Let’s flash back to the night of February 7. That evening, the Florida Panthers laid a metaphorical egg against the Washington Capitals, and social media sites were inflamed with anger and disappointment.
Fans had reached the bottom of their hope for the year, to a point where they thought that Dale Tallon would have to purge the roster to make some sort of statement. I myself thought Stephen Weiss would be shipped out for more draft picks. As a collective fan base, there was a feeling inside each and every one of us that we might have to gear up for another spring without playoff hockey.
And who could blame us? We lost two straight games that were billed as “must-win games”, to division opponents no less. Our defense was porous and irresponsible, our offense was stagnant most of the time, and our goaltending was average at best. Our team efforts against the Lightning and Capitals were unacceptable, and we wondered whether or not these games were more indicative of the Panthers than any of their wins. It felt like the Panthers have been overachieving all year, and these games showed their true ability.
But as it turns out, we couldn’t have been more wrong. Soon after falling two points behind the Caps with despair sinking in, the Panthers stepped their game up. Regulation wins against the Kings, Devils, and Islanders snapped us back into shape. Each win was convincing, and every facet of the game was working according to Kevin Dineen’ standards. In the meantime, the Capitals lost three straight of their own, and now their fans are left to panic and bite their nails. Only a week after the Cats seemed down and out of the division race, they now find themselves up by four points on Washington with a game in hand. Quite a turnaround, no?
As great as this run has been (and hopefully continues to exist), maybe even better than the wins is the reinvigorated fan base. Hope was hard to find on Twitter, as most Panther fans and hockey enthusiasts thought that negative streak could be too much to overcome. Now that the streak has been laid to rest, the Panthers are in the drivers seat in the division. And you don’t hear the doubters and panickers at all anymore.
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