Matthias Returned to Americans

Happy Halloween from TLB!

Loss? What Loss?

See? The sun(s) always rise(s). Okay, yeah, it's a sunset. But whatever. They're feeling the pain on the Outer Rim as well. No amount of midichlorian action was gonna save the night. Gotta move beyond that train wreck of a loss. But hey...we had fun for two periods, right? At least those of us at home could turn it off seconds before the final buzzer. My poor girlfriend had to saunter through the cold hallways and concourses of the BAC, fighting depression and a haunting desire to rush the GM's office along with a number of other slightly dissatisfied season ticket holders. Kudos to the Senators for winning - or was it the Panthers, for losing? On to Nashville.


Yeah, Cats Lose...So What

To warm my heart after an especially painful loss, I present this photo, displaying Spock in front of the main viewscreen of the Enterprise. So kewl. Look close enough and you can smell the "1701" on the plating.

Then again, given the Great Shatner/Takei feud, there's got to be room for a quickie picture of the new-fangled Kirk/Sulu.

Of course, it would make little sense if I didn't give up a special effects clip. And no, it ain't Big E.

Yeah, the Cats lost tonight. In tragic fashion. The Senators will sleep like babies knowing they only had to show up for 20 minutes. But I digress. The weekend approaches.

End of Game: Sens win 2-1

It may be a game of inches, but this one sure stinks on a higher measure. Kinda speechless at this stage, and given that I was up for work at 5 am, and must be back to work at 5 am, I've got little left to discuss.

The Senators earned this one. They found a way to win, which we have yet to do. Let's just play one period, and get it over with. No tease beyond the first two periods. The third rightly belongs to Ottawa.

Not piling on a dead horse here, but this was ugly. Doesn't help that the Cats were called for a penalty - and a dicey one, at best - with less than four minutes to go. It's always that way. We are - based on past performance - predestined to suffer this type of face-slap. How can anyone argue it?

It was fun while the lead lasted. To the Panthers: nice 40 minutes. To the Sens: nice 20 minutes. It's that simple. More to come tomorrow.

To the faithful: a lot of work has yet to be done.

End of Two: Cats up 1-0...

...and a Skrastins hooking penalty will lead off the third.

There are two story lines here, both of which are realistic: the Panthers are dominating the Senators, spending bountiful minutes in the offensive zone. Or, the Panthers are the beneficiaries of a slacking Ottawa squad, keeping the visitors in their zone. Either could be true.

No matter. The score remains 1-0, though not for a lack of effort on the part of Craig Hartsburg's Sens.

David Booth is on fire, throwing his body and going the extra inch to make the play or keep the puck within his team's grasp. No goals yet, but he is most definitely not pleased with his scoring output since the second game of the season.

$22M Daniel Alfredsson has been quiet, but for a very few offensive outbursts.

The question remains: what is going on in Ottawa? This may change over the next 20 minutes, but it begs discussion. The third period will lay it all on the table.

End of One: Cats up 1-0

Sluggish start, but the lead is ours. Both teams looking lethargic until the halfway point. The PP jinx is history, broken by a Keith Ballard 5-on-3 goal late in the period. And a beautiful point shot it was. Video tomorrow. Long way to go. No fights, scrums, or anything else remotely physical. Booth is on his game tonight, lots of effort resulting in a couple of potential scoring plays...one of which was saweeeet. T-Vo staying sharp, Auld steady. Waiting to see who Chris Neil decides to target; in games past it has taken much less than 20 minutes for him to choose his victim. The Belak effect at work? On to the second.

A Closer Look: Fox Sports Power Rankings - 10/28/08 (Your Cats: 18th)

Week three brings Fox Sports back to the field with Robert Picarello. Yes, I'm aware it's two days old, but the Panthers haven't played in four, so be seated. The monsters mostly come at night. Mostly.
The Cats remain in the 18th spot, following two wins bookended by losses. Even Steven.
Teams above: MIN (1, even), PIT (8, up from 13), COL (11, up from 23!), EDM (12, down from 2!?!)
Teams Below: ATL (27, down from 17...gulp), OTW (29, down from 19...gonna go easy on this one until about 11 pm tonight), NYI (30, down from 21).

Game Night! Other than That, Not Much Else...

As we are all aware by now, Alex Auld will be starting for Ottawa, while it's been confirmed that T-Vo will be in net for Florida. FSN is going HD for those of us locked into our homes during this wintry sub-70 degree night. Anyone else stoked for the premier of Senor Matthias? No pressure.
Thanks, Five for Smiting, for the awesome graphics.

Gaborik to Flor...

I tease, I tease. But Mike Chen of Fox Sports presents his view on two possible trade destinations for the oft-injured (REALLY oft-injured) but supremely talented Wild forward, Marian Gaborik.

"First off, would I trade for Gaborik? I'd consider it if I was either the Florida Panthers or Atlanta Thrashers. Why?"

Hit the link above for his answer. Of course, the projected return to Minnesota is not laid out (but if I had to guess, a dude with the initials J.B. seems likely what Chen had in mind).

This is not a new proposal, of course. We've bandied it about right here several times in the recent past. But no matter what happens with a potential Gabby for Jay Bo deal, a so-called "sign-and-trade" transaction is almost unavoidable, given the contract status of each.

