
Jacques Martin 2004-08
Pete DeBoer 2008-11
(*) -- Reached playoffs
FLORIDA PANTHERS GENERAL MANAGERS
Bobby Clarke 1993-94
Bryan Murray 1994-2000
Bill Torrey 2000-01
Cliff Fletcher 2001-02
Rick Dudley 2002-04
Mike Keenan 2004-06
Jacques Martin 2006-09
Randy Sexton 2009-10
Dale Tallon 2010-present
Fans were allowed to go onto the ice and assist in the ice removal process. As you can see, fans enjoyed smashing up the ice into tiny little bits.
The team had large plastic cups as well as large Ziploc bags for fans to cart home their chunks of ice. Certificates of Authenticity were also handed out so fans could tell their friends that their cup of oddly colored water was actually ice from a hockey arena in South Florida.
eBay, here they come...
(Pictured at right: 6-year-old Dayne Jeffers of Pompano Beach enjoys his prize from the BankAtlantic Center ice surface)
Again, stick tap to David J. Neal for the video...
DeBoer and GM Dale Tallon won't be speaking about the matter until Monday's season-ending meetings at the team's training facility in Coral Springs.
Briefly spoke to Pete this morning and he seems relieved it's all over. He'll be fine. As much as he wanted to stay, the thought here is he isn't upset to be leaving the NHL's 'Land of Broken Promises brought to you by Steve's Pizza Kitchen and Bagel Shoppe of Tamarac.'
''I've never been fired before,'' Pete said with a laugh. ''Strange feeling.''
-- The Panthers later announced that Jim Hulton and video coach Jamie Pringle were also let go. Unlike DeBoer, Hulton and Pringle didn't have contracts for next season. They were told their deals would not be renewed.
Gord Murphy does have a year left on his contract and the same goes for him. Strength coach Craig Slaunwhite is also still around awaiting word from the new coach.
-- Who may the new coach be? A few names bandied about, but I would guess Dale Tallon is going to go with a coach who has some experience.
Could we be looking at a guy like Ken Hitchcock, a proven winner who is a good teacher? How about former Penguins coach Michel Therrien? He has a place in Hollywood and has been around the Panthers -- watching from the press box -- for much of the year.
Mike Keenan is also available.
Anyway, this list is probably a few pages long. Who is close to Dale Tallon? Just about everyone. And then there's the Mike Santos factor. Who is he going to try and get in here?
This should be very interesting.
Again, more as we go through the day.
PANTHERS 1, CAPITALS 0
Pete DeBoer likely coached his final game with the Florida Panthers on Saturday night. Tomas Vokoun may have backstopped his final game with the team as well.
If that is indeed the case, the two leave South Florida in winning fashion.
Thanks to a late goal from Bill Thomas and 28 saves from Vokoun, the Panthers ended what has turned into a miserable season on successful terms as Florida beat Washington 1-0 in its season finale at BankAtlantic Center.
Vokoun, who hadn't played since injuring his back March 27 at Pittsburgh, recorded his sixth shutout of the season, 44th of his career and 23rd since joining the Panthers in 2007.
“We've been talking about this for two month. [My emotions] are mixed,'' said DeBoer, who could learn his fate as early as Sunday. “I have had a lot of time for this to sink in. I'm not just dealing with it overnight. Again, we got the guys ready to play and they played right to the buzzer in the last game. I'm proud of the effort, not of the results.''
Vokoun had been working with the Panthers for a week saying he didn't want to have his season cut short because of a back injury as last season had. He looked forward to playing Saturday as the Panthers saluted their fans – an announced 18,371 were on hand – as Vokoun said afterward that they deserve plenty of credit for sticking around a team that hasn't made the playoffs for what is now an NHL record 10 straight seasons.
“What can you say? It's been tough,'' Vokoun said. “I'm glad for everyone that we ended that losing streak and we can go on a high note .-.-. start fresh next year, whatever, someone will next year.
"We're disappointed being out of the playoffs for 10 years and I've been here for four of them. This showed a lot. These fans can support this team. If there was a team that could have put wins and playoff position, this building will be pretty full. It's impressive how many people showed up for a game that didn't mean anything.''
