Tuesday, April 7, 2009

That Should Just About Wrap It Up...

The Florida Panthers still have two games left to play, but after tonight, those game's are now literally "must wins." The Panthers suffered a devastating, 2-1 defeat tonight in Philadelphia. With the New York Rangers beating Montreal, Florida now has to win both of it's remaining games, and hope the Rangers or Canadiens lose both of theirs. Otherwise, it's another season that ends after 82 games.

The game itself was one of the toughest to swallow this season. The Panthers scored first, a perfect tic-tac-toe that resulted in Brett McLean finishing in the 2nd period. Unfortunately, the Flyers woke up after that. An unlucky bounce off of Joffrey Lupul's skate tied it. No kicking motion, but instead a "redirection." Perfectly legal, perfectly unfortunate. The game winner, on the other hand, was not so clear. The play started after blindingly obvious cross check was not called on Scott Hartnell, resulting in a turnover in the Panthers corner. Jeff Carter picked up the puck, turned, and beat an ill prepared Tomas Vokoun. As ugly as the non-call was, Vokoun was just as bad. This was the type of goal that got Vokoun benched two weeks ago. It was terrible. Granted, the shot never should have come. The Panthers should have had a face off in the Flyers' zone and a power play, but that was not the case. Game, set, season. A valiant press in the final minutes came up short, and the Panthers' now need a giant helping hand if they hope to end their 7-season postseason drought.

It's going to be awfully hard to get past this one. Florida was ready. They were on an even playing field with the Flyers all night. The Cats showed the desperation you would expect from a team in their position. To lose not just the game, but probably the postseason, on a play like that... it's painful. They limited one of the league's top offenses to few pure chances. The Cats were able to set up and work their offense numerous times. They backchecked hard. They forechecked tenaciously. But, as has been the case many times this season, all the effort and heart in the world can do no good if you don't have the talent to put the puck in the net. Brutal.

So here's what's left. 2 games for Florida, 2 games for Montreal, 2 games for the Rangers. Florida has to win their final 2, in Atlanta Thursday, then home against the Capitals Saturday. If that happens, and clearly a big if, either the Habs or Rangers will have to lose both of their remaining games. New York has a home and home against the Flyers. Montreal is in Boston Thursday, then home against the Penguins Saturday. Is it possible that NYR or MTL lose both? Of course it is. Could Florida win both of it's remaining games? Sure. But one more win for the Rangers and Canadiens, and that would ensure the Panthers watch the playoffs for the 8th straight season from home. It would take a small miracle for the Cats to get in, but let's not write any obituaries until the body is in the ground...

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