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36 posts from March 2008

March 31, 2008

Opening, Closing Day

IncredibleThe Marlins kick off their season today just as the Panthers begin putting theirs to bed.

The Panthers are set to play out the string, starting Tuesday night in Atlanta. Should be a barn burner. Two teams that don't seem to care a whole lot about playing hockey right now. I may be wrong, but that's how it looks.

The team held its final workout at Incredible Ice today, the next time the Panthers are in South Florida they'll be cleaning out lockers and bundling up sticks for the summer.

-- Craig Anderson gets the start tomorrow night.

-- The Panthers have signed forward Andrew Sweetland, who played collegiately at Maine. Sweetland had eight goals and nine assists for the Black Bears (who used to have quite the baseball program back in the day) last season. JM says he'll have a chance to make the team during training camp next September.

-- Watching WGN right now. Opening Day in Chicago: Rainy and about 40 degrees. Good times. Thanks to ESPN for the bonus Tigers/Royals while we wait for the rain to stop in New York...

-- Tigers' color analyst Rod Allen when Miguel Cabrera stepped to the plate: "He's never really played in front of a crowd like this. They didn't draw many to Miami."

I know the Marlins are an easy target, but give me a break. Wasn't too long ago the Detroit Tigers, with their brand new stadium, couldn't draw flies and advertised in opposing cities trying to drum up business.

I also think Cabrera has played in front of large crowds (re: 2003 playoffs/World Series) with a little more pressure than an Opening Day in the Motor City.

Congrats to Miguel on the home run though. And the monster contract, too.

March 29, 2008

Goodnight, Sunrise

HighwayUp here in the Barry Manilow Press Box at the Big Bank in south Tamarac, awaiting another meaningful Panthers game.

The final home game of the season, as many of you know.

TV voice Denis Potvin just came over and predicted a 5-3 win for the Sunrise Six, and if you're not coming to the game tonight, check out Denis and Goldie on TV. After tonight, they have one more game together this season. Sad, yes.

-- The Good News: While FSN won't be showing the final two Panthers games, they are being shown on Center Ice.

-- The Better News: Live Panthers Plus from Raleigh and Washington!

-- PS: The Panthers are going to announce Tomas Vokoun as team MVP prior to tonight's game, and -- shocking! -- Jay Bouwmeester as defenseman of the year. Olli Jokinen given the 3 Stars of the Game award for getting, well, the most stars throughout the season.

-- Don't forget, high school hockey here at the Big Bank tomorrow. There are two divisions, with the first championship game starting at 4:15. The action kicks off with semifinal games at 9:15 a.m.

-- In a bit of a surprise, Magnum is playing tonight with Cory Murphy the healthy scratch....

-- On the scoreboard before the game: The 2008-09 season will be here before you know it! Yeah, right. This is going to be one heck of a long summer.

Timtaylor -- News from Tampa: According to the AP, Tim Taylor told fans before tonight's game he wouldn't be returning for a final game.

Says he "wants to remember playing, not having Torts send me out for two shifts so I can stand around.'' Taylor also says he thinks Vinny Lecav is going to be the team's next captain.

The Final Skate


The Panthers held their last pregame skate at the Big Bank, a good crowd gathered for the festivities.

Imagine what it would have been like had this game meant something to the Sunrise Six. Remember, had the Panthers beat Tampa and Atlanta - as they absolutely should have - Florida comes into this one three points back of Boston and a point back of the Caps.

Instead, it's Orbitz ('Hi, I need a flight home on April 7 please..) time.

- D Noah Welch says he hopes to be back in the lineup tonight, although it's very likely Steve Montador slides back to D and plays tonight instead of Welch/Magnum/Mezei. Welch hasn't been in the lineup since busting up his shoulder fighting in Montreal back on October 16...

- The fans love Alex Ovechkin here in Sunrise. Good crowd still down on the glass trying to get a glimpse of the NHL's next - he has my vote - MVP.

March 28, 2008

It's a Girl

GirlhockeyIt's a happy day for the Luongo clan, congratulations go out to Roberto and Gina on the birth of their baby daughter Gabriela.

