Despair in New York

Coach Tom Renney (far left, with hat) orders his troops down for the night. Questioned by New York media on the play of Florida's Craig Anderson, Renney responded in kind: "He's a sockdologizing old man-trap".

Cats Pummel Rangers 4-0

In a strange yet fulfilling turn of events, the Panthers piled it on this afternoon in New York, leaving the home team gasping for air after allowing four goals. Craig Anderson earned the shutout.

TLB has a couple of things to attend to at the moment, but we'd be remiss in not turning your attention to the game highlights, particularly Michael Frolik's second goal - a sweet backhander - of the season. It's a thing of beauty. Nicely done, Cats. No Horton. No Zednik. No Stillman. No problem.

Are the Panthers "there" yet? Remains to be seen, but the past three games have gone a long way toward changing a few attitudes.

AccuScore Prediction: Rangers 2.5, Panthers 2

This should be an interesting game, considering what went down two days ago in Sunrise, with the Cats coming back in a big way but ultimately falling in the skills competition. Not that anyone is question Pete DeBoer's shootout decision making abilities (subtle hint: Boot_). As long as Florida doesn't spot their opponent two goals right from the start, it should be competitive, like the last matchup was, after the first three minutes. Keep in mind, this is a 1 pm start, so get the popcorn and beer early, cozy up to the big-screen, and...turn on the radio. No TV for us schlubs down here. No television. For the away game at Madison Square Garden. Pathetic.

Game Day! Cats at Rangers

"Two periods and a fight later, and my Arrid Extra Dry still has me covered!"

Say it ain't so: a real-live Panthers' "goalie controversy"?

Several hours from now the Cats will take on the Rangers at MSG during the backend of a home-and-home, and presumably we still don't know who will get the start in net. During the best of circumstances this is not necessarily a bad thing; having a stable of two guys who have hit their stride at the same moment can be a blessing, if only they can keep their egos in check. In Florida's case, the long-anointed number 1 - and monster-contract-holder, Tomas Vokoun, has yet to display his true talents this season. It took a while last year as well, but the period of adjustment to a new club, coaches, systems, and defenses is far in the past. "Backup" Craig Anderson appears to be the go-to netminder, and considering his penchance for pulling out miracles following a softie or two (he finished with over 40 saves Friday), who wouldn't play him right now? This is a difficult position for Coach Pete: Vokoun is an extraordinarily expensive benchwarmer (can't be making management too happy), not to mention Anderson is in a contract year and likely playing the best hockey we're going to see out of him. Both are gamers and leaders for their club. The underlying problem really is Vokoun. He must work out of his funk. Or the skaters must work out of their collective funk playing in front of him. Don't know which it is, but it is certainly one of the two. Either way, this is a coaching dilemma.


Bettman: "The league is healthy". Reality: "Not so much".

"The dark side of the Commissioner's Office is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural."

We're not going to delve into the mind-numbing details and theories behind expansion and contraction...again. But a new column by The Globe & Mail's Eric Duhatschek takes a close look at the current health of the league as told from those outside the commissioner's office.

"The Tampa Bay Lightning's new owners reportedly needed help from previous owner, Bill Davidson, to complete their purchase.
The Florida Panthers are papering the house with ticket promotions and giveaways: present a Florida driver's licence, get a free ticket.
The New Jersey Devils moved to a new facility in Newark two years ago, but it has not been a cure-all for their economic struggles either. At the moment, as one of 17 teams experiencing attendance downturns in the first quarter of the season, the club is fighting the city and contractors over who should pay utility bills - and it's hard to make ice without water and electricity.
Against this mounting evidence, amid the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, commissioner Gary Bettman recently reported a sunny forecast for the gate-driven National Hockey League, buffeted by increased attendance in October and brisk ticket sales in many markets.
Looking forward, the picture isn't so cheery."
A most interesting read, and for us locals it's stunning and rather positive in that the Panthers are not the focus of the piece. Lots of insight on the situation in Phoenix...kinda grim.


Southeast Summary at Illegal Curve

Grab a cocktail, kick back, and relive those crazy days of yesterweeks...

Richard at Illegal Curve - a several-times daily roundup of all the news in the NHL, and I do mean ALL of it - was kind enough to ask TLB to contribute to his newest feature: a round-up of the NHL's divisions; in my case focusing on the Cats (and keep in mind this was written several days ago).

Here's the link to this week's Southeast Division summary (you can find our piece on the Panthers right where you might expect them: at the bottom).

