Who knew that an abbreviated 48 game season could feel so excruciatingly long. Panther fans’ rapt excitement brought on by the end of the NHL lockout and the beginning of the season was quickly extinguished by a rash of injuries and an early five game losing streak. Since then we have seen goalie changes, numerous new faces, outstanding rookies, and a whole lot of losses.
For fans, thoughts of the playoffs fell by the wayside at varying times of the year depending on each individual’s personal aptitude for delusion. (Personally it was the Panthers’ second five game losing streak of the season (Feb 9-18) that finally pulled the plug on my playoff dreams.) So with seven games left, the pain will soon mercifully come to an end. Below is a quick preview of the remaining games with some reasons why the games may be worth watching. PS I could use “it beats watching the Marlins” as a reason for watching each of these games but that goes without saying.
With each game I will give an excitement rating out of 10 and it is important to keep in mind that these ratings are relative to Panther fans i.e. an 8/10 rating means that as far as Panther games this late in the season go, it is pretty exciting. However, an 8/10 for Panther fans would probably chart closer to a 2/10 for anyone else.
4/16 Florida Panthers at New York Islanders
This game is the first of numerous opportunities the Panthers will have to play the spoiler role. The Isles currently occupy the 7th seed in the East. They are one point clear of the NY Rangers who are 8th and three points ahead of the 9th place Winnipeg Jets. You can bet there will be a playoff intensity coming from the Islanders who have not qualified for the playoffs in five seasons.
Excitement Level 8/10 We know the Islanders will come out firing, if the Panthers can match their intensity we should see a pretty interesting hockey game.
4/18 Florida Panthers at New York Rangers
This will be the first of two games the Panthers play against the Rangers in the seasons remaining weeks. Florida won the only prior meeting this year, 3-1 at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers are fighting tooth and nail for the final playoff spot in the East. You can bet that MSG will be rocking for this one.
Excitement Level 8/10
4/20 Florida Panthers at New Jersey Devils
The Devils have tanked their playoff chances in spectacular fashion having gone winless in their last nine games. They look like a safe bet to miss the playoffs so both teams should have little to play for in this game. The two teams have split their two games thus far this season so there will be some pride on the line in the rubber match on Saturday. The Panthers would love to pile on to the Devils woes and exact a small measure of revenge for last seasons divisional playoff loss that they suffered at the hands of the Devils last year.
Excitement Level 6/10 Revenge factor helps this one out a bit.
4/21 Florida Panthers at Boston Bruins
The Bruins currently sit one point behind the Montreal Canadiens for the Northeast Division Title. When this game is played a week from now I expect that the NE Division crown will still undecided. While the Bruins are assured of a playoff spot, winning their Division would push the Bruins to a two seed and a first round matchup against the NY Islanders. If Boston cannot capture the two seed they will most likely face the Maple Leafs in round one, a much tougher opponent.
This will also be a meeting between two future division rivals.
Excitement Level 4/10 Preventing a team from moving up from a four seed to a two seed just isn’t as satisfying as keeping a team out of the playoffs. The Panthers rarely play well in Boston, this game takes place on a Sunday, spend some time with the family instead.
4/23 New York Rangers at Florida Panthers
The Rangers’ playoff destiny may be decided at this point but at any rate, with two games against the Rangers in their last seven, the Panthers have a chance to seriously F-up the Rangers playoff hopes. I am from New York and Rangers fans are by nature pretty annoying so yea…it would be nice to see Florida throw a monkey wrench into the hearts of New Yorkers everywhere.
Excitement Level 7/10 This could go up or down a point or two depending on what New York’s playoff situation is in a week.
4/25 Toronto Maple Leafs at Florida Panthers
The last home game of the season for the Panthers, which is reason enough to tune in. Also the game pits two future division rivals and the Maple Leaf fans usually are well represented at the BB&T Center so there should be a pretty contentious atmosphere.
One more reason for tuning into this game as well as all the games on the list is we could be at the beginning of a thrilling race for the Rookie Scoring Title. Currently Jonathan Huberdeau has 27 points on the year while ex-Lightning now Senator Cory Conacher has 25. While it won’t be Melo vs. Durant slugging it out for the scoring title, Huberdeau vs Conacher should offer some much needed excitement for Panther fans.
Excitement Level 8/10 I mean come on its the last home game of the year for crying out loud!
4/27 Florida Panthers at Tampa Bay Lightning
The Panthers will attempt to go out on a high not by beating their instate rival. Florida has gone 1-2-1 against Tampa to date this season.
Excitement Level 10/10 Outside the state of Florida this game is completely irrelevant and while there is nothing on the line here other than pride it will still be the last time we get to see the Florida Panthers play this year.