Said DeBoer: “Hopefully he's back. If he's not, it's a fitting way for him to end his time in Florida.''
Panthers management has not said whether or not DeBoer and his coaching staff will be retained although it appears the franchise is leaning toward a change. DeBoer, who has a year remaining on his contract, is 103-107-36 in three seasons with the Panthers.
On Saturday, the rag-tag Panthers gave DeBoer yet another gutty effort as they went hard against a rested Washington team that wasn't playing for anything anymore.
The Capitals, for the second straight season, will go into the playoffs as the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Washington opens against the New York Rangers after Carolina's bid to jump into the top eight failed as the Hurricanes were upset at home to a Lightning team also not playing for anything on Saturday.
The Panthers, on the opposite side of the Eastern Conference standings from Washington, had the most of the scoring chances on Saturday yet failed to convert until late in the third when Kennedy controlled the face off, got the puck out to Patrick Rissmiller who found Thomas. Thomas' soft shot toward the net somehow found its way home.
Vokoun did the rest.
As has been the case all season, the Panthers struggled to score. Florida played in a league-high 48 one-goal games going 19-18-12. The Panthers also scored two goals or less in 48 games this year, with Saturday's win just the fifth in such contests.
“If there was a game to sum up our season, this is it,'' DeBoer said. “A one-goal game, [David] Booth misses an empty net in the crease. Thankfully we ended it on the right side. You saw a little of everything we dealt with all year: The tight games, the inability to get more than one or two goals and the reliance on great goaltending to find wins.''
-- Center Stephen Weiss ended up playing in Saturday's finale after DeBoer said he wouldn't play on Friday. Weiss has been struggling with a groin injury, but with Shawn Matthias re-injuring his bothersome ankle in the second period of Friday's loss in Tampa Bay, Weiss told DeBoer on the plane ride home that he could play Saturday.
Matthias, Scott Timmins (concussion), Darcy Hordichuk (oblique), Alexander Sulzer (groin), Ryan Carter (concussion) and Steve Bernier (shoulder) all missed Florida's finale.
-- The Panthers named Weiss team MVP for the season with Jason Garrison earning defenseman of the year honors. Vokoun earned 'three stars' of the season and Marty Reasoner was voted on by his teammates to be the team's nominee for the King Clancy Trophy. Booth will be Florida's nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy.
FLORIDA PANTHERS LOWS*
POWER PLAY GOALS
23: David Booth 2010-11
23: Kristian Huselius 2001-02
27: Pavel Bure (56 games before traded) 2001-02
28: Stephen Weiss 2010-11
49: Weiss 2010-11
49: Bure 2001-02
GAME WINNING GOALS
4: Nathan Horton, Cory Stillman 2009-10
4: Marty Reasoner 2010-11
(*) Not counting the lockout shortened season of 1994-95.
LIGHTNING 4, PANTHERS 2
TAMPA – The only excitement left in the Florida Panthers season is the knowledge the end of it is near.
The Panthers continued their limp toward what should be a very eventful offseason on Friday as Tampa Bay scored twice in the second period and rolled to a 4-2 win at St. Pete Times Forum as the Panthers winless streak reached 10 – Florida's longest losing stretch since the 2005-06 team lost 12 straight following Hurricane Wilma.
With the Islanders losing in a shootout to the Penguins on Saturday, the Panthers assured themselves of finishing in last place in the Eastern Conference for the first time in franchise history.
Florida will finish 28th in the 30 team league and increased its chances for a top three draft pick – the lottery will be held Tuesday in Toronto with Bill Torrey representing the team – thanks to this sustained losing streak.
“I was proud of the effort, we came out ready to play,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “We played right to the buzzer. .-.-. This is tough, but the guys are playing hard. We're not embarrassing ourselves. We're not getting blown out 6-1, 7-1. You see scores like that around the league. It's a lot easier standing behind the bench going through what we are when we're getting this effort and they're playing as hard as they are.''