If you haven't been to Illegal Curve yet, I highly recommend getting over there at least once per day for a listing of everything going on in the league. In fact, bookmark it. A work of genuine love of the game (and I'm glad it's them, not me!).

Lacerated foot injury to Nathan Horton: No timetable for return as yet

"That is a very deep cuuuut." - Anonymous Panthers' medical staffer going by the name of "Mo". He can be reached at The Palm Isle motel.

Game Night! Rangers at Panthers

Newly-acquired forward Nick Tarnasky humbly introduces himself to the Panther Faithful.

"Pick-Your-For-Real-Worthy-Panther All Star" Update - 11/28/08

He just voted for our boys. Have YOU?

Gather 'round the fire, kids: it's time to check the NHL All Star Game vote totals on our trio of Deserving Panthers.
David Booth (11G-2A-13P): 295, up from 261 (or 359,234 behind Kovalev's 5G-11A-16P).
Keith Ballard (2G-8A-10P): 455, from 432 (or 401,026 behind Markov's 2G-14A-16P).
Andy (3-1-2, 2.01, .942): 156, from 148 (or 391,099 behind Price's 10-4-3, 2.33, .923).
For the record, the Cats' "legitimate" candidates (no forwards, BTW) are:
Jay Bouwmeester (1G-9A-10P): 32,958 (none of these votes actually originated in Florida).
Tomas Vokoun (5-10, 3.01, .911): 6,459.
And just for fun:
Nathan Horton (6G-7A-13P...and back w/Booth & Weiss on that horribly-named line): 166.
Shawn Matthias (1GP, 0G-0A-0P): 6. He's played one game, peeps.
Michael Frolik (18GP, 1G-1A-2P): 24. That gives him 4 times the popularity of Matthias!
Keep pumping those votes...

Big News!

It's a wild day at the BAC, with heavily-discounted tickets, free food, cheap swag, and open practices for BOTH the Cats and Rangers. I'd be there if I weren't working. Then again, they just cut my pay, so perhaps I'll cough up a lung and head south...

Oh yeah, there's a game tonight as well.

AccuScore Prediction: Panthers(!) 2.6 over Rangers' 2.4

Now I'm worried. Take cover, bring in the kids, lock the doors. Even after the loss of Nathan Horton, the Cats are projected to outscore the Rangahs, according to AccuScore. Must be the addition of center Nick Tarnasky that puts 'em over the top.
By the way, so far, Tarnasky should be playing tonight, and it will be fascinating to see where he's placed. Rumor has it that C Shawn Matthias is going to be called up. Horton is out, as are Richard Zednik and Cory Stillman. Question: Outside of David Booth (11G), does that troika represent all of Florida's hopes?
New York is seeking their third consecutive win, while Florida (4-3-1 in the past eight) looks to, well, get points any way they can. It's that desperate.
One of the finest Rangers-themed sites on the net, Scotty Hockey is the only place to go for coverage of the New York side of the ice.


TRADED: Wade Belak for Nashville's Nick Tarnasky

JM dropped the hammer on a deal today - yes, American Thanksgiving Day - and sent a popular but relatively unused guy he recently signed for two years, fisherman extraordinaire Wade Belak, to the Predators for evolving-journeyman forward Nick Tarnasky (10GP, 1A). The Herald covers it briefly here.
TLB is way too stuffed to present an honest, non-biased op/ed on this deal until tomorrow at the very least, so let's put it on the back burner until that time.
We don't know what to make of this quite yet, other than Belak's relationship with Coach DeBoer was probably beyond repair. A shame that Wade didn't fit into Florida's ever-fluid future...the players and fanbase really liked him.
Tarnasky? Don't know much. Only played ten games. Lots more to come.


Happy Thanksgiving! Panthers lose, but steal a point

The Cats didn't give fans much to cheer for throughout yesterday's pre-Thanksgiving matchup against the Devils, but made up for it in the closing minutes of the third period, breathing life into a dead offense, with David Booth banging home a goal with seven seconds remaining to tie the score at 2. Hadn't seen that kind of excitement in the team, or the building, in a long while. The loss was only delayed, finally sealed in OT, but the final ten minutes of the last period were definitely something to build upon. That one point the team scrambled for was as impressive as they come. Nice job against a hot New Jersey squad. Showed some real heart.
Stephen Weiss: 2G,
David Booth: 1G, 1A
Jay Bouwmeester: 1G, 1A
Bryan McCabe: 7(!)SH
Thanks, Illegal Curve.


Doing our part to kill the New Jersey-is-Cheesy stereotype

Ahhh...Shoulda saved it for a Nashville or Carolina game

Look who we found...

Guess he's simply preparing for the playoffs.