Mom and baby are fine, dad is up in Minnesota getting ready to play the Wild in a huge game for both teams.

According to our friend Ed Willes with the Vancouver Province, Roberto showed up in time for the morning skate in St. Paul today. Roberto flew out of Fort Lauderdale Executive airport early this morning, but all accounts grinning from ear to ear. Good to hear all is well.

Said teammate Brendan Morrison: "It's a no-brainer. Roberto has to be there, for sure. It's a pretty special time in his life to share that and it's a real bonding experience. I don't think we should be surprised if he plays because we know how competitive he is and he'll do anything to help us out.''

The Wild sit in first place in the Northwest, giving them third place in the West for right now. Minnesota leads Calgary (6th in the west) by a point, Colorado (7th) by three and the Canucks (8th) by five. Nashville sits in ninth place, two points out of the final spot.

Olli's Last Stand?

Olli Olli Jokinen stood before the gathered media at the second-to-last practice of the season at Incredible Ice on Friday morning.

Jokinen spoke on a variety of topics, including whether he thinks he's been a good leader this year to if he thinks he'll be traded this summer.

One thing Olli said that rang true is that "I'm a pretty stand up guy. I know when I'm not playing well and I can take the blame for those games. When the team isn't winning, I'll be the first to tell you I haven't done my job.''

Olli_2 It's easy to pile on Olli right now, because he hasn't played very well of late. I'm not sure if he's back next year he's not the captain again, although if JM is still the coach, I think the odds of that are not very good.

But if Olli's not the captain, who is? Unless the Panthers bring in some proven winner, a veteran guy whose been a leader to take that C, I think you have to leave it. You just can't pull the C from Olli to hand it over to a Stephen Weiss or a Bryan Allen. If Olli's back and this team is pretty much the same, Olli should be the captain.

Other things Olli said today:

“I try to do my job the best I can every single night. I think the best leaders are guys who play hard every night and do the best they can, lead by example. Have I done that this year? Not in all 78 games, no. It’s a tough task to do, night in and night out. The question is, what can one guy do? I don’t hide in the corner blaming other guys.’’

"Every guy can be a leader in their own way. I'm not a big believer in one guy saying we should do this, we should do that. At the end of the day, it's a player's decision to what they are going to do. You can have speeches every single day if you want, coaches can moderate you and say stuff. But at the end of the day, a player is going to decide on his own whether they are going to play hard or whether they are going to take shifts off.''

To hear all of Olli's comments today, go here: Download olli0328.WMA

Here is Jacques post-practice comments: Download jacques0328.WMA

-- Hope everyone likes the audio here at Panthers Plus. Just got a new digital recorder that can be uploaded. My old one didn't have that capability, one reason why I've never done it. Let me know if you find it useful.

March 27, 2008

Sending a Message

BottleHate to pile on Olli when things are definitely not going his way, but JM called him out a bit this morning when I asked what he thought of Olli's admission his play wasn't good enough on Tuesday.

Some people in the organization told me yesterday they weren't real happy with Olli's admission since, well, had he given some more effort maybe his play would have been a bit better.

Says Jacques: “I look back over the past 19 games and he hasn’t scored even strength. 

"He’s a minus player right now. I think he has to be better and he knows that. If you want to win, your best players have to be your best players. We go a lot of nights with the Stephen Weiss line as the top line. It’s a team game, but you need your best.’’

Well, Jokinen is minus-1 tonight after letting Bobby Holik beat him to a puck and eventually score with 7.2 seconds left in the first period. JM did a little more than just tell his captain he was unhappy.

Jacques demoted him.

Kamil Kreps found himself centering the top line to start the second period, with the WHOOOO line coming in second. Olli is now on the third line; he was on the wing with Jozef Stumpel centering, but this last shift, Olli centered Radek Dvorak and Steve Montador.

-- Olli got four minutes in the second period with a host of different players. He came out in the third with his old linemates for the power play. Will see who he plays with 5-on-5.