The Panthers, which haven't won since dropping Toronto 4-0 on March 17, plays their regular season finale at BankAtlantic Center on Saturday night. In the days, weeks and months to follow, thing should get interesting.
The same can't be said for what has been on the ice of late.
Tampa Bay, which is gearing up for its first postseason run since 2007, took control of Friday's game early and finally dominated the Panthers in a series in which Florida has historically held the upper hand.
This was a different team, however, as the lineup DeBoer was forced to roll out on Friday may have struggled to win a game in the American Hockey League – much less beat a team trying to better its postseason standing. EDIT: Apparently I was looking at next season's page; Florida's payroll is currently around $36 million....According to capgeek.com, the Panthers came into the game with a league-low payroll of less than $17 million -- $13 million less than No. 29 Phoenix.
Tampa Bay took an early 1-0 lead on a power play goal from Vinny Lecavalier 4:08 into the game, only to see Florida defenseman Jason Garrison – whose Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs are playing for the NCAA hockey championship – whip a long shot past Dwayne Roloson midway through the period.
Florida gave up the second goal in strange fashion as Ryan Malone put a shot on goalie Scott Clemmensen. The soft poke check from Clemmensen hit teammate Shawn Matthias as he was charging in, the puck bounding right back at Clemmensen and past him into the net.
The Panthers were never the same after that one. “That one killed us,'' DeBoer said. “Where we're at, we need everything to go right.''
In the second, Lecavalier crashed in on Clemmensen only to pulled down in the process by Keaton Ellerby. Lecavalier faked out Clemmensen and scored on the ensuing penalty shot to make it 3-1. The Lightning then took a 4-1 lead into the third when Pavel Kubina beat Clemmensen from the right side.
Florida's lone highlight the rest of the night came when Mike Santorelli scored his 20th goal of the season by following his own shot in the early going of the third to cut the Panthers deficit in half.
“We took a lot of penalties but played them well 5-on-5,'' Santorelli said. “Their power play is unreal and it put us behind the 8-ball.''
ONE AND DONE
With the season finale on Saturday, a number of Panthers have played their final game of the season – and perhaps their final game with the organization.
Center Stephen Weiss, second on the team with 21 goals, didn't skate Friday because of his groin injury and won't play Saturday against the Capitals. Others who won't play include pending free agents Darcy Hordichuk, Steve Bernier, Ryan Carter and Alexander Sulzer.
Tomas Vokoun, who hasn't played since hurting his back March 27 in Pittsburgh, is scheduled to start what could be his Florida finale. Vokoun came to the Panthers prior to the 2007-08 season in a trade with Nashville and is in the final season of a four-year contract.
-- The Panthers recalled forwards Bill Thomas and Patrick Rissmiller from their AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., to fill in. Those two were likely the final call-ups from Rochester as the rocky relationship between the two franchises comes to a close this weekend. The Panthers won't know where their top minor league team will be based next season until later in the summer.
Rochester and the Panthers have been together since 2005 season but this divorce has been bubbling all season.
SATURDAY: CAPITALS AT PANTHERS
When, Where: 7 p.m.; BankAtlantic Center
TV/Radio: FSN; WQAM 560
The series: Capitals lead 47-41-9
The game: The Capitals have clinched the Southeast Division title for a fourth straight season and should end up being the top seed in the Eastern Conference for the second straight year. The Caps were upset by eighth-seeded Montreal in the opening round of the 2010 playoffs. .-.-. Washington has won four straight – and 19 of 24 – including a 5-2 win against the Cats on Wednesday.
TAMPA -- At the final morning skate before the final road game of the 2010-11 season.
Spoke at length with coach Pete DeBoer this morning regarding his thoughts on this season. Got great stuff. More on that later.
First off, it looks like we've seen the last of Stephen Weiss this season. Weiss is not going to skate or play tonight against the Bolts with Pete saying that means he's out tomorrow against the Caps as well.
Bill Thomas and Patrick Rissmiller have been recalled from Rochester -- likely making them the final callups from the Amerks as that relationship comes to an end this weekend as well.
