Ain’t it funny how things happen? 12 long years pass before the Panthers find themselves in the postseason only to face the very team that swept them in the last go-around. While the Cats hardly put up an effort worthy of being called a “good fight” in that first round, they did put up a good send-off for the Devils who ended up going all the way. With so much time having passed, obviously both franchises have seen the usual year-to-year changes. But, for the Devils in particular, a couple constants still remain.
Martin Brodeur. One of the best netminders (many will argue THE best) to ever play the game. He was a member of all three Devils teams that have won the Stanley Cup. He hardly even needs an introduction, and in a couple of hours he’ll be suiting up between the pipes perhaps with the tick of an inevitable clock sounding in his head. The veteran might see this as his last real shot to achieve No. 4, and let it be said that is all the motivation he will need.
Another “Mr. Devil” if you will, Patrik Elias, hoisted the cup the last two times the Devils won it all (2000, 2003). While it doesn’t come as surprise, he put up big numbers again this year totaling 78 points in 26 goals and 52 assists. The 35 year old has spent his entire career with New Jersey and has scored a very impressive 361 goals in that span dating back to the mid ’90s.
Petr Sykora has two Stanley Cups under his belt, one with the Devils back in 2000 and one with Pittsburgh three years ago. He was an ironman for New Jersey this year playing in all 82 games, and is one of five roster players who surpassed the 20-goal mark. Ryan Carter is the fourth Devil who has won a Cup, but it wasn’t one with New Jersey. Carter was a member of the 2007 Ducks team that got Teemu Selanne‘s name engraved for the first time in his long career.
The Panthers do not have any leftovers from their 2000 team… heck, thanks to Dale Tallon, they hardly have any leftovers from last year’s team. They do, however, have a core of five players who have gone the distance (four of whom did it as teammates).
Kris Versteeg, Brian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky and John Madden won it two years ago when Chicago defeated the Flyers in six games. Ironically enough, that was Madden’s second Cup, and his first came 12 years ago with you-know-who. Mikael Samuelsson, like Madden, has bounced around the NHL a bit. He won the Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2008, and also played in the Finals the following year when the Red Wings lost the rematch against Pittsburgh. So, he and Sykora are no strangers in the postseason.
If you can even compare the new-millenium 2000 Panthers to the newly shaped 2012 Panthers, you will notice one very big component sticks out about that team so many years ago. He was revered as the Russian Rocket and, along with other Panther greats like John Vanbiesbrouk and Scott Mellanby, left one of the biggest footprints within the orginazation.
Pavel Bure brought an energy to the then-National Car Rental Center that to this day can not be translated into words. He finished the regular season with 58 goals that year, and was only one shy of the elite 60-goal club the following year. It could serve as something special for the sentimental fans with Game 1 being played in Sunrise this evening. Since it has been so long and most Panthers fans are in completely different stages of their lives now, tonight could take them back. Personally, I have not heard the National Anthem once since that era without hearing in my head “Rocket!!!” being shouted during a certain bar of the song.
So Panthers fans, win or lose, let this take you back. Even if it takes you back to heartbreak (getting swept isn’t easy you know), God knows heartbreak is no unfamiliar battle in South Florida. We don’t have the Russian Rocket, or Laus, or Kozzie, or The Wizard, or Silly, or Robbie, or Olli, or the very man who started the recently resurrected “rat” craze. But we do have long time Panther Stephen Weiss who, unlike others, has stuck it out through the tough times. We have Stanley Cup winners, and winners in different respects. While the rest of this year’s group came from all over, they came for good reason. They came to put together Florida’s first division title in franchise history, and that in itself is something special. Win or lose, let this take you back.
OK, enough with sentimental, just win.
Thanks for reading! We welcome any comments.
Want to talk more hockey? Then you can follow The Rat Pack on Twitter! Me: @gabbykiger Frank Rekas:@TheRatTrick, David Lasseter: @davidlasster Josh Luecht: @joshluecht, Patrick McLaughlin: @PatrickRattrick Scott Mullin@GreatScottsman, David Rodriguez @davidbub_2, Paige Lewis @PeejLewiz, Adam Reid @AdamReid and Chrissy Parente @chrissaay44. Also, please visit our Facebook Fan Page and like us! Share comments, photos, anything Panthers related!