The Florida Panthers have moved into uncharted territory setting records for wins, points and several players achieving personal bests along the way. The Cats rode a two-point performance from Jaromir Jagr and 32 saves from Roberto Luongo to a 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. Clinching the Atlantic Division was sweet music for the Panthers but veteran Shawn Thornton knows the hard work lies ahead.
Florida Panthers Brian Campbell Hits Milestone 1,000th Game
Veteran Defenseman Brian Campbell suited up for his 1,000thcareer National Hockey League game on Tuesday night. The game was also Campbell’s 374th consecutive, surpassing the team record held by long time Panther Olli Jokinen.
Jokinen, who still lives and works in south Florida, told George Richards of the Miami Herald that Campbell’s achievement is very special.
“What makes that streak even more impressive is he plays a lot of heavy minutes every night. He probably has played through some injuries during the streak and that shows how well he takes care of his body off the ice.”
Barkov Writing History
First-line Centre Aleksander Barkov is another Panther whose play down the stretch sees him setting personal bests very time he hits the scoresheet. He scored the first goal against Montreal only 10 seconds into the game and he now has potted five goals and eight points in his last five games played. The big Finn now has 28 goals and 57 points on the season, obliterating his previous career bests and, in points per game this season, he has moved into the league’s elite with a mark of 0.89, tops on the Panthers and 17th in the league, just behind Vladimir Tarasenko and just ahead of Alex Ovechkin…pretty heady company. With two games remaining against weaker opposition, Ottawa, and Carolina, Barkov has a good shot at hitting 30 goals and 60 points this season and you can bet line mates Jagr and Jonathan Huberdeau will be well aware of that.
Panthers and Islanders on a Collision Course?
With home ice for at least the first two rounds of the playoffs locked up, Cats’ fans can now turn their attention to an opponent for the first round. If the playoffs were to start tonight, The Panthers would face the New York Islanders but that is far from certain as the Philadelphia Flyers and, less likely, the fading Boston Bruins could move up and grab the first wild card spot now held by the Islanders. The Islanders are coping with injuries to top defensemen Travis Harmonic and Calvin de Haan so they could be a preferred first round opponent for the Panthers and that would suit team ownership just fine. Co-owner Doug Cifu, a Long Island native, told SiriusXM NHL radio Tuesday night, he would prefer the Islanders.
“I guess the Rangers have a great, world-class goalie, so in a coin flip, I’d probably prefer the Islanders,” said Cifu, a Syosset native who grew up a Rangers fan. “Obviously, the Rangers and the Islanders are both really, really strong teams.”
Avoiding a matchup against Henrik Lundqvist is likely a sound strategy although a Lundqvist – Luongo matchup would be a great storyline.
Two to Go
The Florida Panthers have two games remaining…Thursday night in Ottawa and, then, a match against the Carolina Hurricanes at home on Saturday to close out the regular season. Now that the division championship is wrapped up, head coach Gerard Gallant may be tempted to rest some veterans in advance of the playoff opener. Already, defenseman Erik Gudbranson has returned to Sunrise and is doubtful he’ll be back until the first playoff game. In the meantime, Alex Petrovic has taken his spot and has been playing well. If second line centre Vincent Trocheck can return from injury in time for playoff action, the Panthers should be primed for a playoff run.