I like Gaborik; his stats are sterling - when he's in the lineup. Bear this in mind when considering shipping out Bouwmeester, he of the 82 games-played each of the past four years...and only getting better statistically.

Matthias Called Up

So much for my calling out AccuScore on their "inaccuracies" this morning.

Panthers' rookie center but far more importantly future savior Shawn Matthias has been activated from Rochester this afternoon, presumably to cover for the absence of centers Greg Campbell and/or Stephen Weiss.

This will be Matthias' first NHL game of the young season.

Game Day! Ottawa at Florida, 7:30 pm

- Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson may be displaying a bit of a spring in his skates tonight after signing what is expected to be a four-year, $22M contract within the next hour at the BAC. Alfie will be 39 at the completion of the contract, making it probable that he would spend his entire NHL career as a Senator, something there just isn't enough of in pro sports any longer. UPDATE: Done deal as of 1:00.
- New (old?) Cats defenseman Jassen Cullimore remains unavoidably stuck in Canada, presumably dealing with customs officials who are Senators fans.
- One of the Injured Bryans - McCabe, in this instance - may be practicing next week and hopes to travel with the team for the upcoming west coast trip.
- Former Cat short-timer Alex Auld will start in net for the Sens. No word yet on who will go for the Panthers, but my money's on Vokoun considering the long layoff. Yes, even after Andy's performance in Ottawa last week.

Forbes Team Valuations: Florida Panthers #24

In a bit of a twist on the typical weekly "power rankings" offered up by most of the larger hockey outlets, Forbes Magazine has published it's list of National Hockey League franchise values for 2008-09. The Panthers rank #24.
A bit shocking to me at first - I truly believed I'd find the Cats somewhere around 28 - though pleasantly surprised to learn the financial situation, at least according to Stevie and company, is not quite as bleak as the stereotypes may have you believe.
The recent layoffs, however, go a long way toward dispelling that notion, unfortunately. Personally I believe we're going to see similar moves around the league - and soon. The Cats were but the first to fire a shot.
Anyway, here's the entire article from Forbes.com, which also includes a nifty Top-10 Fighters sub-list. This is the same Forbes...business, money, etc.?
Teams ranked above: TOR (1), TBL (17...how long are they gonna ride that Cup victory from a billion years ago?), PIT (18...wow: Crosby, Malkin, sellouts, new building, and eight spots behind New Jersey?), NAS (23. RIGHT.)
Teams ranked below: STL (25), WAS (26), PHX (30).

AccuScore Prediction: Panthers & Senators Even at 2.6 Goals

Four long days come to an end when the Sens attempt to enter the BAC for the second time this week. With any luck, the arena crew will have hauled out the pizza rinds and panties by gametime.
Our silicon friends from AccuScore (via SportsLine) have spoken, and projected the goal totals for both clubs will mirror each other, at 2.6.
Not sure how much credence to give this; other than for fun, relaying the results of their simulations will bring up obvious questions, such as why Shawn Matthias is listed as in the lineup, as he has been since the start of the season.


Your Iowa Chops Merchandise Minute


Economic Woes Hit Sunrise: Panthers Dismiss Ten

The Miami Herald's George Richards reports the Panthers have "put at least 10 of their loyal employees on waivers (Tuesday), folks who stood up for this organization over the years. People in sales, charity, PR."
One always hates to hear news of this sort. I've been there. It's a mighty painful dose of reality when your entire world is thrown into chaos.
Unfortunately, this is probably not the last occasion. TLB sends our best to all of them.


Candid Cats: Wade Belak

The whole "Caption This" thing has been done beyond death, so I'm going to give it a break, especially when considering a father and his daughter. Awesome photo.

Hockey's Future: Panthers Organizational Report

Hockey's Future, the first and last word in prospecting pre-NHL talent, has it's organizational run-down of the Florida Panthers' minor league system, and the talent lurking within.
Well worth your time, since the boys we all watched in training camp are now beginning to make their names known - or not known - within the AHL ranks; but an injury away from potential full-time duty in Sunrise.
HF does it best. And from a fan's perspective, I still marvel that Shawn Matthias is in Rochester over - or is that "under" - Michael Frolik (who's performed admirably - on the Cats' top line, no less). Then again, we don't need another center. At least JM and PeDe were wise in not pulling a "Stamkos", forcing Matthias to rot on the bench, losing precious minutes on-ice in the "A".
"Seen Shawn?" indeed.

A Closer Look: Sports Illustrated Power Rankings 10/28/08 (Your Cats: 15th)

From Hell's heart I stab at thee... Fifteenth! Now that's confidence. And up from last week's placement at 18. Scott Wraight must be gunning for free tickets over the holidays while in Boca (hey Scott...$35 at the Broward DMV will get you a nifty license entitling you to passage along the beautiful "Florida's Turnpike" AND two freebie admissions once. Once.)
Anyway, Here's how the Cats stack up at the SI offices.
Teams above: DET (3, up from 6, 6-1-1, "sluggish start"???), SJS (6, up from 7 - after losing to FLA, they're up?), COL (10, up from 15)
Teams below: ANH (18, up from 28), NAS (21, down from 19), LAK (24, down from 19...hmm...how'd they get to 19 in the first place?)