Pick-Your-For-Real-Worthy-Panther All-Star Update - 11/26/08

It's time again to see who's been paying attention. Off to NHL's All-Star Game homepage to see how our three-headed American monster is performing in polls.
David Booth: 261 (339733 behind Kovalev)
Keith Ballard: 432 (378,931 behind Markov)
Craig Anderson: 148 (366,310 behind Price)
C'mon folks...keep voting and close that gap. We're only a million or so submissions and a playoff appearance away from respectibility.

Game Day! AccuScore Prediction: Devils 2.6 - 2.4; My HD freak-out concludes

On tap tonight at the BAC: our friends in red from Newark. We can only hope they're still laughing at the outcome of last week's debacle; time to catch someone off guard. Oh, and still no Brodeur. As for tonight's starters, I'm going with Anderson and former Cat Kevin Weekes, though Scott Clemmenson is on a bit of a tear. Pure speculation.

AccuScore has this one razor-tight, but since the Panthers are the Panthers, New Jersey gets the nod. Be nice to see a bit o' bad blood spill over from last week.

UPDATE: Clemmenson starts for the Devils. So much for my speculation.

Following my mature, well-reasoned (!) rant the other night re: FSN/Comcast switching from the Panthers HD pregame broadcast to the Miami Heat HD broadcast, Fox Sports contacted me soon after. Attend:

Hi Don, Thanks for the email. We double checked with our producer and lastnight's Panthers game telecast was indeed offered in HD as you mentioned. Who is your cable or satellite provider? We can follow up with them, or you might want to, to see if there were any technical problems last night but we did not receive other emails so perhaps this was an isolated issue. Below is a link to our website along with a list of all the SouthFlorida cable and satellite systems who are offering FOX SportsFlorida's Panther games in HD. And by the way - approximately half of the Panther and HEAT games are offered in HD - one is not favored over the other.

A list of all of FSN's standard and high-definition channels was included, you know, in case I wasn't familiar, being a fan and all. No other emails were received probably because I was the only Cats' fan in West Palm Beach, which is precisely one more than the Heat have up here. Whatever. At least they bothered enough to send me a "Dear John" letter with my name on it, and appreciate their effort, at least to that extent. I'll never get anywhere with Comcast, so Creek - Paddle = Me. Case closed. Spoiled, I was.

Terrific blogsite covering the Devils: In Lou We Trust, over at Mirtle's SBNation. Don't miss it.


Another forward lost to injury, and what is this team all about anyway?

Wins don't come cheap - or often - for the Panthers, and last night's victory was no exception: winger Richard Zednik will be out several weeks with an arm/elbow injury. Any chance JM's been looking for a forward? Now he'll need two.
On a similar note, and it may sound blasphemous, but I worry that last night's win against Carolina might actually hurt the club in the long run. One victory, though huge, troubles me in the sense that the Cats were rock bottom bad, looking up at the entire league above them in the standings. They're against a wall, players waived, threats made, and they scratch out a hard-fought and solid "W". What will we see tomorrow? Do they revert to the same-old same-old against the Devils, now that they've gotten a win to carry them for the next three weeks, while potential roster moves - read: trades - favor the Panthers less as each day moves forward?
Or have they finally gotten the message? All too many times we've seen this pattern: the Cats lose a string of games, season's slipping away, the hope is lost, and then we get a night that stirs the soul and the imagination. You come away from it, jaw on the floor, saying "They've figured it out." The next night, Vokoun (or Auld, or Belfour, or Luongo) is left for dead. There's never any progress. It's like the wins are accidents (and the players need to understand: we've been watching this a lot longer than they've been playing here). Last night was a tremendous game for any hockey fan to watch; close, tense, very few penalties (none, in fact, for Carolina), a divisional match you dream of. The Panthers earned every bit of that win. Who will show up tomorrow?


Cats Win 3-2

Nice game. Off to bed. Official TLB coin-minting in the morning. Still miffed about FSN. Go Cats.

Fox Sports Florida Sucks It

I'm watching a hockey game that's been continuously advertised as being broadcast in high definition, but the channel it would normally be on (401 on Comcast West Palm Beach) is showing some basketball team from Overtown Miami. So here I sit, digesting the Panthers from a normal-definition standpoint.

Want more proof? Here. And the nine-year-old's rebuttal? Here. Who wins? The basketball thing. Cuz we don't matter. Note to Gary Bettman: After all has been said and done about high-def broadcasts of hockey games, you've lost. Forget the fans...you know...those few of us who still bother to pay attention outside of Detroit and Toronto. We buy the products, go to the games, preach the gospel, and continually get shat upon. And screw you too, Florida Panthers, for not being on top of this. A curse upon you all.

