The league's best team sauntered into Sunrise and got slapped. Hard. The Big Question: does this say more about Florida or Boston? The Cats haven't lost back-to-back in over two months. Following the Chicago loss on Thurday, the streak is intact.
A strange but ultimately fulfilling evening for the Cats, as most likely no one gave them any respect going into this match against the Eastern Conference leader.
How to sum it up? Hard work. Period. The Panthers simply kept roaring back after Boston owned the first period. Coach Claude Julien appeared content.
Panthers forward Radek Dvorak had two goals (one shorthanded) and Tomas Vokoun stopped 41 shots (!) to secure the shutout. But once again, and this has been said over and over after victories, it was indeed a team effort. They're all working together.
A big crowd witnessed this one, as The Box received numerous texts from Sunrise describing the atmosphere, including descriptions of folks being turned away at the box office due to the lack of remaining seats. Insane. 1996 all over again.
Boston goaltender - and current league leader in several categories, not to mention the odds-on favorite for the Vezina - Tim Thomas was just short of superb, stopping 27 shots, many of the unbelievable variety. The Bruins came out sharp, dictating the play, and regardless of the score, did not collapse down the stretch. Simply a matter of being outworked at key moments. And Thomas can't play "D". Coach Claude Julien soon appeared constipated and irritable. Seriously. Ewww.
Nathan Horton and David Booth were both regularly turned away - and often - but not for a lack of effort. Horton in particular was on a mission, and his efforts ultimately kept Boston's focus away from the other lines. A success, if not on the scoresheet.
Cats' coach Pete DeBoer:
On Thomas: "He was outstanding."
On the shorthanded goal: "A twenty man effort but an exceptional night by our goaltender and D-Vo."
On neutral zone play: "Doubt the penalties were that big a deal."
On the crowd: "The guys wanted to make a statement tonight."
A humble dood, but he's no doubt enjoying the victory in the dressing room.
On the downside, The Assassin remains the goal scoring leader of the club, but hasn't actually scored a goal in a Really. Long. Time. As long as the attention is taken away from the likes of the Booths, Hortons, et al, the Cats will stay in good shape. But it certainly wouldn't hurt to have a dominant score. BTW: Olli Jokinen had a hattrick for his non-playoff Coyotes. Nice.
All in all, a grand evening for the Cats, and the furthest thing from a "freebie" one could imagine. A great night for Florida hockey fans, new and old, and a tremendous accomplishment on an evening That Mattered for conference standings.
COMING UP TOMORROW: Litter Box Liners for Sunday