The Florida Panthers have some of the most unlikely winning streaks, even if they're only 2 games long. Over the last two games, we've seen a back and forth win with scoring in excess capped off by an unlikely hero, and tonight we witnessed a goal with 27 seconds remaining to tie it, and another unlikely hero to win it. It took Dmitry Kulikov 24 games to find the back of the net, and it comes after being the scapegoat on the New Jersey Devils first goal of the game. Shawn Matthias had a similar fate when the Devils scored on a penalty he took in the third, but then he netted the equalizer with the goalie pulled. Oh, and Steve Bernier had two goals. Strange indeed.
Careful observers will note that the Panthers have finally moved out of single digits in the win column, thanks almost entirely to Matthias and Jonathan Huberdeau. One of those players has never felt the sting of playoff elimination on the biggest stage, and the other is obviously tired of the feeling. Matthias has been a constant in the Panthers last twenty games, and he's slowly turning around the production of other players who've been spiraling downwards over that duration. Does he deserve an A? Who cares, it doesn't take one to see that he's the heart of the team right now.
- I know it was tough to be dealt a playoff loss by the New Jersey Devils after battling back in Game 7, bitterness and a want for retribution is understandable; but I'm really enjoying these match ups with the Devils. Leaguewide, the first round of the playoffs last year had a nasty cloud over it with unnecessary dirtiness and controversy, and it was nice to see "the boring series" stay clean and respectful. The last series to start was the last series to end, and as hockey nation watched the last periods of the first round it became apparent that you don't need pointless drama to make the playoffs exciting.
- Shawn Matthias would net the Cats first goal, his 10th in 16 games. Huberdeau would be given the primary assist, which ties him with Cory Conacher for the rookie lead with 24 points. Putting those two together seems so simple.
- Who would have dreamed up Filip Kuba being better defensively than Erik Gudbranson? Proof yet again that we enter an alternate universe when Mike Weaver isn't playing.
- I was thinking about it earlier today, but was Peter DeBoer really so bad? The talk was always that DeBoer was a defensive minded coach while Dineen emphasized offense, but whether that's actually the case is up for debate. The difference is that Dineen has talented players in Florida and DeBoer didn't; yet the excuse for Petey's success in New Jersey is that 'he has talented players'. Does anyone else see the disconnect in logic?
- Scottie Upshall had a good game, unfortunately there seems to be a pattern that dictates an injury in his near future after said games. Did you know he bought a new wakeboard? He's dying to try it out.
- In his last few games Markstrom has looked very, very calm. One of the things Marky seemed to do earlier in the season, as well as in the AHL, was try to be a perfect goalie when no one should expect that of him. Lately he hasn't let goals against phase him, and incidentally he's been pretty impressive. I think we're starting to see the form that earned him praise in Sweden.
- It turns out Steve Bernier is actually an effective player.
- George Parros returned from injury tonight, but would only skate through 13:42 of the second period. With so many injuries this year for the Cats, the San Antonio Rampage should use vacations to Florida as a bargaining chip with AHL free agents. Recall Wade Megan!
- Find the Devils view of the game at the excellent In Lou We Trust.
On Tuesday the Cats will head across Alligator Alley to play their 'rivals', the Tampa Bay Lightning(in case you forgot). The only thing these two teams rival for this year is a shot at Seth Jones, but since we like the folks over at the Lightning's SBN affiliate, LBC will have something fun in store anyways. Will it be the last game in Sunrise for some of the Panther's trade assets? Cats at Sparkys, 7:30.