It's obviously not enough that I can get an upstanding citizen or two to watch a hockey game based on their hearing about how awesome it is in HD. These citizens have given up.

What do you want me to do, Fox? It's difficult enough trying to draw folks into a sport with the type of stigma which the NHL has surrounding it. However, you advertise an HD broadcast and decide "Nah...".


ESPN's Hradek: Panthers Being Watched (Really) Closely

A quick note: E.J. Hradek claims in his blog this afternoon that upwards of 25 scouts attended the recent Panthers-Devils game in New Jersey. I don't need to insult anyone by typing the words "Jay" and "Bouwmeester". Something's brewin'...

Belak Clears. What Now?

PantherNation applauds the retention of fan-favorite Belak.

Popular Panther Wade Belak cleared waivers today, though it remains to be seen what direction his relationship with Coach DeBoer might take. Again, they're professionals, so I don't anticipate a further escalation of hostilities in this affair. George Richards at On Frozen Pond has the lowdown. The question now? When will we see him...

In a bit of sublime irony that could only apply to the Cats, defenseman Nick Boynton is out with a concussion. From GR himself: "Likely suffered in his fight Friday in Boston." The very fight Belak should've been on the ice for. Ya just can't write this stuff.

Win 2 Panthers Tickets...but Hurry!

The Fourth Period, a terrific news and opinion site that you should be heading to regularly, is giving away two seats - and a puck - to Wednesday's home game against New Jersey. The stipulation is you must enter NOW...the contest closes at midnight tonight. Shoot over there immediately...and let 'em know you found them on The Box. Good luck!

Still in the voting mood? Here's another...

Our buddy James Mirtle's world-class From the Rink blog has been nominated (again!) for the Canadian Blog Awards' Best Sports Blog. No surprise there. Let's do our part in helping him get over the hump. Congratulations on the nomination, James!

Pick-Your-For-Real-Worthy-Panther All-Star Update

TLB will begin running the All-Star vote totals for our trio of deserving Panthers on a regular basis, or at least when I remember to do it.
David Booth: 236 (311,220 behind leader Alex Kovalev)
Keith Ballard: 404 (346,241 behind leader Andrei Markov)
Craig Anderson: 138 (337,254 behind leader Carey Price)
Yes, the three leaders are all members of the Montreal Canadiens. Yes, a number of the votes cast were done so by R2D2. A joke? Indeed...but so is the All-Star game itself.
C'mon Cat fanatics...let's pad these numbers. Click on the link to the right!

Game Day! Prepping for our favorite opponent

Pipe down, Carolina fans...I haven't trudged out the tired Hartford references, or "Diver Down" flags, nor would I stoop so low as to mention last night's performance at home against Nashville. Need to turn things around for your club? Having a tough stretch? You've come to the right place. I've already bitten off what was left of my fingernails so I won't have to during the third period.
Not really news to anyone, but ex-Cane Cory Stillman remains out for at least another week with concussion stuff. That shouldn't be a problem since the rest of the roster has really picked up their offensive play in his absence. Then again he hadn't scored in six games, so it's a moot point. The evil plan is coming together.
A couple of great Hurricanes'-related sites to check out before the game: CanesCountry and Carolina on Ice.

AccuScore Prediction: Hurricanes over Cats, 2.7-2.5 - and more Belak

Monday! Been a couple of days since the last defeat, so we at TLB are excited for the next one, tonight's divisional match at the BAC against Carolina (11-8-2, 24P). For those of you uppity-types with mongo televisions - like, um, me - the game is on FSN in HD. Few things in life are more precious than watching the Panthers blow a third period lead, with seconds to go, in high definition.

Silly! Florida doesn't get leads! But I digress.

AccuScore has the 'Canes topping our Cats, but not by much. Remember kids...this is a simulation based on current rosters (no, Belak's not in there) and run 10,000 times. The result is an average number of goals scored. Get over there and vote for the winner.