Cullimore In, Murphy Out

Former Panthers defenseman Jassen Cullimore (shown above right, next to a non-descript Pittsburgh Penguin) has been signed by Florida in an effort to replace some of the troops lost to injury. One of those recently hurt, Cory Murphy, may miss up to a month with a shoulder ailment, though it will not require surgery. Older but undeniably reliable - witness his +21 last year - this move was a no-brainer for JM the GM. Good to see Cully back in the fold.
Photo FYI: Not a good sign when, as in the photo above, Cullimore finds himself behind Sidney what's-his-name.

BankAtlantic Center Pimped Out, Senators To Practice in Coral Springs

I'll sure be glad when this election business is behind us, at least with respect to it's effect on the world of hockey.

On that note, looks like The Senator from Illinois has bumped the Senators from Ottawa from a scheduled practice Wednesday at the BAC. The Obama people will be using the building, apparently for a rally of some sort. Good luck with all that. Does this mean McCain will be at The Ice Palace?

I only pray that neither candidate sells out their soul by wearing the local team's sweater. Sooo transparent.

The Sens will instead use IncredibleICE in Coral Springs.


Caught in the Room

"Screw you, DeBoer...I told you in practice I can do it. See any of my so-called "teammates" in the picture? Yeah. Pull me now...I dare you. C'mon. This camera deal behind me has been a thorn in my arse for a long time. Well, the so-called "war-room" can eat it. Sticks are for the weak. See that puck? I can wish it away. Remember me requesting the number 1 for my uni? I do. Wanted to memorialize the dead, or something to that effect. Ya got one more year of this over-the-top service - from a "backup", I thus remind - and I'm on to greener pastures. Thinkin' 'bout Vancouver. How's that gonna look, eh? How 'bout that? I'm an American and I said "eh". I can do this. The fans yell for the likes of McCabe, Murphy, etc. The real ones know where the action is. T-Vo's the man, but he needs me to make him the All Star he is. Quit looking for holes to plug, JM. I'll be there. But ya better be good to me. Oh, and by the way...Jose Theodore might be available for a bargain rate..."

Has Any Photo...

...ever spoken for itself as this one does?

Thanks, Barry Melrose Rocks.

A Closer Look: SportsNet Power Rankings 10/27/08 (Your Cats: 21st)

Finally, someone has recognized Cory Stillman's (and by extension Jacques Martin's) efforts. Down from number 18. Let's call the Blues Debacle a "misstep" and move along.
Teams above: SJS (1, last week as well. Guess that loss in Sunrise didn't make it's way north), COL (8 up from 21!!! 5-0-3 will do that), EDM (19, down from 6. Yes, 6)
Teams below: PHI (23, up from 29...any more artillery out there to help the Flyers?), ATL (27, down from 20), OTW (29, down from 14...the Sens Army is in revolt).

Puck Daddy Has A Deal For You, But Ya Better Be Creative

This has certainly been the season of giveaways. And for good reason. If the boys can get some wins under their belts, the club won't need to resort to these gimmicks (and I use that term in the nicest way). Now about that St. Louis game...

Another contest is afoot, this time at Yahoo! Sports' Puck Daddy. I'll let Greg give you the details over there (where you should have honestly already been by this time of the day). It's a good one, kids.

Oh and no, I'm staying out of it. But "Cool"? Free Parking. "Uncool"? The lane-lacking entrance to the Sawgrass Expressway.

Good Luck!

A Closer Look: The Sporting News Power Rankings 10/27/08 - (Your Cats: 18th)

I'd say Craig Custance is being rather generous on this one. Perhaps a bit of love from a former Southeast writer? Nah. Apparently that San Jose victory carries the mail further than a loss in St. Louis at the end of a bizarre road trip. Add to that the defense which has become a M*A*S*H unit and I'd have to say numbers 19 through 30 must have had a pretty poor week. As Dalton once remarked, "opinions vary".
Teams above: BUF (1, from 7), SJS (2, from 1 - haha), CAR (9, from 12).
Teams below: DAL (21, from 13!), OTW (27, from 17!!), NYI (30, from 28...only 13 more years of stealthy Rick DiPietro injuries to go, fellas)


Florida Sports Figures Comment on Political Issues

As has been policy here at TLB, we don't discuss political matters beyond those relevant to our sport, and certainly don't push one candidate or party over another (and no, it ain't been easy). That's not the goal of this site.

However, we'd be remiss in not mentioning an article which appeared in today's South Florida Sun-Sentinel, titled "Decision 08: Polling Athletes". We'll resist comment, and post it simply for the sake of fun.

Yes, a few American-born Panthers are quoted. Remember folks...we're all Cat fans, no matter the political affiliation.

Back Home

The steps to the BankAtlantic Center never seemed so long following a 4-0 hockey clinic sponsored by the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night. Ghostly female cries of "Power play...need more power play..." could be heard wafting from the second tier of the building.


End of Game: Blues Win 4-0

So much for my prediction re: Belak/Janssen...nothing doing. There's really not much to say here. The Panthers were flat, slow, slovenly. The Blues were the antithesis. End of story. Everyone's due for a bad game, but it wasn't that long ago the Wild came into Sunrise and owned the joint. And I do mean "owned".

There was nothing redeeming about this game from a Florida perspective. At the very least, it wasn't two points surrendered to the East.

That's all from TLB for tonight. Glad I'm not on the Miami Air charter back to South Florida after this one.

