It's good to know that the Panthers can keep up with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Unfortunately, the Panthers were able to keep it close with the Penguins minus Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Paul Martin. For a while it seemed like the Penguins would put up another touchdown on the Cats the way the Jets so gracefully did on Thursday night, but the defense was able to shut down much of the second half of the game while the third line chipped in a goal to keep it interesting. That was about it; not so much a bad way to lose as it was a dull way to lose.
Tomorrow morning you will see an 'e' tacked on to the Panthers name in the standings; they are the first of 14 teams to be eliminated from the playoffs. Though this is undoubtedly depressing, I'm a bit surprised it took this long. It was quite apparent that Florida had no chance back in mid-March, but a few scattered wins and a 3 game streak prolonged the Cats date with destiny for at least a few days more. Tough season, but there have been some positives mixed in to keep fans hungry for more. Onward Panthers, the lottery wheel awaits!
- The burden of Most Pathetic Reason To Miss A Hockey Game has finally been lifted from Dmitry Kulikov's shoulders! Evgeni Malkin will receive the honor after missing tonight's game due to a sunburn, no word on who blew the coverage on sunscreening Malkin's back but if I had to guess... Douglas Murray is usually behind those sorts of things.
Brenden Morrow, Jerome Iginla, Jussi Jokinen-- Big game for Morrow, but I didn't really notice the others. Against the stat-padding worst team in the NHL, no less.
- I'm firmly in the camp of not resigning Stephen Weiss next season, but in doing so the question has been where will the Panthers find another #1 center. I think the answer is starting to emerge in Marcel Goc. Goc and Tomas Fleischmann have shown some real flashes of chemistry while facing the opposition's top line; something I haven't seen from any of the centers this season who've been thrown into the mix with Flash. In a perfect world Goc would be centering the 3rd line, but with a less than spectacular free agent center market Goc may be the best option. Keep your fingers crossed for him to avoid injury through the rest of the season.
- ROOKIE REPORT: Markstrom- No fault on the first goal as Morrow and Kuba had him screened out, but Morrow's goal was a tough one for him. Had another solid start overall. Bjugstad- More good positioning, and better offensive pressure. Though he didn't earn an assist, he drew a lot of attention from the Pittsburgh defenders on Uppy's goal which left him free to punch in the rebound. Huberdeau- Really not that noticeable to be honest. Howden- Seemed to get more ice time, a usual speedy forechecking game for Howden. Shore- Like Huberdeau, not very noticeable. The Kid line can be the Cats' best some nights and lost in the Bermuda Triangle on others.
- Nice efforts from Kulikov and Weaver tonight, the defense as a whole was much improved from the Winnipeg horror show. I'd be happy to have the six defenders on the ice tonight start the season next October, they're definitely going to take some lessons from this strange season and remember them next year when all 30 teams have a clean slate.
- Interesting day for Scottie Upshall, after a lengthy on ice talk with Dineen he nets his first goal since March 21st. Maybe Dineen can talk to Shore next.
- Erik Gudbranson seems to want to kill each player that comes between him and the boards, but the only thing he's killing is the Panthers momentum.
- Find the Pittsburgh game recap at PensBurgh.
On Tuesday Florida drops by Nassau Coliseum to take on the New York Islanders for the first contest of a 4 game road trip. The Islanders have been very good of late and have stayed inside the top 8 for a while now, which will likely formulate into a playoff berth somewhere in the 6th-8th place range. Nabokov and Tavares have led the uprising against mediocre hockey, and for the Isles this game will be just another must win. Panthers at Isles, 7pm.