Saturday, February 21, 2009

Panthers 2 - Bruins 0

Have you ever noticed that you never see Tomas Vokoun and Clark Kent in the same room at the same time? A 41 save shutout for T-Vo against the NHL's best, including several jaw droppers. Can you become a Vezina finalist for just one outstanding month? Why not. He's got my vote. The game itself was outstanding. Even for a scoreless game through 2 periods, I was on edge all night. Great pace, great energy. For a good stretch, Florida was outplaying the Boston Bruins. They looked hungrier, more determined. There was an emotion on this team that has been unheard of, unimagined, for the Panthers in years. Had it not been for a number of post-clanging, the Panthers could have had this game in hand much earlier in the night. When Nathan Horton gets time to pick his spot, his wrist shot is nearly unstoppable. I just wish he would use it more often. He rang one of the post tonight that Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas is still looking for.

Radek Dvorak got both goals for the Cats, one short handed, and one on the back end of a superb pass from Greg Campbell. Have I mentioned how much I love this team? On any given night, if one line isn't getting the breaks, another steps up. If one guy is getting shut down, someone else gets it done. Tonight, it was Dvorak.

As solid as Vokoun was, the Panthers penalty kill should also get a nod of recognition. The B's went 0 for 6 on the PP, and Florida did a great job of keeping the play on the perimeter. The few chances the Bruins got, Vokoun was there.

Did I mention how great Vokoun was? On probably the best save of his night, he didn't even see it. "I didn't see it because I was facing the other way. I just knew that the guy was try and wrap it and I was just trying to at least put some part of my body in the way," Vokoun said. "Playing this game, you need, sometimes, really good fortune. That was definitely a lot of luck." Call it whatever you want, Tommy, that was amazing.

This morning, I called this game a "must win" for momentum and confidence's sake. As the day progressed, it became even more important for the Cats to get the W. Carolina won last night. Today, Pittsburgh and Buffalo won. Florida had to win to keep pace. They did. Buffalo and Florida are now tied with the woeful New York Rangers for 6th-8th place. Carolina is in 9th, 3 points back, Pittsburgh in 10th, 4 back. Florida still has a game in hand on all teams just mentioned.

So a great home stand, 3-2-0, against some of the best in the league. Now, let's try it on the road. Starting Tuesday, the Panthers will visit these same Bruins, then on to play the Rangers, Devils, Capitals, and Thrashers before finally returning home. If Florida can make it through this 5 game stretch without losing any ground... I'll stop there before I get my hopes too high.

Have I told you how awesome Tomas Vokoun is?

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