Panther Gameday Preview: Cats vs.Minnesota Wild




Spoilers or players?  Well we have seen this “movie” over the past few season with Florida in the month of March.  Trade deadline over, pressure to win is off, players relaxed since they weren’t moved, and the winning seems to come easier.  Ah, but we all know that this is just the little tease that we always get as our hopes of actually making the playoffs goes through our minds. 

You know that feeling right?  Kind of like the girl at the dance who winks at you before you walk over to ask her to dance, then her date comes over and takes her out on the floor leaving you alone, sad, and wishing that you had taken advantage of the situation a little sooner.

Well, spoliers they may be, as for some reason there has been a new found offense for Florida as they have gone on a goal scoring spree in the last two games with eleven goals.  Michael Frolik may be coming out of his sophmore slump with three goals in those two games, and David Booth , finding his stroke if you will, with six points in his last three games.

The offense has been spread around pretty well over these two games, and while the Panthers find themselves in the 12th spot in the Eastern Conference, seven points out of eighth, there are some who think that there is a slight chance that a playoff berth is still possible. If this is you, go and look for the Jim Mora video on “you tube” and plug in playoffs.  Watch that and you’ll be brought back to reality.

While no one expects Florida to win, the players are feeling as though they have something else in mind and prove people wrong.  Ok, we’ve heard that before too.  While I would love to see them qualify, it’s not going to happen as too much other stuff must go wrong for it to become reality.  So while the pressure is off of the players, I have set my expectations just right for myself.  No playoffs.  Then when they don’t make it I won’t be disappointed.  You see, kind of like the entire organization’s way of thinking over the last umpteen years.  No pressure boys! 

Just not the way I like to feel about my team, but maybe the offseason will change things.

In the meantime, I would expect Tomas Vokoun to get the start again in goal for Florida, as he has been keeping them in most of their games this season with some pretty stellar goaltending.  Haven’t heard any cries for Craig Anderson since about November!  One player who must get off the snide is Rusty Olesz.  No points in his last fourteen games!  On Saturday he spent a good amount of time on the fourth line.  Great.  Three million dollars on the fourth line with one player.  Can’t fault coach DeBoer for putting him there, but want to thank Uncle Jack for giving Rusty that undeserved contract!  Brilliant!

As for Minnesota, they are also desperately trying to make the playoffs in the tough Western Conference.  The Wild currently are in 13th place, six points out of the last spot, but with the competition so tough in this conference, I would find it hard to believe that they’ll make the playoffs either.

Fortunately with the firing of Jacques Lemaire, the boring style of play has been replaced with the umptempo style by head coach Todd Richards who came over form the San Jose Sharks.  The Wild lost Marion Gaborik but felt that ex Blackhawk Martin Havlat could fill his skates.  Havlat has had an up and down season, but of late is hot with 7 points in his last 8 games.  Another hot player for the Wild is ex Montreal Canadian Guillaume Latendresse who has 7 goals in his last 9 games.

Keep your eyes on #22 Cal Clutterbuck of the Wild.  Not just because he has a cool name, but because he’s basically leading the NHL in hits with 256!  Holy crap, I don’t think Little Stevie will accumulate that many in his entire career.  Anyway, Cal brings it every night, is a great energy guy with some skill as well.  Byron Bitz newly acquired by Florida is expected to bring a similar style of play.

Minnesota will try to beat Florida for the 8th straight time as they lead the series 7-1 and have outscored Florida      30-11. 

Minnesota usually plays before a sellout crowd as they love their hockey up there.  No doubt that should energize the home team.  If Florida still wants to tease us with a playoff push, winning tonight is a must.

Otherwise, the fade will begin.

Thanks for reading.


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Tags: Cal Clutterbuck Florida Panthers Martin Havlat Minnesota Wold Tomas Vokoun

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