There was no confetti, but unlike last season, the Florida Panthers closed out their season with a win at home. Bill Thomas‘ dribbler past Washington Capitals goalie Michael Neuvirth with just over six minutes to play (the only goal of the game) was enough to keep the Panthers from ending the season with an 11 game losing streak.
Tomas Vokoun, in what might very well be his last game as a Panther, capped the season by making 28 saves for his sixth shutout of the season. With regards to this being his last game, Vokoun said:
“This is a game I wanted to play, I prepare myself for it. You don’t think about that kind of stuff during the game. Honestly, every game I go out there and focus the same way, really usually do the same stuff. Sometimes it works better than others. But, you don’t think about it like that, I just wanted to win. I go with that mindset into every game.”
Coach Pete DeBoer, who future with the club is also shadowed in some doubt, thought Saturday’s game was a microcosm of the season:
“I think you saw a little bit of everything that we dealt with all year tonight. The tight games, the inability to get more than one or two goals, the reliance on great goaltending in order to find wins.”
Looking back on the season as a whole, DeBoer said:
“I can’t question the effort the guys gave me all year. All the guys that were here, the veterans that we traded to the young guys that came in at the end. No one’s happy with the results. No one’s happy with the point totals or the standings. It’s easy to point out the deficiencies with this team. I think they’re fixable but it wasn’t good enough this year, that’s the bottom line.”
For the Capitals, better days are ahead for them. For the second consecutive season, they finished the season with the best record in the Eastern Conference. They’ll square off against the New York Rangers, whom they were 1-2-1 against this season.
And with that, the Panthers close their tenth straight season without being in the playoffs. For now, Panther fans carry hope for the future in the form of Dale Tallon’s “Blueprint”, the upcoming draft and free agency periods, and young players like Erik Gudbranson and Quinton Howden. Speaking of the draft, the Panthers will find out this Tuesday, April 12 (8pm EST on Versus), where they will be picking when the NHL Draft Lottery is held.
And just because the Panthers season is over, doesn’t mean The Rat Trick goes dormant. Keep checking back daily as we’ll be following the playoffs, offering post-season predictions and our post season award winners. And, of course, we’ll be following every move the Cats make in what promises to be a busy and interesting off-season!
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