March 26, 2008

Mile High

Just watching the Avs-Luongos on NHL Network right now. Rough night for Louie and the boys.

Colorado has put up 4 in the second, chasing Luongo to the bench. Avs, trailing 2-1 at the start of the second, rolling now holding a 5-2 advantage.

And the second isn't even over...

Future Plans

GolfFive more games left in the Panthers season, and the best news I can come up with is golf rates drastically dip in South Florida on April 1.

And I ain't fooling.

The Panthers still have some playoff life left, but that light is flickering and on the verge of going out. According to sportsclubstats.com, the Panthers' shot to make the playoffs now stands at 2.5 percent. That's less than 3 percent to you math majors out there.

According to that page's analysis, if the Panthers go 5-0-0 to end the season, there's a 46.7 percent chance of them making it to the eighth slot.

So, yeah, we'll see.


-- Pete "Pete" Pelegrin subbed for me today in Coral Springs, says JM pulled a Pat Riley and bailed on practice today. Official word is JM is off scouting a college player, but I don't know much more than that.

Dude probably just needed a day off after last night. He was pretty ticked when he talked to us. Can't say that I blame him. Some of the Panthers best, and highest-paid, players were pretty crummy against the Lightning.

After what's happened the past few months, don't be surprised if Florida has someone else wearing the captain's 'C' next season.

March 25, 2008

High School Hysteria

CoopHigh school ice hockey may not be an official, sanctioned sport in the great state of Florida, but the competition is pretty darned good.

Sure, it's not cheerleading, lacrosse, bowling or girls' flag football good, but it deserves a state championship.

So, lets have one.

The Florida high school finals kick off Friday at Pines Ice Arena and Lake Worth's Ice Zone, with the last four teams (from each division) standing moving on to the Big Bank in Sunrise for Sunday's Florida Frozen Four.

The games Friday and Saturday are free, but there is a nominal charge to come into the Sunrise arena on Sunday. Most of the Panthers' staff -- including PA guy Bill Murphy -- are volunteering their services so Sunday's games have the big-time feel only the Florida Panthers can give you.

Championship games are Sunday at 4:15 and 6 in two different classes.

For more info, and the complete sked, check out the Florida Scholastic Hockey League website here  FSHL or here High School Hockey is Cool!

Since the Panthers play their last regular season game Saturday, this could be the final games the BAC ice is used. Unless the playoffs come calling....

-- The USF band is here in Tampa tonight, a pretty cool addition to the Ice Palace, I might add. They have a good sound, and it adds a cool vibe, kind of like the USC band playing at Laker games. The Panthers might want to see if the kids from UM, FIU or FAU might want to play a couple games next season.

Happy, Sunshiny Day

IcepalaceTAMPA -- It's one heck of a pretty day here in Florida's west coast, and it's almost time for some hockey.

The Panthers and Lightning play for the final time this season, making one wonder where all the time has gone. Florida and Tampa Bay have played eight times already? OK, if you say so.

Nothing major coming out of practice today; On the Florida Front, Magnum Johansson practiced and says he may play. JM, as usual, calls it a game time decision. Shocking. Magnum says nothing is broken in his hand, but it's real sore, wrapped in ice after the workout. Jozef Stumpel will be back, centering the Florida third line with Radek Dvorak and Steve Montador.

-- Some changes for Tampa Bay, with goalie Mike "George" Smith out after getting hurt in Monday's practice. Word is, Smitty got hurt when Martin St. Louis ran into him during a shootout drill, Smith injuring his left knee.

That means Karri Ramo starts tonight, with Jonathan Boutin has been called up. Marc Denis is also being called up through re-entry waivers. Jeff Halpern back in after missing Saturday's game against the Panthers.

March 24, 2008

Spring Fun with Goldie and Murph


Wintermurphgolf WINTER HAVEN - In one of the final promotions the Cleveland Indians will do during Florida spring training, the Panthers' Bill Murphy chips a golf ball into a hula-hoop to win a free round of golf in Bartow.

Second place was two rounds of golf in Bartow.