The Belak Conspiracy talk continues on in full-force. On Frozen Pond has a rather spirited debate taking place in the comments section, following George Richards' fantastic blog entry from yesterday. The Sun-Sentinel also asks some relevant questions. And for the record, here's the club's canned response. I agree the waiving was pushed by Coach Pete far more than Uncle Jacques. Wanna send a message? Drop the guy who rides the pine. Uh oh...he's popular with his teammates...might want to rethink the strategy. Martin didn't all of a sudden decide to 180 his acquisition - and contract offer soon after - of the guy. If this is part of a grand plan that's nestled up DeBoer's sleeve, can I assume there may be an upside? He's now got 19 dudes in The Room who are even less happy than they were during the last game. No, it's not a popularity contest. Yes, they are professionals and deal with moves like this one all the time. But the club is at a critical stage, really this time. Coach Pete has had the goodwill of ownership, management, and the fans. Almost free reign to run the ship his way, without consequences. I have yet to criticize the guy, since he can only work with what he's given. However, I detect a subtle shift in the air around the team. Something simply different. We're used to losing...but there's an underlying stink that's tough to identify. There's an awful lot of work to do. This whole Belak thing might just work...or not. Do these guys know what they're doing? How much more faith are we to lend them? It all begins - again - this evening.
Good thing they don't have any sort of rivalry with their opponent.


Surprise, Surprise: TLB's Official All-Star Write-In Campaign

Joining The Collective late is better than not joining The Collective at all, so here's the inaugural TLB Pick-Your-For-Real-Worthy-Panther Write-in Campaign. Everyone else is doing it.

The league has chosen to "honor" Tomas Vokoun (4-10-0-1, 3.02, .912) and Jay Bouwmeester (0G-8A-8P, -7) with spots on the 2009 All Star Game ballot. Shiny numbers and all, but I'm thinking we fans can do a better job. Now, it's sweet and cuddly that every club, no matter how pathetic, gets represented in the "game"; guess it's all part of Gary Bettman's outreach program. That being said, how about some realism? Some folks who've been there, night after miserable night, giving their all regardless of the apocalyptic situation? (For the record, Vokoun's a gamer, and his record is not entirely his fault, but he hasn't been the "rock" that his resume demands. And Bouwmeester's been walkin' the green mile since the second week of the season.)

So in the spirit of inclusion and diversity (and boy, am I tired of those words) we hereby submit for your approval the following three player as write-ins on the NHL's official ballot. And by the way: VOTE. A. LOT. Or not. Up to you.

Forward: David Booth (19GP-9G-1A-10P, even). Horton's got more points (12) but he's a minus-5. Cory Stillman might've snuck in here if not for the involuntary facial-reconstruction he received a couiple of weeks ago. Booth has been everything to this club up front, and a ball of energy that has no equal.

Defense: Keith Ballard (19GP-2G-10A-12P, -1). All we could have hoped for defensively in the Jokinen deal, Ballard's been nothing short of the torch carrier on the backend (wasn't that job already spoken for? Meh). Speed, skill, a thundering checker. You don't pick these types up every day. Alternate: Bryan McCabe.

Goal: Craig Anderson (3-1-1-1, 2.08, .940). He's given up a couple of stinkers, but not many. And none of those three losses were his doing...especially being left for dead as his blueliners so often do. He probably won't qualify anyway based on games-played, but this one sure would be the cat's ass, to coin a phrase. No matter how painful the inquisition-on-ice may be, he's always got a smile, and he never ever quits. Gets puck bunny points, as well. Alternate: um, Craig Anderson.

So there you go, South Florida and the Outer Rim Systems. If we've gotta have a Panther in that most meaningless of games, let's make it the right one. GET OUT AND VOTE!

WAIVED: Wade Belak!?

This one came out of nowhere. As reported by George Richards, forward/defenseman/pugilist Wade Belak has been placed on waivers by Uncle Jacques, with no official explanation.
Whether one agrees or not, Coach Pete obviously has seen very little use for the big guy, allowing the likes of Nick Boynton to grab the title of Chief Enforcer (and I very much do not agree with that).
Whatever your opinion of the man may be - and I can't see anything but positives - he plays forward and defense. On a club so desperately hurting for healthy bodies/happy bodies, is this the player you make an example out of? One who was thrilled to be here? Who just signed a two-year contract? What the devil is going on?
Is JM clearing roster/cap space for a future deal? I could think of several others to be dangling on the waiver wire before Wade. But if the coach won't play him...
Get over to On Frozen Pond for Belak's fascinating - and completely supportable - opinions.

So Now What?

This guy's a center...and he's available! The one on the right. Jerk.

Here we are, redefining the term "laughingstock", mired at 15th place in the conference. The league? Twenty-ninth. Only Dallas is statistically worse, and there's no way The Brett Hull Experience will allow for that much longer.

Perennial jokes such as Atlanta, Columbus, and Phoenix (um, sorry) are looking down at us in the standings. Every respectable MSM Power Ranking has Florida in 29th or 30th (and you wonder where I've gone with those updates...how many different routes can I travel to arrive at the same spot?).

