Going in to Monday’s game against the Atlanta Thrashers, all of the talk was about the big fourth game in a six game home-stand. The Cats won the first three at home and were looking at a much needed win against the team holding the current eighth conference playoff spot. The Panthers had not won four in a row since the 2008 season and before Peter DeBoer was head coach. Scott Clemmensen got the nod for the third game in a row, while Tomas Vokoun questioned why he was benched after the team’s last “win.” At what seems to be a pivotal point in the season, I can’t help but to notice all of the injuries! Bryan McCabe…likely out 4-6 weeks after taking a puck to the jaw! Guess it will be dinner through a straw for him! Center, Stephen Weiss, looked like he lost a fight to Manny Pacquiao. Chris Higgins continues to be day to day with a hamstring injury. Just before the end of the second period against Atlanta, a puck just about cleared the Florida bench when it went flying right at the players…a close call, which could have taken out yet another player!
So, is this a beat up team? I don’t think so. I think it’s a team that is starting to show some character and some fight! At the mid-point of the season, the team was just about where it was in each of the past several years – just out of playoff contention. Each year has been a “rebuilding year.” However, this year we have a “blueprint!” What? We didn’t have a blueprint before? Well, we didn’t have Dale Tallon before either. During a town hall meeting, Tallon shared the blueprint with fans. In it…”focus on core traits of character, skill, size, speed and MORE character!” Ah, it’s all coming together!
It wasn’t long ago that I was commenting on a post game thread about how it wasn’t always easy being a Panther’s fan…watching numerous blown leads; seeing a team that beats a top team, then loses to a team that it should beat; and fans that get excited about reaching the .500 mark. Well, the Panthers will finish out this week with two more home games, and one of those against the leading team in the Southeastern Conference – the Tampa Bay Lightning. So, maybe, just maybe with a couple more wins, a few more band-aids, and more character, this team can make a push for a play-off spot. After all, they don’t want to become an embarrassing stat of being the only team to go a decade without making the play-offs. It’s not always easy being a Panther’s fan; however, it’s not easy being a Panther’s player! Just like the Verizon ad says, “you wouldn’t make it in the NHL…”