Since resumption of play in the National Hockey Hockey League, the Florida Panthers have appeared in six games, resulting in a record of 4-2. For our purposes here, let's throw out one of those "L"s; the first game following the Olympic break (a 4-2 snoozer in Atlanta) which just happened to take place mere hours before the trading deadline.
After the deadline, the Cats are 4-1: having secured wild victories over Philadelphia, Carolina, Minnesota, and San Jose, with the lone loss occuring at the hands of former goaltender Craig Anderson in Denver (and backed by some admittedly uninspired and lackluster play by the visitors lending to a shutout).
All four wins had remarkable storylines: the Flyers were 5-0 leading up to "Welcome Mike Richards" night at the BankAtlantic Center, the division-rival Hurricanes had won seven straight, the Wild had not lost to Florida since 2001, and the Sharks are, well, the Sharks...second overall in points.
Throughout the five matches since Deadline Day, the Cats have netted 16 goals (plus one shootout winner) while allowing 12. The power play has slackened, firing at 3-for-18, and the penalty killing has not been remotely healthy either, going 5-for-16. Not surprising numbers in any case considering the absences of Nathan Horton and (more recently) Byron Bitz; center Stephen Weiss continues to play on a gimpy foot.
Who's been clutch? Check out the last four game-winners: Weiss, Kamil Kreps, Cory Stillman (SO), and Bryan Allen (OT). Perhaps more confounding is who among the supposed "big guns" hasn't contributed consistently over the past four: Weiss (0 points), David Booth (1 assist), Steven Reinprecht (2 assists) and Michael Frolik (2 goals). And don't get me started on Rostislav Olesz (0 points). However, none of this has been a deterrent. Yet.
Younglings Jason Garrison, Dmitry Kulikov, Michal Repik, and (especially) Shawn Matthias are playing with an edge.
Tomas Vokoun has been his typical miraculous self, going 4-1 with his defense gaining confidence before him; Scott Clemmensen has not seen a minute of action since the team-inspired loss at Atlanta.
Of course, with league-leading Washington in town Tuesday night, things could get ugly rather quickly - at least on paper - but who in their trippiest vision could have predicted Florida's effort - and final result - in San Jose?
Coach Peter DeBoer, assistants Jim Hulton and Mike Kitchen, along with captain McCabe seem to finally be working from the same handbook, which could make for an interesting end to the season.