My two cents? Thanks for asking:

  • The "D" is far too porous for a group of this sort. Cullimore escaped serious injury and is day-to-day. Bryan Allen remains the only long-term casualty. Welch has proven to be capable of playing respectably, if unspectacularly, each night. Boynton? Big, strong, fearless...and the perfect complement to conjoined twin - and new fan-favorite - Keith Ballard. Skrastins? Does it all (just ask Phil Kessel). Seriously, steady and reliable. Bryan McCabe? Awesome PP addition, less-than-stellar 5-on-5 play (but we knew this before he arrived). Who's the other guy? Starts with a "B"? The guy who's value is dropping faster than his team's? Oh well...must not be important.
  • Goaltending? What's to say? Andy's been the star to this point, but neither he nor Vokoun has - realistically, salaries aside - locked up the starter's spot. Reliability and consistency have been frightening concerns, but face it folks...this tandem is what we've got for the year, and we all know they are both far superior than recent performances have shown. This should at the very least improve.
  • Weiss? Vanilla. Horton? Back on the wing. Give it another game or two. Complete flop at center. Booth? As usual, the point of ignition for the entire offense. Stillman? Ah, what could have been. Once again, the Cats need a center. Like really really double badly now. Nylander from Washington? Big contract, little return in his second stint with the Caps. And dealing with a divisional foe is never without great risk. Could he work with Horts? Or (currently benched) Olesz? Might be quite a spark. Who to deal away? Yikes...the Caps are a positionally-sound club, though some cheap defensive help probably wouldn't be frowned upon. What do I know...I'm at work.

To borrow an overused phrase in PantherLand, I'm "frustrated". Sure would be nice if JM gave some indication of life with his office.


Panthers hand one to Boston

Another loss, another night of sleeping with closet lights blazing brightly. Too beat to capture the essence of this one. I refer you to the German side of the opening 25 minutes of Saving Private Ryan, minus the heart. It's not getting old. It's ancient.

Pete: I can hold my breath a LOOOOONG time

Coach DeBoer expresses his pleasure at the efforts of his club following the first game of the current road trip.

Game Night! Cats at Broons

Looks like the early-1990s B's are back. Even officials fear the potential return of Lyn Byers.

And another evening of glorious Panther pucks is upon us. Now that we've had the opportunity to shower off and peel the discontent over last night's travesty out of the pores of our collective skin, the Boston Bruins open the doors of the ____ ______ ______ _____ Garden to Florida.

Been a bit of a struggle finding any pregame notes of interest, and considering the kooky day I'm attempting to put behind me, I defer you to the terrific Bruins resource known as Cornelius Hardenbergh and the Hockey Blog Adventure. I owe Cornelius an apology for not having a link to his awesome site posted up before today, and was honored that he wanted to include a few of my "thoughts from the enemy" in his pregame notes. His collection of links and info on both clubs is first-rate.

As regular readers - yes, the twelve of you - know all too well, I was no fan of the Bruins or their beloved palace (my personal chamber of horrors), the Boston Garden. There was absolutely no love lost between the B's and the Whale. But it's funny how time has lessoned - heck, disintegrated - my disdain for All Things Boston (except the city...always a liquor-saturated blast). I really hated that club with every fiber of my being. Hated their colors. Their fans. Their arrogance. Now? Not so much. I'm actually rather pleased the Bruin Faithful are back on the map. It's good for them, and good for the league. And yes, I've already written Tim Thomas in on the All Star ballot.

AccuScore Prediction: Bruins over Panthers 3.2 to 2.3

Pretty sapped over last night's Joke in Jersey, but why not be positive? We've got the B's next! The 12-3-4 B's. In Bahston. Cards stacked against the Cats? Definitely. I'm just curious when we're going to be given some talent and effort to work with. Which Nathan Horton will show up tonight? Do we still care? Does he still care?
Ok...so AccuScore has projected a solid win for the Broons. While I get up from the floor, consider the Cats have beaten the likes of Anaheim and San Jose...while coming oh so close to dispatching Detroit. Good teams? Yay. Bad teams? Nay. A pattern is being established here, as I said to a buddy this morning. FSN at 7:00, children.