End of Two: Blues up 3-0

Mark my words on this one, Kids: Nick Boynton, The Beach himself, will explode. Something's got his goat, something bothersome enough to warrant his taking a penalty - while on the bench - for jawing at the officials. Later, he sought to go to war with Cam Janssen, trying in vain to egg the former Devil on while his twin Keith Ballard went off for slashing AND unsportsmanlike conduct. Beach let his opinion be known to anyone within earshot while leaving the ice at the end of the period, surprisingly not taking an unsportsmanlike call of his own. Even strength and PP goals were the flavor of this frame. The Panthers are being outplayed at every turn. They can't keep up, can't pass, and have I mentioned turnovers? A step behind and just plain confused. A one-minute 5-3 proved futile, the participants looking for the proverbial perfect play. St. Louis is making this look humorous.

Notes: Predicting a Belak-Janssen heavyweight matchup, if Boynton ends up going off the deep end. Either way, Boynton or not, something's got to give...and the options are running thin. Can a fight revive the Cats' chances? Period will begin with Ballard in the box. Panthers' PP absolutely, positively sucks. There is nothing even remotely scary about it. Pass here. Fake there. Out to Jay-Bo. In to Stillman. Completely by the book. This MUST improve now or the season is dead before the 10th game. As for the penalty kill, don't get me started...

End of First: Blues up 1-0

A PP goal by the best man-advantage unit in the league (featuring five forwards) puts St. Louis up by one.

A sloppy and tired start by the Cats, showing every bit of the mileage and action the past five days have brought them. Key word: Turnovers. Couldn't keep possession and passes were ill-fated. They settled down a bit after the first seven minutes or so, and an unremarkable performance by both clubs ensued. The goal wasn't Andy's fault; a right-circle pass to Tkachuk in the crease. The veteran went behind his back, instead of shooting, placing the puck directly on the tape of Brad Boyes, to the left of the goal, who scored into an empty net. Anderson, defending the right crease, had no help thanks to the nifty move by Tkachuk. A sweet play for the Blues.

Notes: Blues third-string goalie Ben Bishop is in net for St. Louis. He's 6'-7". Off skates. Gargantuan. Looks like the Cloverfield lizard in front of a soccer net. Tallest goaltender in the league. Ever. Noah Welch is suddenly the veteran on his defensive pairing with the loss of Cory Murphy, which follows the loss of Bryan McCabe. If I were Jason Garrison, I'd make certain my medical insurance is in good standing. Speaking of Garrison, he looks good. The leading scorer in Rochester, he's looking solid and confident. Getting power play time - on the point - as well. So far a wise addition. Could this guy end Jassen Cullimore's hopes of a return to Florida? Thanks to FSN, we learned that before Garrison tonight, the number 52 had never been used.

24 = 20 at TD Banknorth Garden (Whatever That Is)

The Bruins have owned up - finally - to a colossal mistake made prior to season and only just recently discovered. This is necessitating a change in format for the clubs utilizing the ice surface during games, until the conclusion of tonight's contest vs. Atlanta.

The reason? Has to be seen, er read, to be believed.

"The change in format is occurring due to incorrect markings on the West End (visitors bench side) of the TD Banknorth Garden Ice. In the West End, the two face-off dots are 24 feet from the goal line - four feet longer than NHL specifications. The corresponding face-off circles are also four feet further away from the goal line."

It gets better. Read on here.

Thanks, KuklasKorner.

AccuScore Prediction: Blues 2.7, Cats 2.4

So much for a carryover of offense from last night. Granted, St. Louis is going to come out ready for war after being embarrassed - and shutout - 4-0 by the suddenly-hot Kings. But did anyone else notice that certain indefinable something which possessed the Panthers the past few games? A little more never-say-die? No matter, a computer has given it's results. We'll have to wait a few more hours for the real deal.
Cory Murphy joins the ranks of the injured, with a bum shoulder; he'll be replaced by Rochester call-up Jason Garrison. Just how close are we now to signing Jassen Cullimore, eh? Andy will be in net for the Cats.

Panther Rant: Is NHL Biased...in naming Three-Stars of the Night?

Ok...here's my small-market nitpick of the day. Was doing the usual morning routine, reading all the typical sites, gathering info, and wound up at NHL.com. As I've mentioned previously, the official NHL site was never a favorite of mine, but their constant upgrades and video access has kept me going back. I still prefer to get news and opinion from other sources. The NHL's not going to be all that upfront about their issues (what issues?). However, I do enjoy checking out their Three Stars of the Night following Panther games, in the event one of the Cats may have performed above and beyond the rest of the league. Certainly wasn't likely the past few seasons, but whatever.

The NHL's Three Stars of the Night are as follows:

Mike Richards (PHI): 0G, 4A, 4P, beat New Jersey in a 6-3 blowout (NJD: 5-1-0 entering the night)

Marian Hossa (DET): 2G, 1A, 3P, GWG, beat Atlanta 5-3 (ATL: 2-2-2, and his ex-club)

Nik Zherdev (NYR): 1G, 2A, 3P, beat Columbus 3-1 (CBJ: 3-3-0, his ex-club as well)

Solid numbers. But may I note:

Cory Stillman (FLA): 2G, 1A, 3P, GTG, GWG, beat San Jose 4-3 (SJS: 6-1-0 entering the night)

What form of Klingon math must I employ to figure out how the NHL even possibly concluded Hossa (with Detroit, no less) is more deserving of a star than Stillman? And simply forget Zherdev showing up for his one game per season.