Scott Clemmensen will start tonight against Tampa; Tomas Vokoun tomorrow against the Capitals.
No local TV tonight but the game is on Centre Ice.
The Panthers are having a watch party at the Plantation Duffys. Might be fun (plus the Marlins and Heat are playing so if/when this game gets ugly, you have something else to watch.)
TAMPA – With just two games remaining, David Booth is on pace to play in all 82 games this season for the Panthers.
From where Booth was last season, everything else that follows is just a bonus.
Booth, who missed all but 28 games last season after suffering two major concussions, has been named the Florida Panthers nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy by the Florida chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. The Masterton Trophy is awarded annually to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to the game.
Capitals goalie Jose Theodore won the award last season.
“Last year was one of the hardest years I have ever been through,'' said Booth, who will be honored by the team prior to Saturday's season finale. “I learned a lot about life in general. Learned about character and perseverance. It is a privilege to play this game for a living. When it’s taken away, I guess you realize how good you have it. When you look at everything else going on in the world, it’s so fortunate the lives we have. I think we take it for granted too much.''
Booth leads the team with 23 goals, the third time in his career he's eclipsed the 20-goal mark (he led Florida with 31 goals in 2008-09). Coach Pete DeBoer says Booth is close to being back to 100 percent and says this offseason will help him as he won't have the restrictions he did last summer.
“He has dealt with the ups and downs. The fact that he will potentially going to play all 82 games is a huge step in he right direction,” DeBoer said. “His confidence started to come back. There were ebbs and flows but I think for the most part the fact he’s going to play 82 games is the biggest thing. We can pick apart things .-.-. his defensive play or should he have scored more goals. I don’t think that’s fair with what he’s dealt with.''
Panthers assistant general manager Mike Santos said the reason Quinton Howden was the first player Florida signed from its highly-touted 2010 draft class was as a reward for the season he had. Florida took three players in 2010: Defenseman Erik Gudbranson (third overall), center Nick Bjugstad (19th) and Howden (25th).
Howden signed an entry level contract with the Panthers on Wednesday and is expected to attend rookie development camp in July as well as training camp in September.
“It really hasn't sunk in yet. I'm still bouncing off the walls,'' Howden said. “I've dreamed of this my whole life and I'm one step closer to where I've always wanted to play.''
Said Santos: “He deserves the first contract. And that's what he got. He's done everything we asked him so that's his reward. I think that's a good thing to show other draft picks. If you want to be a part of an organization and you're going to do the things that we want you to do to be a Panther, you'll be rewarded.''
-- The Panthers continue to be a banged up bunch as three more players appear to be on the shelf. Ryan Carter missed Thursday's skate because of a mild concussion suffered Wednesday in Washington. Forwards Steve Bernier (shoulder) and Darcy Hordichuk (oblique) will not play Friday and are probably done for the season.
Stephen Weiss (groin) practiced and DeBoer says it's likely goalie Tomas Vokoun will get a start in one of Florida's final two games.
FRIDAY: PANTHERS AT LIGHTNING
When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa
TV/Radio: No local TV (NHL Center Ice); WQAM 560
The series: Florida leads 53-34-10
The game: The Lightning are trying to move up to the fourth slot in the Eastern Conference as it plays its home finale against a Panthers team Tampa Bay has struggled to figure out this year. Florida, which comes in with nine straight losses, has won four of five against the Lightning this year and seven of the past 10. Since the lockout season of 2005-06, Florida has won 25 of 41 against its cross-state rivals.
It's a sad day in hockey as EJ McGuire – the vice president of NHL Central Scouting – died of a rare form of cancer on Wednesday night. McGuire was 58.
A former assistant coach under Mike Keenan in Rochester, Philadelphia and Chicago, McGuire was the face of the NHL draft the past few years as he was always sought out by reporters and team executives to talk about the players he followed so passionately.
I have never heard a bad word said about EJ, and have nothing but fond memories of dealing with him. He would give you as much time as you needed talking about the prospects, and he was chock full of stories.
He's already missed.