Winterhavenleg Panthers' announcer Steve Goldstein was on the field offering moral support -- and not-so-good camera work.

Ended up having a great time watching the Indians take down the visitors from Disney's Wide World of Sports, with Cleveland taking a no-hitter into the seventh. Then Jorge Julio came on to pitch, and well, you can just guess what happened to the no-no.

Special thanks to Boog Sciambi who hooked us up with some sweet tickets, and a special thanks to the good people of Winter Haven who have been so hospitable to baseball fans all these years.

Wintermuprhgoldie The Indians wrap up their Florida Fling on Thursday, playing host to the 'Devil' Rays. Next spring, the Tribe moves into a complex in aptly named Goodyear, Arizona. Good for you Arizona, spending money to get baseball to your towns. Soon you may have all of them.

At least leave the Orioles. Thanks.

March 23, 2008

Playoff Talk Part II

Rabbitblodd_2Hope the Easter Bunny was good to you, hope you didn't get lured into his trap.

That old Easter Bunny is one of the most vile, ill-tempered rodents I've ever laid eyes on! What an ill temper it has, a killer!

OK, enough Monty Python for this day...

Time to talk some playoffs. The Panthers didn't get any help today, Philadelphia beating down the limping Islanders 4-1 to take seventh as its own. After Sunday's games, here's what we got: Philly in seventh with 86; Boston in eighth, two back and slipping. The contenders: 9. Washington (-2); 10. Buffalo (-3); 10. Floride (-3); 12. Toronto (-4).


7. Philadelphia (38-28-10, 86). Games remaining: 6. Since March 13: 7 points. The sked: 25 @nyr; 28 @nj; 29 @nyi; 2 @pit; 4 NJ; 6 PIT.

8. Boston (37-28-10, 84). Games remaining: 7. Since March 13: 4 points. The sked: 25 @tor; 27 TOR; 29 OTT; 30 @buf; 2 @nj; 4 @ott; 5 BUF.

9. Washington (37-31-8, 82). Games remaining: 6. Since March 13: 8 points. The sked: 25 @car; 27 @tbay; 29 @fla; 1 CAR; 3 TBAY; 5 FLA.

10. Buffalo (35-29-11, 81). Games remaining: 7. Since March 13: 6 points. The sked: 25 OTT; 27 @ott; 28 MON; 30 BOS; 1 @tor; 3 @mon; 5 @bos.

11. FLORIDA (36-31-9, 81). Games remaining: 6. Since March 13: 7 points. The sked: 25 @tbay; 27 ATL; 29 WSH; 1 @atl; 4 @car; 5 @wsh.

12. Toronto (35-31-10, 80). Games remaining 6. Since March 13: 6 points. The sked: 25 BOS; 27 @bos; 29 MON; 1 BUF; 3 OTT; 5 @mon.


BOSTON -- Games remaining: 7; Home: 3; Away: 4; vs. Winning Team: 7; vs. Losing Team: 0; Home vs. WT: 3; Home vs. LT: 0; Road vs. WT: 4; Road vs. LT: 0; Back to Backs: 2.

PHILLY -- Games remaining: 6; Home: 2; Away: 4; vs. Winning Team: 5; vs. Losing Team: 1; Home vs. WT: 2; Home vs. LT: 0; Road vs. WT: 3; Road vs. LT: 1; Back to Backs: 1.

BUFFALO -- Games remaining: 7; Home: 3; Away: 4; vs. Winning Team: 7; vs. Losing Team: 0; Home vs. WT: 3; Home vs. LT: 0; Road vs. WT: 4; Road vs. LT: 0; Back to Backs: 1.

WASHINGTON -- Games remaining: 6; Home: 3; Away: 3; vs. Winning Team: 4; vs. Losing Team: 2; Home vs. WT: 2; Home vs. LT: 1; Road vs. WT: 2; Road vs. LT: 1; Back to Backs: 0.

FLORIDA -- Games remaining: 6; Home: 2; Away: 4; vs. Winning Team: 3; vs. Losing Team: 3; Home vs. WT: 1; Home vs. LT: 1; Road vs. WT: 2; Road vs. LT: 2; Back to Backs: 1.

