Sports Outside the Beltway

Florida’s 6-3 win over Boston puts them one point out of division lead

Last night’s win was the team’s 3rd win in their current road trip.

BOSTON — If the Panthers can wrap up their five-game road trip tonight in Buffalo the right way, they could wake up Monday morning atop the Southeast Division standings.

An offense that has struggled for most of the season battled from behind three times and pulled away late for a 6-3 victory over Boston at TD Banknorth Garden on Saturday night, once again moving to within one point of the division lead.

Florida (26-26-5) can claim that lead with a win at Buffalo and a Washington loss to the New York Rangers this afternoon.

Right now Florida has 57 pts, one point behind division leaders Carolina and Atlanta. However Florida has played one less game than those two teams. Washington also has 57 points, but has played one game less than the Panthers.

Florida plays tonight at Buffalo. A win would be big not just because of the division standings, but to show the Panthers can win back to back road games on consecutive days. I’ve seen Florida play in a very lackluster fashion more than once this year when they’ve had back to back games this year.

Some other assorted Panther notes

*- The team has scored 18 goals in its last three games, tying a team record. Will the real Panthers please stand up? Is this the same team that lost 1-0 to Buffalo the first game back after the All-Star break?

*- Yesterday was Tomas Vokoun’s 51st game in goal for Florida. No goalie has played more. Vokoun’s GAA isn’t good but his Save Pct. is 11th in the NHL. Vokoun has had a good year and I’d hate to think what this team would be doing if not for the Czech’s goaltending.

On the other hand, Vokoun has given up 8 goals in his last two games. Is Tomas getting tired? Coach Martin appears to have little confidence in backup goalie Craig Anderson, I really don’t know why. Anderson’s Save Pct is even better than Vokoun’s in limited play. Also Anderson’s two wins this year came in matchups versus Martin Brodeur and Rick Dipietro two of the best in the East. Why isn’t Anderson giving Vokoun a break more often? I fear Florida could burn out Vokoun before the team makes the playoffs. That is assuming Florida does that.

Martin hardly played Anderson last year either. Anderson was called up at around the All-Star break and then rode the bench as Florida played 41-year-old veteran Eddie Belfour over 20 games straight in goal. Belfour ran out of gas at year’s end. This year and last show IMHO that Martin has no confidence in Anderson and I don’t really know why. He’s played well when given the chance.

*- Has Palm Beach Post Florida Panther beat reporter Brian Biggane been paying attention this year? In an article about last night’s game, Brian wrote-

With the Panthers on a power play, Jokinen collected a short pass from goaltender Tomas Vokoun and worked his way through the Boston defense, then beat Thomas on a backhander through the pads. It was Vokoun’s first assist of the season.

First? Try sixth assist of the year. Vokoun leads all NHL goaltenders in assists. Biggane should stop drinking or pay more attention to the team he’s paid to cover.

*- Florida has won 15 road games this year. I bet the team finishes with 20 or more for the year, breaking the Panther’s previous record of 18.

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