With another off day to enjoy the afterglow of the Florida Panthers colossal win over the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday night, before a three-game homestand begins with the Toronto Maple Leafs visiting the BB&T Center on Tuesday, let's start this Caterwaul by taking a look at how this year's version of the Cats stack up against the best editions in franchise history.
The Panthers win over the Bolts was their 42nd of the season, eclipsing the 41 posted by both the 2008-09 team and the hallowed 1995-96 squad that won the Eastern Conference Championship. That is just one off the franchise-best total of 43 set by the 1999-2000 club that finished second in the Southeast Division before flaming out in four straight games to the New Jersey Devils in the playoffs. With the fading Devils and already-eliminated Montreal Canadiens also visiting this week, it seems probable that a new wins record could be established in just a matter of days.
The 1999-2000 team also holds the franchise record for most points with 98. Right now, the 2015-16 Panthers have collected 93 points, and with seven games left on the schedule, surpassing that mark is certainly doable. The 5-2 win over the Lightning moved this year's team past the 2014-15 club (91) and the 1995-95 squad (92) into third-place all-time. Their next victory will move them past the Kevin Dineen-coached 2011-12 Panthers that captured the franchise's only division title, but, lost in the first round of the playoffs to those pesky Devils again, this time in seven games.
In addition to the Cats retaking sole possession of the lead in the Atlantic Division, this weekend saw the 2016 NCAA hockey tournament go from sixteen teams down to the Frozen Four. Florida sent five prospects to the tournament and three of them, Boston College's Ian McCoshen, North Dakota's Christopher Wilkie and Denver's Evan Cowley saw their respective teams advance, while Michael Downing and Michigan lost to North Dakota in hockey's version of the "Elite Eight" after bouncing Joe Wegwerth's Notre Dame squad 3-2 in overtime in the opening round. Downing was the only one of the prospects to register a point by collecting an assist versus the Fighting Irish. Cowley backed up Tanner Jaillet in both of the Pioneers' games.
In other good news for the organization, the Portland Pirates ran its winning streak to four games by sweeping the Springfield Falcons this weekend. With ten games left to go, the Pirates have a two-point lead, with a game in hand, on the Hartford Wolf Pack for the final playoff berth in the AHL's Eastern Conference.
While the Panthers are idle, there a couple of important games involving the Atlantic Division tonight. Buffalo is at Detroit and Toronto is at Tampa Bay. In another game with Eastern Conference playoff implications, the Philadelphia Flyers will host the Winnipeg Jets. So keep your eyes on the scoreboard, as the Cats magic number (currently 7) for clinching a playoff could be further reduced.