There is nothing like a bit of urgency to get us moving in the right direction. When a deadline approaches, we worker longer hours, we study harder, and we put forth more effort. Sometimes, we can’t even be productive until a hard deadline. I hear it all the time as a law student – “I’m such a procrastinator that I started my paper at midnight before it was due” or “I pulled an all-nighter studying for my exam.” These types of statements are typical. We humans answer to pressure, and a lot of the time, it’s in a sense of urgency. We can rise to the occasion and accomplish the goal by the deadline.
Well, the deadline for the Florida Panthers is Saturday, April 7, and the goal is to reach the playoffs. The sense of urgency created by pressure will propel the Florida Panthers into the playoffs whether it’s as the champions of the Southeast Division or the 8th seed of the Eastern Conference. This has already been seen in the team’s recent play. Since the Panthers’ Southeast Division lead narrowed to 1 point over the Washington Capitals before this past Sunday’s game, the team has been different. On Sunday, the Cats beat the Carolina Hurricanes 2-0, and on Tuesday, they beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2. The Cats scored seven goals in two games after only scoring six goals in the last five games. In those five games, the Panthers were 1-4 including a 7-0 loss to division rival Winnipeg Jets.
What’s probably the most important turn around is the play of goaltender Jose Theodore. Goalies have to be hot for a good playoff run, and after starting March abysmally, Theodore has turned things around. He pitched a shutout against the Hurricanes, and he kept the Maple Leafs to only two goals. Over the last two games, he has blocked 62 of 64 shots for a save percentage of .969. That’s the kind of play the Panthers need from their netminder. You can even go one more game back – a loss last Friday to the Pittsburgh Penguins – in which Theodore had 33 saves in a 2-1 shootout loss. That would keep his save percentage over the last three games at .969 – 95 saves on 98 shots. Things are moving in the right direction.
Last week, I wrote an article about the best race in the NHL – the Southeast Division’s championship race. As I wrote, the Washington Capitals are the sleeping giant in the division, and since then, the Capitals have reeled off four straight wins. Ovechkin has four points and is +2 over that period, which as I said last week, is the key to the Capitals’ success. It still may be that the Capitals win the division, but if you look at the standings today, you’ll see that the Capitals are three points up, with one fewer game, on the Buffalo Sabres for the last playoff position in the East. This means that even if the Capitals end up winning the Southeast, the Panthers will be pushed to playing better and earning a playoff spot nonetheless. With Kris Versteeg hopefully coming back soon, the Panthers are moving in the right direction with a sense of urgency brought on by the pressure of Saturday, April 7. It should be a fun ride!