Sports Outside the Beltway

Florida Panthers- Do or die

Today marks the beginning of the last week of regular season play for my favorite NHL team. The Florida Panthers host the Pittsburgh Penguins this afternoon. With four games to go in the season, Florida is 9th in the Eastern Conference playoffs standing.

That’s the bad news, along with Florida’s erratic play. After a good December and a brilliant January, Florida has been all over the place. After rising to as high as 5th in the Eastern Conference playoff standings, the team began to slide. The Panthers blew three two-goal third period leads in the last month.

A 5-3 loss to Buffalo two weeks ago had me giving up on Florida for the 2008-2009 season. Then the Panthers won 3 straight games, all with Craig Anderson as goalie. On Friday, Florida had a relapse losing to Atlanta 3-1 when a win would have tied them with the NY Rangers.

New York did Florida a favor again by losing yesterday. Now Florida has another opportunity to tie NY for the last playoff spot. I don’t know what NHL playoff tiebreakers are like, but Florida did win the season series from the Rangers.

I haven’t checked, but I don’t think the Panthers have won more than three games in a row this season. Also if they do make the playoffs, Florida will play Boston. A team that has dominated the Eastern Conference this year, and kicked Florida’s ass 3 of the four times they played during the regular season.

Do I think Florida can make the playoffs? Yes. Will they? I don’t know, I’ve quit predicting what this team will do. The Panthers haven’t been to the playoffs since 2000. For most of this season I thought Florida was changing from their past bad habits, like quitting and blowing late leads. Then I saw their play of the last month. It will take more than one season for Florida to do a total turnaround from recent wretched past.

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