I took note of the teams behind the players. In fact, it screams out: Philadelphia, New York (R), and Detroit. Hmm. Rather large markets. As simple as looking over the numbers above, one can't help but see something a bit distressing. The season just began, so the sample size is pretty small, and this may be a fluke, but for the life of me I cannot see the justification in Hossa - or Zherdev - being honored over Stillman. Except in playing up the big towns. And we all know Bettman's Boys play that game.

For the record, our friends at Puck Daddy have awarded their first star to Panthers' goaltender Tomas Vokoun. So maybe this is all moot. I am working on a Saturday, after all.

Post-Game Roundup

Not gonna spend much time gloating over this one. It was certainly not a gimme: 50 shots against T-Vo made this a spectacular evening. BTW: the Cats had 35. Back on the road tonight at St. Louis, 8:30 pm.
Full recap - with video highlights (which I'll include on a daily basis from here on out) over at NHL.com...a sight that continues to impress me with the features they offer. HOWEVER, I've got a beef with them which I'll go into later today.
GR at The Herald checks in with the Miami view of the evening's events. Line of the night, via Vokoun, following his 47-save winning effort: "It was a war." He wasn't kidding.
The Sun-Sentinel had no recap of the game (what...it's a long drive from Lauderdale???), but did weigh in earlier yesterday with an update on The Dueling Bryans, Allen (surgery Monday) and McCabe (skating to resume next week).
More to come...


End of Three: Panthers Hang On for the Victory, 4-3

A furious third period, eventually resulting in a "W", punctuated a great night for Florida in many ways.

The expected collapse following the first goal against? Nah. Three Panther goals in the same frame made it clear the Cats were gamers, at least early.

A frantic second period, resembling post-season hockey - a rarity between West and East teams during the regular season - proved the folks from Florida were not only hanging on with a 3-3 score, but ready to take charge, as evidenced by a late Cory Stillman goal (2nd of the night, 5 on the year).

San Jose threw everything at Tomas Vokoun after the 15 minute mark of the third in what appeared to be a Loss In Progress. We've seen many LIP's over the past few years. However, the Cats kept cool, kept focused, and somehow also kept the puck out of their net. The Florida crease resembled Penn Station at 5:00 pm, with Sharks buzzing and swiping at anything resembling a black disk or blue squalus. The result for San Jose? Nuthin'. Not because of luck, be it good or bad, but due to the Panthers' willingness to destroy everything in teal they found in their way.

Good stuff, folks. Off with the teal, on to the Blues tomorrow. Yikes...Tkachuk? So what. Where's the nearest buffet?

End of Two: Cats up 4-3 over Sharks

In what might have - in earlier years - been a killer shorthanded talley by the opposition, late in a period, Cory Stillman - again - leads the way and carries the torch, scoring the go-ahead with less than 90 seconds remaining in the second.

There's been a sense of playoff hockey to this, at least since the last half of the first period. Lots of back-and-forth action. None of that dump-and-chase crap we are so used to.

Stillman has two goals, Ballard's collected three assists. It doesn't hurt - sometimes - bringing in new blood. Doesn't always work (witness Stumpel, Josef), but when it clicks, the results are unmistakable. The Panthers should have rolled over following the SH'er (much less the first PP goal), but instead of burying their heads, they have risen up and stood their ground. Awesome.

A few notes: a very rare Bouwmeester turnover - in the defensive zone - led to the shorthanded goal. Ballard has been - once again - everywhere. He's averaging better than a point per game. Olli something-or-other used to do that. With no defensive abilities. Not to mention The Beach's consistency and back-breaking checking and point shot. We've gotten a superb return on that deal so far. A league-ordered wave-off of a presumed Sharks PP goal will be the talk of the pundits over the next few days due to the final ruling (no-goal due to a distinct kicking motion)from the NHL's "War Room" in Toronto. I'm biased but I've gotta be honest here: it was a goal. And it didn't take a committee dissecting it to find the truth.

End-to-end action leads into the third. Let's do it.

End of One: Cats up 3-1 over Sharks

In a period that began to dash hopes so quickly, mainly due to a Thornton PP goal early, the Panthers stormed back to end the frame up by two.
Stillman (classic Stillman), Zednik (first of the year), and Horton (a goal-scorer's goal - similar to the other night in Kanata) closed out the period against Evgeni Nabokov on a positive note, erasing what was shaping up as another dismal effort from years past.
It was that bleak. Correction on the "effort" comment: The first half of the period, the Cats displayed what has been confused as lesser talent against greater talent. In previos seasons, that was my summary of the club in most games.
After the past few, I now redefine this malady as "not showing up" syndrome. Once on their game, they played - as a squad - as good as and better than their proclaimed Stanley Cup-contender opponent. Like a light switch, they came on, competed hard, and made cake out of the opportunities THEY WORKED FOR.
It was similar to watching the Panthers of 05-06, content in their lack of talents and abilities, in the first 10, then sending out the Panthers of, umm, well none in recent years, but think "Good Team". Like, really good team. That Stillman is everything we could have dreamt for.
Can they hold it up? It worked against (a seriously confidence-eroded) Senators team a few nights ago. San Jose is a different animal, with talent to spare. Off to the second.