TORONTO -- Games remaining: 6; Home: 4; Away: 2; vs. Winning Team: 6; vs. Losing Team: 0; Home vs. WT: 4; Home vs. LT: 0; Road vs. WT: 2; Road vs. LT: 0; Back to Backs: 0.

My take: Looks like Boston has a bear of a road ahead, and Florida fans should be rooting for Toronto as they play the Bs twice and Buffalo once. Panther fans should also start rooting for Carolina, at least when the Fakecanes play Washington (March 25, April 1). Then you can hate them again.

Washington is still in the middle of its long roadie, the Caps playing their next three on the road, ending here next Saturday. But they finish with three at home, including the regular season finale against the Cats on April 5.

Buffalo doesn't have an easy road, with all six of the Sabrays opponents over .500. These next two games against Ottawa could be big. Like Florida, the Beefs finish with three on the road.

As every one knows, the Panthers can't afford to lose any of their following six. But when you look at how things break out, you can see that they have a real chance to make it in as the eight. Three points back, six to go. They have 12 points out there, nine gets them to 90 but that probably isn't going to do it. To get to 92 points, Florida needs to finish 5-0-1. If the Panthers do that, it means they won 13 of their final 15.

And, yeah, it may not be enough. But it may just be plenty.

-- And check out the west. Guess who also has moved into playoff contention? Surprise, surprise, it's the Oil moving on up the ladder into contention. Chicago's win today moves the Hawks into 10th place with 82 points, just two behind the Avs. Edmonton is 11th with 81 points, three back of eighth.

And no, I'm not breaking down the west. Email Russo.

March 21, 2008

This Just In

From TSN.com's Ice Chips: Contrary to earlier reports, Richard Zednik did not skate around on Thursday. He did put on skates but only to participate in a team photo at centre ice.

Memo to TSN: Richard Zednik did indeed skate, I was there and saw it. He even talked to the media about it last night at the arena. That is all....

Skating to the Music

TonyakerriganThe Panthers got bumped off their normal sheet of ice Friday, the Incredible Ice complex overrun by little kids who also like to skate.

Turns out the rink was hosting an ice skating competition (is that the right way to say it? I don't know) and needed the stadium rink for all the many moms and dads who came to watch their kiddies do triple axels and figure eights around the ice usually tromped on by big old hockey players. 

Those moms and dads must all drive separately. The parking lots were packed with SUVs and the like, and I don't think there were that many people in the building. Learn to car pool people!

Turned out it wasn't too big a deal for the Panthers, who simply walked over the the other sheet of ice. Some of the music was actually OK, and I was embarrassed when I broke down and cried when I heard Celene Dion's emotional song from Titanic.

I could go on, but I'm not sure I can.

-- Not much out of Cat Camp today. JM wouldn't say whether Jozef Stumpel and/or Noah Welch get some PT tomorrow against the Thunderbolts from across the way. I guess one of them gets in. Just a hunch.

-- Who's up for another edition of "Bad Florida Panthers Omens"? No? Too bad.

Remember when the Panthers last had a seven game winning streak, back in March 2006? Sure you do. That streak was ended with a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. Today the Panthers play the exact same sequence as they did in 2006.

Check this out:

2006 -- March 31: At Carolina (L 3-2); April 1: TAMPA (W 4-2); April 3: at Tampa (L 4-1); April 5: ATLANTA (L 5-2)

2008 -- March 20: CAROLINA (SOL 2-1); March 22: TAMPA (???); March 25: at Tampa (???); March 27: ATLANTA (???)

Course, those ATL and TBAY teams were a little better than their 2008 counterparts, but it'll be interesting to see if the Panthers can move on from this loss to Carolina like the 2006 version could not. That FLA team also had a long way to go to make it to the postseason, a much harder climb to the playoffs.

According to my personal archive, after losing to Carolina on March 31, 2006, the Panthers were eight points behind eighth place Tampa Bay with nine games to go. They pulled to within six, but were done after losing to the Bolts on April 3.

