FLORIDA PANTHERS: 37-25-18 (92 PTS.) vs. WASHINGTON CAPITALS: 40-32-8 (88 PTS.)
OPPOSITION SITE: CAPITALS OUTSIDER
GAME DAY SONG: PROVE IT ALL NIGHT- Bruce Springsteen
Musical inspiration for me comes from Bruce Springsteen, and if you’ve been even a semi-regular reader of this site, that should be no surprise to you. After almost 40 years of making music, the man known as The Boss (which he doesn’t like), has songs that will speak to you in almost any way imaginable. As the Florida Panthers take the ice tonight to once again attempt to win their first division title ever, Prove It All Night, seems to be the best fit.
After a fairly dominating first period against the Winnipeg Jets on home ice Tuesday night, the Panthers broke open a satisfying 3-0 lead, only to watch it evaporate for the same reasons other leads have this year. Going into an apparent defensive shell, the Panthers stopped attacking and allowed the Jets back in the game. They stood still at times, they stopped hitting, they got fancy, and they probably got nervous. Tomas Fleischmann admitting in the dressing room after the game that “we stopped skating”. So while the table was set to clinch the division at home, especially with the song “How You Like Me Now” being played for warmups, Florida fell short.
Tonight’s game against the Washington Capitals can decide their fate if, and the scenario is as follows. If Buffalo loses, the Panthers will make the playoffs no matter if they lose out their final two games. If the Panthers beat the Capitals, they then win the Southeast division and will have the home ice advantage at least in the first round. The third scenario is that if they lose to the Caps in regulation, they’ll need at least one point Saturday night against Carolina at home to qualify for the post season. For my taste, the middle scenario is the best. Win tonight, and be done with it. We don’t need another nerve wracking home game.
Some stats about tonight reveal one common thread. These two teams have been consistently inconsistent lately. The Panthers are 3-5-2 in their last 1o games, while Washington is 4-4-2. Washington is so determined to win that forward Brooks Laich virtually guaranteed it. Bold statement, but honestly,what would you rather he say? Games like this, as well as games like the one we witnessed Tuesday night are games that require your leader(s) to step up. A player that will put the team on his back is what you’re looking for. We’ve seen it previously on other teams. Mark Messier carried the Rangers to a Cup victory in 1994. Jonathan Toews put the Blackhawks on his back in 2010 on their way to winning the Stanley Cup. Andrew Ladd, captain of the Winnipeg Jets was the driving force in Tuesday’s win over Florida. The Panthers need such a player to do the same tonight.
It’s game 81 tonight, and none of the usual analysis belongs here for this one. It doesn’t matter who leads in goals, who’s hot, who’s not, or who wins the most when scoring three goals on a Thursday before 8:37 P.M. What matters tonight is who wants it more, and who is desperate enough to play that way for the entire 60 minutes. Plain, simple, lunch pail hockey for the entire game. Win tonight, and you’re in Panthers. You can then have fun on Saturday night when Carolina comes to Sunrise to close out the regular season.
When this team sticks to an attacking game plan and “takes it to their opponent” they can beat anyone on any given night. In the playoffs you’ll have games like this one every other night, and the team that can continue to respond and not back down will win the series.
You want it, you take it, you pay the price. To “Prove It All Night”.
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