The Panthers close out their 5-game homestand tonight, as they take on the league leading Boston Bruins. The good news for Florida is that Boston has just 1 win in its last 5 games. The bad news is that in both team's most recent games, Boston beat up on Carolina, 5-1, and Florida was crushed, 4-0. The Bruins lead the season series, 2-0-0.
For the second time this season, I'm stamping this game with the official Cat Scratch "must-win game" sticker. But why, you ask? You see the Panthers are tied for the final playoff spot with the Buffalo Sabres. The Carolina Hurricanes are gaining quickly, and now sit just 1 point back of Buffalo and Florida, so that is certainly pressing on the minds of the Panthers. But, most importantly, and why this is a vital game, Florida sets off on a 5 game road trip against 4 of the top teams in the league. With the recent memory of the Blackhawks beating, Florida has to, has to, put out a good showing against the Bruins to have some semblance of confidence heading out on the trip. Imagine having last the last 2 games, heading out on the road thinking, "Jeez, we just lost 2 in a row to teams like this. How are we gonna handle this on the road? Carolina's gaining, we're sinking. This isn't good." That just won't work, especially with such a young team that hasn't exactly had a lot of experience in high pressure situations. Now, picture this. A young team that went 3-2-0 against some of the best teams out there, most recently a win against the best of the best. Now, they head out on the road to take on the best in their barn. "We can do this. We beat Boston, New Jersey, New York. Why should a road game be any different?"
Tonight should be a good one. A sense of urgency starting to filter into the locker room, a packed house at the BAC tonight, an actual hockey atmosphere! I can't wait! Puck drops at 7:00.