See? We ARE Getting a Third Jersey

With obvious inspiration from the "I threw my ASE-Certified auto mechanic jumpsuit into the washer with too much bleach" craze, Stanley C. Panther shows off Florida's newest duds.

AccuScore Prediction: Umm, Sharks & Panthers Tied (?) at 2.3

Wow...way to cover your rear quarter. Sharks and Panthers even up at 2.3. Worth a look, though. Keep in mind, a computer is simulating this game 10,000 times. Vegas oddsmakers no doubt would give predict San Jose (a 6-1 record) scoring at the same pace as Florida (3-3). But I digress.

Friday Musings: Sharks in Florida, Van Ryn's Insides Rearranged by Lucic

This is today's "splash screen" at sharks.nhl.com. There is no such "splash screen" at panthers.nhl.com. And Florida's hosting the game.

Not a lot of notes circulating the web in regard to tonight's matchup featuring San Jose at the BAC, but here we go:

The Miami Herald profiles the positive situation Cats' goaltending coach Pierre Groulx finds himself in with his soldiers. Also from GR, the head-pounding stat of the day: "Florida hasn't beaten San Jose since Feb. 9, 2000". Geez. I had just days prior turned 29. A lifetime ago and half a world away. Man.

The garden-variety game preview, found on both clubs' home pages, is posted here.

In other news, former Panther and current Leafs' defenseman Mike Van Ryn vaporized into the sideboards at TDBanknorthShawmutFleetGardenCenter powered by WebsterBank. That's in Boston! Milan Lucic - or Cam Neely minus the mounds of scar tissue - was soonafter witnessed running toward the waterfront with a glass-splintered battering ram.


And it's Come to This...

I've resisted comment throughout the Summer Circus in Tampa, but one word is all I can muster at this phase: Dumbfounded.
Icethetics has a full op-ed on the abortion above.

Anderson Smacks Senators, Other Notes

Florida Panthers' goaltender Craig Anderson (41 saves), left, reveals a defensive lapse before him; explains his concern to fellow Cat Karlis Skrastins (+3) in a photo from Wednesday's game in Ottawa. Asked prior to the game what his thoughts are on Sens' forward Dany Heatley, Anderson simply replied "He tasks me, and I shall have him,".

A rousing 3-1 victory on the road, topped by an effort that is increasingly becoming the norm for "Andy". Didn't see the game, caught it on NHL radio (and I'm really liking the interface they employ). I did hear "The Save" late in the third; it brought the Ottawa broadcasters out of their seats. Check the video here, and The Miami Herald's coverage here (and it's George Richards' A-Game on this one):

"In previous seasons, one could have counted on a furious comeback by the home team, bet the farm Ottawa would get two quick goals, send the game into overtime and win it there."

Yes, I would have. Indeed, I pretty well expected it last night. Good effort, good coaching, no letdown. A big moral win, and a gargantuan showstopper by Anderson, earning him Third Star of the Night honors over at Puck Daddy.

A couple of quick notes and links as well:

- Panthers' defenseman Noah Welch's unusual donation is discussed by Michael Farber at SI.com.

- Update your favorites list: James Mirtle's blog has moved, evolved, and been reborn as From The Rink (dot com). A must read each day, but you all knew that.


AccuScore Prediction: Sens Over Cats 3.3 - 2.5

Perhaps somewhat more irritating is the 21.5% chance of a blowout in favor of Ottawa.

Booth to the Sens?

A Florida source said one player in which the Senators were interested in acquiring in the off-season was Panthers W David Booth, but Florida GM Jacques Martin wouldn't part with him.
No shocker there, so all you JM-haters can come down from the rooftops. A piece of the Meszaros puzzle? Perhaps, because I don't see anyone more prominent being moved from Ottawa. Not for Booth.

I Remember the Rats...

...and what fun they were for South Florida. So much so that I instituted a rule to ban them. David Stern - "Dad" - would have done the same.
Commissioner Gary Bettman has given Florida hockey fans the dreaded "vote of confidence", regarding the Panthers remaining in Sunrise.
Bettman admits the Panthers "have gone through a little bit of a dry spell," but likes the way GM Jacques Martin is building the team.
"Dry spell". Eight years out of the postseason and we're in a "dry spell". What term is used if we hit a decade? Casual Friday?
It's simply heartwarming and delightful that his highness - whom I hold no bitterness toward from a lil fiasco in Hartford a few years back - has spoken and supposedly closed the book on the Cats moving. That's nice. I'll sleep much more soundly tonight knowing The Commish has ruled.
And he certainly knows his history, for 1996 was mentioned. Note to Herr Bettman: 1996 is the ONLY history this club has had.


Panthers Fall to Canadiens, Riots Continue

Yeah, the Cats fell to the Canadiens last night. On national television. Well, Versus. You're not stunned.

Had a bit of tough news just prior to the game, so bear with me as the day goes on; gonna be lacking the usual updates, but tomorrow we'll be back with the expected pain and doubt.

Go Cats.


Radek Dvorak: 900 Games!

Barring a horrible street accident, Radek Dvorak will appear in his 900th game tonight, against Montreal. Not his 900th game against Montreal, of course (that's alotta Habs), but 900th game, period. Kudos to Big D!


I've got nothing.

Still enjoying the fruits of last night's labors. Needed to take a break. Back on the clock full-time come Monday.