“It's tragic. I've known EJ for about 20 years,'' Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said. “I coached against him in junior, knew him from Central Scouting. A great man, a mentor to many young coaches around the league. We were just telling some stories in the coaches room. [Gord] Murphy played for him when he was an assistant in Philadelphia. They would do a 2-mile run, and EJ was the rabbit. They never could catch him. He's gone at 58. It's a tragedy and the hockey world has lost a great man.''
McGuire, whose initials come from his given name of Edward John, had been with Central Scouting since 2005. McGuire is survived by his wife, Terry, and daughters Jacqueline and Erin.
“He was a hockey lifer,'' DeBoer continued, “and was a version of Roger Nielson for me. He reminded me of Roger the most. He taught the game, coached the game, worked in the game. Everyone loved him. There's not many people you can say that about. He was one of those rare guys.''
Said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman: "The NHL family has suffered a tremendous loss. As we celebrate EJ's contributions and mourn his passing, we send our condolences -- and our gratitude -- to EJ's family and friends."
CAPITALS 5, PANTHERS 2
WASHINGTON – Even though the Capitals are fighting for the top spot in the Eastern Conference and the home playoff ice that comes with it, Washington didn't play a very inspired game on Wednesday night.
Good thing the Panthers were in town.
Washington watched the Panthers out shoot and out chance them as Florida dominated everything but the scoreboard in a first period in which the Capitals needed just six shots to score two goals. The Panthers, of course, have struggled to score all season so the Capitals were in control from then on as they rolled to a 5-2 win in their regular season finale at Verizon Center.
The Capitals final game of this regular season comes against Florida on Saturday in Sunrise.
Florida, mired in a nine-game losing streak, outshot the Capitals 18-6 in the opening period but found itself down 2-0 at the first break. Washington's Sean Collins, a recent call-up from the minors, made it 3-0 on the Capitals' 11th shot of the night midway through the second period.
The Panthers didn't get on the board until David Booth scored off a long slap shot with 6:16 remaining. Mike Santorelli then scored with 1:31 left, but Alex Ovechkin capped things off with an empty netter in the closing seconds.
Washington has a four-point lead on idle Philadelphia as the Capitals have won 19 of 24 including four straight.
“We wanted to jump on them, they played [Tuesday], and we had good energy and good legs,'' said Florida coach Pete DeBoer, whose team has won just three of 18 since the roster was decimated at the Feb. 28 trade deadline. “The 18 shots? We only had four or five chances but it was one of our better periods. To be down 2-0 was kind of deflating.''
The Panthers hopes of winning on Wednesday were diminished greatly by the time Washington's Jason Chimera scored to make it 2-0 with 36.2 seconds left in the first period. Florida just cannot score goals despite terrific chances as Wednesday's game marked the 17th time the Panthers have scored two goals or fewer in the past 22 games. The Panthers have won just one of those 17 games.
The absence of center Stephen Weiss didn't help things. Weiss has missed two straight games with a troublesome groin injury and four in the past few weeks. The Panthers have amassed a grand total of three goals in those games, getting shutout twice. Weiss didn't practice on Wednesday and is doubtful for Florida's road finale Friday in Tampa.
“I thought we played real well, but they got two power plays and scored on both,'' Booth said. “That cost us the game right there. I made a bad play when they scored their third and that was tough to recover from. We made it interesting, but the thing is, we have to eliminate the mistakes.''
VOKOUN BACK: FOR NOW
Tomas Vokoun missed the final weeks of last season with a back injury and didn't want to go out like that this time around. Vokoun, who had been out since March 27 after hurting his back in Pittsburgh, backed up Scott Clemmensen on Wednesday as Tyler Plante was returned to Florida's AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y.
“I don't want to finish watching from the stands,'' said Vokoun, a pending free agent, may have tipped his hand when he said “you don't want to leave on that note.”
-- The Panthers signed the first of their high draft picks from last summer as winger Quinton Howden signed a three-year entry level deal with the team. Howden was the third of Florida's first round picks last June, taken with the 25th overall selection secured in the Keith Ballard deal with Vancouver.
