Monday, March 2, 2009

(Washington) Monument[al] Victory

When Washington scored on the powerplay just over a minute into yesterday's tilt between the Panthers and Capitals, don't even pretend that you were calm. After Saturday's embarrassment, the second in three games, and team chemistry being called into question with the sending home of Boynton and injuries to Vokoun and Stillman, many Panthers fans had their hands hovering over the panic button.

However, much like their fellow feline Felix, these Cats reached into their bag of tricks again, and pulled out an improbable and impressive victory to become the first NHL team this season to beat Washington twice in D.C.

And so, the Panthers did what I asked, in winning one of the two games this weekend. Because of that, Florida now officially survives the most difficult part of their schedule. All we could have asked for was trading wins and losses during this stretch, and that's exactly what they did. Now the schedule becomes normal again, but the boys can't let up. They must go to Atlanta tomorrow, a place we don't usually play extremely well in, followed by hosting Pittsburgh and St. Louis, two teams fighting for their playoff lives. Perhaps the schedule doesn't get all that much easier, as Florida goes from playing great teams to playing desperate teams. Sometimes, that can be all the more dangerous.

My current thoughts:

-Yes, I know the title is a stretch. The parentheses are for clarification, while the brackets are part of the title. "Monumental Victory" with a "Washington Monument" allusion. Yeah, on second though, the title probably wasn't worth it...

-Three for three on the powerplay? In the first period? On the road? Forget about asking who these Panthers are, give me the names of this officiating crew and make sure they stay with us. We usually don't get three powerplays in a game, let alone in the first period.

-Four of the hardest games of the season, on the road, without our starting goalie, and three without a top six forward. 2-2 is beautiful.

-Things in rearview mirror may be larger than they appear. All of a sudden Pittsburgh is just two points behind us, while Toronto has somehow jumped back into the race. Our come from behind victories over them are looking pretty fortunate right now.

-Speaking of the rearview, one team is pulling away and that's Montreal. They went from a team I thought we had no chance of catching, to a team fighting for their playoff lives, and now they're back to nearing that first category again. One extra team (Toronto) fighting for one less spot (if Montreal keeps winning) means the race gets all the more frightening, with six teams for three spots, rather than four.

-Look at the finished opponents now. Boston - done. New Jersey - done. Montreal - done. New York Rangers - done. That means four of the top seven teams in the conference (including three of the most talented) are off the schedule. The Cats are going to need to take care of business many times for the rest of the season if they are to finally make the playoffs.

Nothing to watch out for on the scoreboard tonight, but plenty of action tomorrow. Let's hope we can beat Atlanta, who is coming off a big victory over the Hurricanes. And make sure everybody gets out to the BankAtlantic Center to welcome home our boys Thursday against the Penguins. Boo all Crosby and Malkin jerseys.

Panthers playoff chances: 88.9% (Trending up)

Playoffs or bust.

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