New Jersey 3, Frolik 1

That's not entirely fair. The Cats played well for forty minutes. Really well. Compared to the beginning of the season, they looked much more composed in what I have to deem as a strenuously fast-paced final two periods. Pleaqse don't misunderstand: the Devils played some great hockey, and deserved to win. Frolik? First goal. The kid's been robbed time and again...gonna see some good stuff now that the monkey's off his back. Horton? Present, if unremarkable. As usual. Vokoun? Only reason it was close. If that man doesn't tear up the visitor's room...left out to dry far too much in the first period. Didn't deserve to lose this one. Honorable mention: Dvorak had his speed, Zeds brought the plays, and McCabe had the shots. Bouwmeester? No one was hotter on this dude than me in the first five games of the year. Now? Takes a back seat to Ballard, Boynton, Skrastins. I'd include Cully but he was Tonight's Dead, going down with what looked to be a severe leg injury (caused inadvertently by a teammate, of course...did not return).
If nothing else, second- and third-string goalies across the NHL have the Panthers to thank for upping their value come UFA season.
Two requests for the Panthers: One, for the coaching staff: Can we develop someone who has a desire to WIN a faceoff? Two, for the "management": HAD ENOUGH, JM? What further suffering must be endured? I don't ask that we throw away the future, and you know far better than we dime-store fans about the proposals sent your way, but it's one of two things...either the deals faxed to you are lousy, or the deals you have proposed are lousy. Either way, your team on the ice has a record which can only be described as...lousy. And insulting. Don't come back with frightful tales of fat injury lists, and please refrain from slipping to the media that no one is offering fair market value for Bouwmeester. At this stage, there is NO market value for Bouwmeester. Yes, he's gonna be awesome. Yes, he'll be a winner somewhere. No, it won't be here. GET US SOME SUPPORT. Wanna deal Horton? Weiss? Olesz? No arguments from this nut in North Palm. It's the cat on the front, not the name on the back (cliche? Yeeees!) I grow fatigued preaching the hockey - nay, Panthers - gospel from the local rooftops and winding up embarrassed. Again. And again. Make your mark or prove us - those few thousand who have stuck by - wrong...quickly. There are a lot of things - like holidays - to rob the "momentum" from your club. DO. IT. NOW.

Yes, more Melrose op/ed

Lightning forward Chris Gratton shows confidence in his former coach.

A terrific opinion piece by SI's Jim Kelley provides a darker tone to the Melrose Mauling. Not piling on to the Lightning (not right now, anyway) but simply really agreed - ultimately - with the article and found the following to be rather applicable to anyone building a team with a Playstation3:

"To improve a team -- especially a team put together by "thinking outside the box" -- you need, in addition to patience, a coach who is part teacher, part taskmaster, part preacher with a healthy dose of success attached to his name. The idea should be to have someone who has enough of a reputation to convince all the bright new faces and at least a line's worth of the craggy old ones that there is one person in the room who knows what he's doing."

True Dat.

Game Night! Panthers at Devils

Not much to say, but that is one badass picture.

Cats' Birch on Amerks' 2-14 record: Don't blame this guy

Panthers director of player personnel Jack Birch has stated that Rochester's troubles stem from the players, not their first-year coach, Benoit Groulx (above). Of course, the died-in-the-wool "injury" story inevitably rears its' well-worn head (which proves the Panthers have completely acclimated the Americans into their "system"). From the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle:
"At the same time, injuries to the core of veteran forwards (Janis Sprutks, Karl Stewart and Stefan Meyer) have had a considerable impact. 'I think that has an impact on a young team,' Birch said. 'This record is not a reflection of this coaching staff, that’s for sure,' Birch said."
This should play well up there, with the Cats taking the role of The New Guy, in a town that's had possession of a hockey club for the better part of 53 years.

Panthers welcomed to Boston on Hanson Brothers Night

The Cats will be time-warping to fictional Charlestown, circa 1978, when they visit the Broons tomorrow evening. Several "Slap Shot"-related contests and costume-themed events will be held at the TDBankNorthWebsterFleetShawmutGarden in honor of that greatest of motion pictures. Florida would be wise to "capture the spirit of the thing" and assure Wade Belak he will be in the lineup.

Stressed out? It's hard enough being a Cat fan...

Yes, I am this befuddled.

Kids, I'm at work and thoroughly trusting my instincts by expecting to be let go within days, if not hours. Darn economy. Got me pretty freaked out. Stomach's in knots. Had to get it off my chest, so thanks for that. Oh well...been there before. Been lucky to remain employed to this point. Glad it's hockey season.

Wanna be the boss? Make this happen, JM...