Howden, who scored 40 goals with his Canadian junior team this season, is expected to take part in training camp this fall and compete for a roster spot. If he doesn't make it, the 19-year-old will be returned to his junior team for one final season.
-- The Panthers finally regained the services of winger Tim Kennedy as he cleared waivers at noon Wednesday and played against the Capitals. Kennedy had been brought up by the Panthers on Saturday, but the team failed to properly put him on waivers so he wasn't able to play for Florida until clearing.
-- DeBoer said Ryan Carter suffered a concussion after being hit in the third period. Carter left the game but said afterward that he was fine. Carter was walking around the locker room and seemed to be in good spirits.
From the PHWA:
As the NHL’s 2010-11 regular season winds down, and with voting on the league’s awards imminent, the Professional Hockey Writers Association remains adamantly opposed to – and distressed by – the early season decision of the New York Islanders to revoke the media credential of a PHWA member.
This is even more objectionable than the original decision itself: In the months since, league officials have refused to intervene and overrule the Islanders’ decision, which would serve to re-emphasize the NHL’s commitment to facilitate objective and authoritative coverage from PHWA members.
The media marketplace is changing daily, and newspapers and other outlets for written journalism are among those adapting. To its credit, the NHL and its teams have aggressively taken on the challenge of creating and enhancing their “own” coverage on several platforms, going beyond the more traditional “in-house” broadcasts to now include team web sites and other outlets.
Yet the league’s savvy fan base understands the need for, and desires, independent and objective coverage that doesn’t pass through league and team filters.
Our concern is that this decision, if allowed to stand and become precedent, signals an end to the league’s agreement that independent and objective coverage not only benefits its fan base, but the NHL itself.
The PHWA’s position is absolute. The splitting of hairs about the circumstances of the Islanders’ decision is an irrelevant waste of time. We ask that the NHL disavow the Islanders’ capricious decision in this specific instance, but even more important, reaffirm that – barring egregious actions that would cause the PHWA to expel a member, anyway -- PHWA members will be granted access to cover its teams.
Meanwhile, three of our chapters – those made up of writers who cover the Islanders, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils – have decided not to participate in the PHWA voting for the NHL’s 2010-11 regular-season awards. That voting selects the winners of most of the league’s major trophies and its first- and second-team all-stars.
The PHWA takes seriously its role as an authoritative, objective and independent voting body for these awards, and is honored to participate in the process. It also respects and will support the decisions of individual members not to return their ballots, which the league already has distributed to PHWA members. However, the PHWA also believes that because the voting process has begun, both the writers’ organization and the league have entered into a mutual and honorable pact to see through the voting process for the 2010-11 awards.
The PHWA is confident that with potentially nearly 90 percent of its 177 members continuing to participate, the pool of voters -- which has grown significantly in recent years – is more than sufficient to maintain the integrity of the voting.
In the upcoming offseason, the PHWA hopes to again meet with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and other league officials to seek clarification of the credentialing issue and to discuss the future of the PHWA’s role as an independent and objective voting bloc in continuing to bolster the credibility of the league’s awards.
BALTIMORE – Decided to come to the Washington area a day early to get my Orioles fix on and will be checking in via Twitter @OnFrozenPond and Facebook (On Frozen Pond) throughout this gorgeous Opening Day here in Charm City.
David J. Neal is taking over the Panthers beat for me the next two days and was at practice today in Coral Springs. David has a very good Twitter feed himself, and if you are into such things, might want to follow him as well @DavidJNeal
I'm sure most of you who are into the Twitter thing already follow the both of us. For those who don't, well, it's fun! Sometimes...
Anyway, here's what we got:
-- Goalie Tomas Vokoun skated early today and has not been ruled out to play in one of the final three games.
-- Either Scott Clemmensen or Vokoun making the starts as we wind down this final week on the 2010-11 season. If Tyler Plante gets into a game – he's yet to make his NHL debut – it won't be as a starter.
-- Stephen Weiss (groin) did not skate today but Pete DeBoer has not ruled him coming back either.
If I get anything else, will post here. The iPhone is charged and ready to go -- and I'm bringing my charger with me just in case.