-- Nice win by San Diego over UConn, eh? Betting there aren't many out there who had the Toreros in their brackets (the ones you filled out purely for entertainment purposes, of course.) I did pick them! Nah, just kidding.

-- Here's a fun weblink old Carolina pal Luke DeCock at the Raleigh News&Observer hooked me up with. Fun to look at all the percentages and stuff, but I don't think this takes into account a team's current state such as Philadelphia and Boston losing games and such. It may, I don't know. I skipped most of my math classes back in the day. Fun with Math

March 20, 2008

Zednik Skates

ZednikIt was real heartwarming to see Richard Zednik back out on the ice before Wednesday's practice at the Big Bank.

Zednik was at the rink for the team photo. As soon as it was over, Zednik grabbed a stick and was working a puck up and down the ice. One of his teammates -- I thought it was Olesz but later found out it wasn't -- tossed him a puck and off he went along the side boards. He wasn't trying anything too fancy, but he looked good. It obviously was a mood lifter.

Didn't write much about it this morning because I was told Richard didn't want to talk to the two writers who were there at the time because it wouldn't be fair to the two who weren't, but a couple of players who were on the ice spoke about it. You can check out here: Richard Zednik skates

Stephen Weiss also said Richard is "chomping at the bit,'' and is always fiddling with his new skates and new sticks. "He cannot wait to get out there.''

I believe that.

-- Also, here is my advance on tonight's game. It's a biggun. Big Game Hunting

-- Give me your thoughts on tonight's game. Can the Panthers finally break through against Carolina? Sure, the Panthers have beaten the Hurricanes. Usually in the first week of the season. Florida has lost 11 of 14 to these cats during the past two seasons.

Is tonight the night they do it? Let me know below (remember, it's free. Don't cost nothin')...

March 19, 2008

Diving Expedition

DivingWell, well, well.

Thought the Carolina Dive storyline had worked its course last year and was pretty much ancient history?

Not so much.

JM didn't call the Hurricanes divers on the record after Thursday's spirited skate, but he might as well have.

Take this: "You have to be aware of their strategy. Their power play is very effective. We have to stay out of the box.''

OK, that wasn't much. How 'bout this: "We have to know when you play this team, you have to keep your stick down. They have a tendency to, um, they draw a lot of penalties. When you look at the record, they're plus-60 as far as power play opportunities versus penalty killing. We're minus 56.

"They have that act, and you have to be prepared for it.''

FUN WITH MATH: According to the NHL stats (and not including Carolina's game at Atlanta tonight), Carolina has been on the power play 374 times (scoring 17.9 percent) while being forced to kill off 314 (last in league with a successful kill rate of 78 percent). According to my math, JM is right. Plus 60.

Florida has been on the power play 280 times (fifth in league with success rate of 20 percent) and killed off 337 (20th in league, kill rate of 81.3). According to my math, Panthers are minus-57. So, JM's math is wrong, but by one extra penalty kill. Which supports his claim even more, I guess.

FUN WITH EDDIE: Moments like this make me miss Eddie Belfour. Then I spend good quality time talking to Tomas Vokoun, and that moment passes. Fort Lauderdale Dive Team

JACQUES FUTURE: Big story in today's Herald centered around JM's future with the team, and where he stands right now. Obviously the team's recent play has helped things out a bit. If you haven't seen it, here you go JM stuff

Blimpakron HIGH ABOVE QUARTERDECK: The Panthers' pregame show is going to have quite the twist tomorrow night, with Craigervini broadcasting live from the gondola of the Goodyear Blimp. With Craig up in the air (literally), Frank Forte takes over the in-house stuff at Stanley's on the club level (yeah, I know it isn't called that anymore.)

So if you aren't at the game, tune in around 6:30 and Craig will tell you that Sawgrass Mills still kinda looks like a big alligator from the air. If the red light's on, wave.

Picture Pages

The gang's all here in Sunrise, from JM to Olli, Richard Zednik to Alan Cohen.

Team picture day is mandatory, after all.