The completely awesome Orland Kurtenblog has reported on a new - and quite original - Vancouver Canucks promotion: "You Call the Shots: Be the Canucks General Manager for a Day!", you know, to go with the myriad other "new and quite original" promotions.
In a nutshell, win the contest and become GM of the 'Nucks for a day. Or more likely, the GM's shadow for a day (and Mike Gillis must be thaaarilled). As the Kurtenblog proclaimed, they're not looking to unload the Sedins, but a minor-league deal might be fun. Maybe hitting the rolodex, dialing up Mats' agent and offering 12 mil for the big Swede. You are the GM, after all. Nothing says you must be a smart one. Oh to be Eddie Johnston for one single day in 1990...
Anyway, what say you, PantherNation? If given the opportunity to run your club for 24 hours, who and what would be on your radar? Anyone you've been pining to dump? Or clamoring to acquire? Perhaps right that ultimate of wrongs and get Brani Mezei back in the fold?

DeBoer turns it up a notch

Coach Pete has decided upon a new strategy for his practice at the Prudential Center yesterday: hard work!
"Players were crammed into a small section of the ice and told to fight for the puck. They drove each other into the boards, pushing and prodding each other, and some were driven to the ice." - George Richards, Miami Herald
And all the while, Brent Sutter huddles behind a Zamboni, diagramming each and every movement...

Numbers Galore

Over the past 24 hours, our buddy James Mirtle at SBNation's From the Rink has posted a truly heroic amount of statistical information comparing the new season to last. Goals-against, goals-for, team goaltending, point totals - real and projected (hold your breath on that one, Cat fans).

AccuScore Prediction: Devils 3, Cats 2.5

A day off proves to be the only relief Florida will see over the next little while, as the Panthers stare at 3 games in 4 nights, leading off by facing the Devils in lovely Newark, NJ.
AccuScore has the Dev's (I really don't like that term for some reason) up by half a goal over the Cats, who have won three of the past four.
Cory Stillman - Florida's resident offensive "juggernaut" - remains out with concussion symptoms, or an "upper-body" injury in league-speak.
Back to television with this game!


Cats win - barely - in Tampa Bay, 4-3 (SO)

I blew that one, alright. Don't know why I thought the Canadiens/Hurricanes game of last night was going to be on Versus, but I'd swear I saw it somewhere...Hmmm. Maybe it was the cheap Merlot.

On to happier thoughts. Bryan McCabe is beginning to make JM the GM look brilliant, garnering two goals in what appeared to be a game headed for blowout status. Vokoun's 49(!) saves stopped all three shots in the shootout frame, and Nathan Horton woke up just in time to score the winner.

Tampa kept it interesting, blasting home three unanswered goals late in the game, so they walk away with a point, but hey...statistically Ottawa is worse than the Panthers! Steve Stamkos obviously felt comfortable (9 shots) with his new linemates. The Lecavalier/St. Louis/Stamkos combo could be quite potent over time.


Wanna watch? Hope your imagination is sharp...

If only I had a decent pirated copy of PhotoShop...

If you're a Panthers - or Bolts - fan, you find yourself in the same sinking ship as I. Where to find tonight's divisional matchup, featuring the home debut of the Lightning's newest coach-of-the-week, and the premier of Steven Stamkos on the number-one line? WAXY 790 AM! No disrespect to the capable hands of our radio boyz, but THIS IS A GAME THAT MUST BE TELEVISED.

An absolute travesty that we are forced to watch the Habs at Raleigh. This is supposed to bring new blood to the sport? What about us, eh Gary? You remember, Florida fans: the folks who have sat through your lockouts, rule changes, expansions, and relocations, all the while begging the media to kick us while hanging on for our dear franchises' lives? I speak for Tampa Bay, Sunrise, Orlando...heck, Opa Locka. Why oh why must this ridiculous "exclusivity" clause be foisted upon us? Puck fans in the Sunshine State finally have a game that WE ALL care about and it's ripped away in the name of "promoting" the league in...where? Who is going to be drawn to Montreal-Carolina who isn't an established hockey fan? Looking for stragglers too anebriated after the fourth re-run of White-Tailed Deer Gone Wild to hit the remote? I mean pah-leese. A joke, and a cruel one at that. This is punishment for something. Some days it's not worth being a supporter of this backward, uncaring, damn-the-torpedoes league. Why even waste my time writing this? History has proven the NHL will do anything in it's power to do The Wrong Thing.

Is it too late for me to be a poker fan?

AccuScore Prediction: Bolts over Cats, 2.5 to 2.2

I'll spare everyone the details and simply let fly that AccuScore's simulation states the Lightning will score more goals than the Panthers. No one outside of the Ice Palace or whatever it's called this week will see it, thanks to Versus and their "exclusive" game of the week. Ooooh...can't wait to forgo my local hockey team's divisional game and suffer through Montreal at Carolina. At least I know who to root for.