Quickies: End of Game - Cats Win 2-0

Got to admit, I got nervous around the 10:00 minute mark of the third; recent history, and all. But Florida kept it in check, never lost a step, and played it through to the victory. Impressive. Next up: a National Hockey League franchise on Monday in Montreal.

Notes: They kept their composure! Granted, the Isles are not yet one of the more fright-inspiring clubs - at least among opposing teams, to say nothing of their fans - but the Cats have never in the past decade been known for their ability to stay cool in the latter half of games they have a lead in. Kudos to Pete DeBoer for keeping the troops oiled; the oft-expected meltdown ceased to appear. That's all coaching. A LARGE challenge looms on Monday. More tomorrow.

Quickies: End of Two - Cats up 2-0

Cory Stillman scores his first Panther home-ice goal, on the PP.

Notes: Cats keeping the momentum going with stronger posession play in each zone. Much more fluid and strategic. Isles continue to be frustrated, still taking penalties, hence the Stillman tally. Ballard remains in the running for "Best Bouwmeester Lookalike". Radek Dvorak has had more odd-man rushes than at any point in the last five years of his time in the league. Looks phenomenal, except for the not-scoring part. Still waits too long to shoot. Dubbing him "Dvolesz".
Play has been mostly confined to NY end. Superstar-to-be Kyle Okposo for the Isles has been strong and making his presence known with little support. DP settling down. Vokoun not tested this period. NY opens the third on the PP. Can't imagine where we might be without Bouwmeester. This cannot be over-emphasized.

Quickies: End of One - Cats up 1-0

Goal by Boynton, even strength, eeeeearly, off long rebound from crossbar. His second of the year (had 3 all last season!).

Notes: Panthers look much more poised than Thurday. Shots appear a bit more focused. DePietro shaky - lots of rebounds - in first start since March. Power play absolutely sucks (0-3). Vokoun awake. Better crowd than against Minny. No real physical stuff yet. Cats shooting. A lot. Not necessarily dead-on, but releasing. Ballard is the mini-Bouwmeester; all over the ice, slick moves on the PP, crisp passing. Hitting and board-work has increased over Thursday. Isles not without some pressure in Florida zone, couple of hairy moments. Can't get over Vokoun's tendency to rise slowly following a drop to the ice, even after a year of exposure. The primary word there is "exposure". Ballard and The Beach have obvious chemistry from three-plus years together. Jokinen trade not only supplied a good pair of D-men; it supplied a defensive line. Isles wwill start second on the PP.

Oilers Shunning Blog Coverage of Team

Another blogger roundup prior to gametime at the gates of Rexall Place in Edmonton. "Lowe lied, blogs died!" was heard echoing through the downtown area.

In a fascinating and rather disturbing turn, the Oilers, in classic holier-than-thou fashion, have apparently banned a local blogger from the Rexall Place pressbox, citing "abuse of the press pass", or something to that effect.
This obviously is meaningless in South Florida, where independent bloggers have yet to be invited to the games (however, the Ice Dancers can be rented), but in locales which have welcomed and embraced the idea of "taking it to the streets" in a sense, this is setting a horrible precedent. Read on above.
Thanks to Going Five Hole.

Forget Cowbell...We've Got More Booth

As predicted, word is getting out on Panthers' left wing David Booth. The Columbian.com provides the latest in out-of-town coverage of our favorite Dood.
Rick Comley, who coached Booth at Michigan State, said he isn't surprised by his former player's reception in South Florida. Comley said when Booth was healthy, he was the "best player in the country."
Not to mention his snappy wardrobe selections.

AccuScore Prediction: Cats Over Isles 3-2

Sponsored by The Sporting News (which has significantly ramped-up the quantity and quality of their hockey coverage recently), AccuScore hosts in excess of 10,000 computer simulations of single NHL games before the real puck is dropped. Goals scored, player stats, everything we get all squirrely over after the final bell sounds. As expected, many factors are included in the final outcome. I personally enjoy the "Probably of a Fight" calculator.
Anyway, according to AccuScore, the Panthers will prevail 3-2. Check it out here.
For the record, this simulation correctly predicted the winner of the first three Florida games (L @ CAR, W vs. ATL, L vs. MIN). Hmm.

Morning Skate Open to Fans

See the Panthers in their morning glory, as doors to the BAC will open - free - to the public at 10:00 am (yes...a few hours from now!), for an open skate session. The Islanders' session will follow soon afterward, also open to Joe Plumber.


A Closer Look: AOL FanHouse Power Rankings 10/17/08 (Your Cats: 30th)

We've done it. Thirtieth place. That's the opinion of the FanHouse's Ted Starkey. Anyone care to debate it? Crickets?
A 1-2-0 record isn't entirely awful. If you're what was predicted of Atlanta. Beyond the record alone, 15 goals against in three games is a sure-fire recipe for pain and doubt. Lose 6-2 at home. Both goals by defensemen(!). It was a bad game all around even for non-fans.
I sure hope the Isles aren't taking us seriously for tomorrow's game.
Teams ranked higher: All 29 of 'em.
Teams ranked lower: Umm, the Iowa Chops?