Don't have any real updates today, it is 10 a.m. after all. may be back later...

March 18, 2008

Creating a Buzz

Buzz3Funny what a few wins will do for a team. Or an organization.

There are few professional sports teams that could have used an injection of good vibes like the Florida Panthers have gotten. Like JM said today, guys have to cherish this time of year. This is the fun stuff.

Course, little bit of pressure on the Cats these days. Going to be interesting how they respond to it. Finally getting some pub, getting some love. The Panthers have been off the radar for quite a while, but with Tomas Vokoun getting last week's Third Star and things like Craig Anderson's run, the Panthers have become media darlings.

Ran into Randy Moller this morning at the arena, and he says the phone is ringing off the hook, media types wanting to talk to players.

Here are some things I've found written about Los Panteros the past couple of days. Like I've said before, the Panthers will get their ink and video if they win. That's all it takes.

Here is Eric Duhatschek's take from the Globe and Mail: how great is this weather, eh?

This is Pierre LeBron's take for Sportsnet: I like TSN too

How about the Sporting News? I personally like St. Louis

And finally, the Canadian Press weighs in: thanks, google...

-- As long as I'm linking to stuff, here's the first edition of when Banana's go bad. It's really sad. They get all brown and nasty looking. Then they turn on you. Bad stuff. Good banana, bad banana

And while we're here: A new Thunderbug?

March 14, 2008

Ranger, Danger

KeenanThe Rangers come to town as hot as any team in the league right now, winners of 10 of 13 -- and without a regulation loss in more than a month.

The Panthers are talking about this being their game of the year, yet with the Panthers' margin or error so small, every game takes on that kind of importance. Yet, it's hard to overlook tonight's game as being pretty important for the Panthers' playoff hopes.

Of course, if Florida loses, life will still go on. Truthfully, this may be one of the games Florida can lose. They aren't chasing the Rangers, really, and everyone knows they aren't going to end the season riding a 15 game winning streak. They have to lose eventually, and if it happens tonight, so be it. Florida's biggest games are upcoming. After tonight, Florida finishes with nothing but Southeast rivals.

-- No real news coming out of practice today, no roster changes, nothing.

-- From what I've been told, the in-game folks have a little surprise planned for tonight, but no elaborate skits or comedy acts scheduled.  One of the better skits they've done this season came the last time the Rangers came to town back around Thanksgiving time. Florida won that game, and this skit got a bunch of hits on YouTube.  If you haven't seen it, enjoy:  HAPPY TURKEY DAY

March 13, 2008

Playoff Center/Centre

Bandit Time to do some number crunching, time to put the pencil to the paper.

We've got about three weeks left and a lot of teams in the east trying to make the playoffs.

As Jerry Reed once sang, "We got a long way to go, and a short time to get there.''

I'm east bound, just watch old Bandit run.

Here's what we got as of Thursday, April 13...


7. Boston (36-26-8, 80). Games remaining: 12. The sked: 13 TB; 15 PHL; 16 @wsh; 20 MON; 22 @mon; 25 @tor; 27 TOR; 29 OTT; 30 @buf; 2 @nj; 4 @ott; 5 BUF.

8. Philadelphia (35-27-9, 79). Games remaining: 11. The sked: 15 @bos; 16 @pit; 18 ATL; 21 NYR; 23 NYI; 25 @nyr; 28 @nj; 29 @nyi; 2 @pit; 4 NJ; 6 PIT.

9. Buffalo (32-28-11, 75). Games remaining: 11. The sked: 14 CAR; 15 @tor; 19 TBAY; 21 TOR; 25 OTT; 27 @ott; 28 MON; 30 BOS; 1 @tor; 3 @mon; 5 @bos.

10. Washington (33-30-8, 74). Games remaining: 11. The sked: 14 ATL; 16 BOS; 18 @nsh; 19 @chi; 21 @atl; 25 @car; 27 @tbay; 29 @fla; 1 CAR; 3 TBAY; 5 FLA.

11. FLORIDA (33-31-8, 74). Games remaining: 10. The sked: 14 NYR; 16 ATL; 20 CAR; 22 TBAY; 25 @tbay; 27 ATL; 29 WSH; 1 @atl; 4 @car; 5 @wsh.

12. Toronto (32-30-10, 74). Games remaining 10. The sked: 15 BUF; 18 @nyi; 21 @buf; 22 @ott; 25 BOS; 27 @bos; 29 MON; 1 BUF; 3 OTT; 5 @mon.

FOR WSH/FLA FANS ONLY 3. Carolina (38-29-5, 81). Games remaining: 10. The sked: 14 @buf; 16 OTT; 19 @atl; 20 @fla; 25 WSH; 28 ATL; 29 @tbay; 1 @wsh; 2 TBAY; 4 FLA.

THE BREAKDOWN ('break it on down...')

BOSTON -- Games remaining: 12; Home: 6; Away: 6; vs. Winning Team: 11; vs. Losing Team: 1; Home vs. WT: 5; Home vs. LT: 1; Road vs. WT: 6; Road vs. LT: 0; Back to Backs: 3.

PHILLY -- Games remaining: 11; Home: 5; Away: 6; vs. Winning Team: 8; vs. Losing Team: 3; Home vs. WT: 3; Home vs. LT: 2; Road vs. WT: 5; Road vs. LT: 1; Back to Backs: 2.

BUFFALO -- Games remaining: 11; Home: 6; Away: 5; vs. Winning Team: 10; vs. Losing Team: 1; Home vs. WT: 5; Home vs. LT: 1; Road vs. WT: 5; Road vs. LT: 0; Back to Backs: 2.

WASHINGTON -- Games remaining: 11; Home: 5; Away: 6; vs. Winning Team: 7; vs. Losing Team: 4; Home vs. WT: 3; Home vs. LT: 2; Road vs. WT: 4; Road vs. LT: 2; Back to Backs: 1.

FLORIDA -- Games remaining: 10; Home: 6; Away: 4; vs. Winning Team: 5; vs. Losing Team: 5; Home vs. WT: 3; Home vs. LT: 3; Road vs. WT: 2; Road vs. LT: 2; Back to Backs: 1.

TORONTO -- Games remaining: 10; Home: 5; Away: 5; vs. Winning Team: 9; vs. Losing Team: 1; Home vs. WT: 5; Home vs. LT: 0; Road vs. WT: 4; Road vs. LT: 1; Back to Backs: 2.

CAROLINA -- Games remaining: 10; Home: 5; Away: 5; vs. Winning Team: 6; vs. Losing Team: 4; Home vs. WT: 3; Home vs. LT: 2; Road vs. WT: 3; Road vs. LT: 2; Back to Backs: 2.

MY TAKE: The Panthers road to the postseason, quite honestly, doesn't look all that hard.

The Panthers can probably forget about catching Carolina, what with the Hurricanes having a pretty easy road with four games (eight points) against Tampa and Atlanta. They'll win one of two against Panthers, and that should be that.

Florida has five games against teams with winning records left, five against teams with losing records remaining. That's more than any other team on this list. Carolina and Washington each have four left. The Panthers also have six more home games remaining, tied with Buffalo and Boston for most left.

Washington should also put up a fight, but the Caps' six game roadie from Ap. 18-29 (Nash, Chi, Atl, Car, Tampa, FLA) could be a major concern. Washington finishes with three at the phone booth, so if they stand strong on the road, they should be in very good shape. Don't forget, Panthers and Caps play each other twice; Wash in Sunrise for Panthers' home finale, FLA in DC for regular season finale.

Toronto, bless 'em, have it rough down the stretch, the Islanders on Ap. 18 the only team they play without a winning record. The Leafs can win a few of those games, but they are probably already running on fumes, so it's going to be tough.

Boston, Philly and Buffalo all have rough roads ahead as well. Buffalo and Boston both have just one game left against a non-winning team, Philly plays eight of 11 against teams with winning records. 

Going to be fun seeing how this all plays out. Will try to update this every couple of days, spring training days not included.