A Study in Embarrassment: Panthers Surrender to Wild 6-2

If this is The Undiscovered Country, allow me to be the first to refute that description. The Panthers got stripped, cleaned, and filleted in a matter of less than two hours.
We have seen this before. New lineup, same result. The Litter Box hosted eight non-hockey fans, almost violently non-hockey fans, and long story short: got my rear end handed to me. Thanks, Cats, for keeping the newbs in mind. I guess there will always be another game. Until, of course, the Panthers pack up for Winnipeg, trade the contracts away, and start anew. Y'all think I'm kidding. Just wait. Remember my online handle.
Keep it up, Panthers. The NHL universe understands you've got a free ride with a new coaching philosophy, and that will buy you a bit more time. Yet another free ride.
Sorry new guys...nothing's free in SoFlo. On that note: can you imagine successive years of winning, followed by one losing record? We're a tough market. But it can work here.
We like the moves that have been made. Ballard, Boynton, McCabe, Welch, et al are solid additions to a club that needs - demands -a stronger commitment to defense. Yet the team GA is up. Way up.
Thomas Vokoun? At best? Shaky. Had little to work with, defensively. It's been All Him. The jury's convening after three games. Craig Anderson? Left out to dry like leather as well tonight, but showed up to play. Too bad his "D" was still banging home the nails in his predecessor. It's almost like Vokoun has been targeted for destruction by the defense.
I haven't followed the Western Conference closely since Barry Melrose was a coach in the NHL, so I'm a tad behind. But if I recall correctly, Minnesota is supposed to be devoid of offensive talent options when Marian Gaborik is absent.
GM Doug Risebrough has built a team designed for the long haul, capable, lacking further injuries - if that is possible - of taking their division. Kudos to them for taking the four points they earned in the Sunshine State (as expected by pundits from Toronto to Vancouver).
A complete letdown by the Sons of Sunrise. TLB is only one in a line of thousands who are beyond fatigued with this franchise collapsing when expected. "Low Expectations" will be the headline on all of our tombstones. And I've already got the Hartford Whalers battling for space on my grave...so let's get it settled.
Coach DeBoer: good luck; we are all behind you and your efforts to turn this sorry franchise around. All indications point to you being able to pull it off. The fanbase is on your side. The Litter Box is on your side. You never promised playoffs this year, and I commend you for not raising our hopes, or those of the players. They know, be it returnees or not, what the record of success is.
However, Coach...tonight flat-out sucked with a capital "S". Penalties, missed shots, and more penalties. Hard to construct a core of new fans - given free tickets, no less - when presented with a "game" such as the one we long-timers had to deal with tonight. The really sad part? Folks walking in with Cats jerseys knew the outcome before it began. At the end? We accepted it. That's insanely wrong. And unfortunately, again, our long-time fears were proven true. We can't compete with the big boys. Defensive stalwart Minnesota.
I mean, come on. It was a tease for the first ten minutes or so, which led to a shellacking of tremendous proportions. I, and many others, believe you, Coach D, will carry this club to the promised land. No matter how much I hope, it won't occur tomorrow. Nor will it happen under your watch the next day, or perhaps the following season.
But at some point, you will guide an NHL club to a championship; be it a division, conference, or league title. The kids, and vets, you shine a light for today will never forget your efforts at the very genesis of your professional coaching career. Nor will the fans.
That being said...let's get some.

Gameday Update: Gaborik Out!

The Minnesota star (pun intended) will miss tonight's game against the cats in Sunrise. Wonky groin, again?

On Marian Gaborik and Jay Bouwmeester

From what we've seen out of Jay Bouwmeester the past two games, I'd be extraordinarily hesitant to do anything other than offer him the bank in January and be done with it. But knowing the realities of the unrestricted free agent battlezone, especially for the cream of the league, here's a prospect I'm sure we've all considered recently, made even more fascinating by who's squaring off this evening in Sunrise:
"The most intriguing possibility (as a destination for Gaborik) might be the Panthers, a team with plenty of cap room next season, pressure to break a long playoff slump this season, and the need for a positive PR move given the likely loss of impending free agent defenseman Jay Bouwmeester. Hmmm...wonder if one team would be willing to swap its problem for the other's?" - Allan Muir, SI.com
First off, both players are likely to receive similar money, IMO. Figure in the $8-9M range by the time the dust has settled.
Gaborik is a tremendous offense player. Witness his numbers: 487GP (all with Minnesota), 207G, 208A, 415P, +51, 57PPP. That's serious stuff, especially on a team playing a system which crushes offensive creativity. He's a franchise cornerstone, big-name forward, with Olli numbers, but generally considered the superior talent that's been shackled by a defense-first organizational mentality. A change will only improve his numbers.
Contrast Gabby's stats with those of Jay Bouwmeester: 391GP (all with Florida), 38G, 124A, 162P, -24. Decent numbers, yes, but no one in hockey will bet against those numbers arcing sharply upward, and soon, if not now. In the past, he had been shackled himself: in a lousy defensive system with very little support. He will thrive in Florida, and could be just as superb, though less offensively, in Minnesota. From a personal view, the guy has simply dominated the past two games. Forget that he averaged 32 minutes TOI in those matches; he was EVERYWHERE. A fourth forward. Like a lightswitch, he appears to have made the leap Just. Like. That.
No matter your opinion on a potential deal such as this, it will always - ALWAYS - be a far more difficult task replacing a great defenseman than a great forward. J-Bo is that great defenseman. We'll never see his like again.