Which NHL Playoff Team Should You Root For?

Panther Parkway Playoff Preview

We’re hours away from puck drop for the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs and it donned on me (and on all around good guy Jameson Cooper) that there may be thousands and possibly millions of you readers out there who don’t have a vetted interest in a team this year. Your team may have not made it to the post-season, you could be a new fan or you could have amnesia…if that’s the case, thanks for reading and consult a physician immediately after reading this post. Whatever the reason may be, if you need to latch on to a team for the post-season then do I have a piece for you! There are 16 teams in this year’s post season, some are good, some are really good, some are really really really good and some are just OK. Let’s take a look at which team may be a good fit for you.

Anaheim Ducks

Do you like Disney movies about a scrappy gang of youths melded together by the bonds of teamwork, being poor, and national pride? If so then the Ducks could be the team you’re looking for. Don’t be confused by their captain’s lack of hair – he’s amazing at hockey and will not let you down if you’re looking for a deep playoff run. The kicker is 92 year Teemu Selanne, who is retiring at the end of these playoffs, so if you’re into nostalgia and crying then you’re on the right path.

Boston Bruins

Nobody in their right mind should cheer for the Bruins so if you’re not in your right mind you can cheer for them I guess. Also I hate you.

Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks have been the toast of the NHL for a while now. If you’re that person who wants instant gratification then hitch your horse to the wagon and hang on for dear life. If you’re the person who has never seen a Rocky movie, watches Rocky 4 ,and then tells everyone that you love every Rocky movie then cheer for the Blackhawks.

Colorado Avalanche

The Colorado Avalanche is made up from a group of young players with an excessive amount of high-end dynamic talent. Players like Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene (injured, but still), Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O’Reilly and Paul Stastny, will surely make your eyes pop out of your head. They’re also coached by a crazy person. Their playoff hashtag is #whynotus, so if you’re into innovative playoff hashtags, you might want to look elsewhere for a team to support.

Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets have made the playoffs for the 2nd time in their history. Good for them right? If you like an underdog and or jokes about fellatio then you should fit right in with this fanbase. The Blue Jackets are this year’s working class blue-collar team so if you get a kick out of those Ford F-150 commercials where the announcer is pretty much reading everything on the screen, then go ahead and cheer for the Jackets.

Dallas Stars

Jamie Benn, best player by far, has led his Stars to the last playoff spot in the West. I’m sure all of Texas is behind them but if you feel like hootin’ and hollerin’ and ho-downin’ and other Texas slangs, then hop right on this chuck wagon!

Detroit Red Wings

Detroit has made the playoffs 23 years in a row. They have won only 4 Stanley Cups in that span, so if you like high winning percentages, then don’t root for the Red Wings. If you like Sweden, rookies, cool breakaway moves and great coaching, then they may be right up your alley.

Los Angeles Kings

All of LA’s top C list celebrities are totally into the Kings so if you want to head to Staples Center and snap a selfie with Matthew Perry then you’re in the right ballpark. The Kings are a team that Wayne Gretzky used to play for so if you want to impress your friends with that bit of trivia when explaining your fandom, then wear that silver and black.

Minnesota Wild

Minnesota is the self-proclaimed “State of Hockey” which would be accurate if Michigan, New York, New Jersey, California, Missouri, Florida, Arizona, Ohio, Illinois, Tennessee, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Colorado, Texas and Pennsylvania all didn’t have hockey teams too. Liars.

Montreal Canadiens

Montreal has won the most Stanley Cups out of any NHL franchise with 24. They haven’t won one since 1993 so if you’re looking to get on board with a group of self-entitled history-clutching crazies, who are desperately waiting to see a cup win in their lifetime then mon ami/e you are knocking at the right door. Poutine is fantastic too, that should be good enough.

New York Rangers

The Rangers are one of three teams in New York (keep thinking of that third one). They’re like the Yankees if the Yankees have only won 4 World Series ever and haven’t won one since 1994 and the one before that was in 1940. If you like not having lofty expectations met, then go put on a blue shirt.

Philadelphia Flyers

They sing America the Beautiful instead of the Star Spangled Banner so if you like alternate forms of patriotism then cheer for the Flyers. They’re also historically violent, made the Red Army team refuse to play against them because of it, and their fans have the reputation of being a-holes. If this made you mad then you’re probably a Flyers fan already.

Pittsburgh Penguins

If you like cheering for the best at anything then step right up and feast your eyes on Sidney Crosby. Supporting the best hockey player in the world is reason enough to cheer for the Penguins and fans have been doing just that since 2005. I’d like to point out that former arguably best player in the world Mario Lemieux partly owns the team and will be shown frequently on TV throughout these playoffs so if you like passing torches from generation to generation then grab a Pens jersey and get ready to be disappointed by Marc Andre Fleury.

San Jose Sharks

The Sharks have never won a Stanley Cup and have the unfortunate reputation of being “playoff chokers.” If you like great teams with great players, then cheer for the Sharks. If you like teal, then cheer for the Sharks. If you like the Jaws theme song, then cheer for the Sharks. If you want to get offended every time someone mentions the word “choke”, then sheer for the Sharks. If you want to be part of their first cup win, then don’t cheer for the Sharks because they’re kind of chokers.

St. Louis Blues

Another team without a Cup win ever. A lot of people don’t like the Blues so if you’re a fan of being the outcast who sticks up for their team no matter what horrible thing they do that makes everyone else angry, then cheer for the Blues. American almost hero Ryan Miller is their starting goalie. You probably heard of him a few years ago.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Led by elite sniper Steven Stamkos for now, the Lightning are one of those cool teams that doesn’t end in an S. If you like the Oklahoma City Thunder then DEFINITELY cheer for the Lightning because then you can make your twitter handle @ThunderandLightning and you’ll be really cool.

By now you should have a team that suits you perfectly. If you’re still undecided, then refresh this page and read the post again. Go Hockey Go, enjoy the playoffs folks.

Florida Panthers and the Role of Leadership in the NHL

The leadership debate has been kicked into high gear recently in the hockey world and everyone who’s everyone is throwing in their two cents (5 cents if you’re from Canada). Leadership is a tricky notion in any realm to define and quantify, but in the sports world leadership is more like an omnipotent force than quantifiable trait. The inspiration for this piece comes from Steve (Dangle) Glynn, who debates the quantities/qualities of leadership in this video: http://theleafsnation.com/2014/4/7/leadership-in-hockey-what-s-that

Steve questions whether or not leadership is even real, if it’s tangible based on goals, hits, motivational speeches etc. It’s a great video; I’d check it out if I were you.

So what is it? What is leadership?

To re-hash and expand on what Steve said: Is leadership defined by production? Fighting? The notion of clutch-ness? (That’s a whole other can of worms)

Is it defined by being vocal in the locker room? On the bench? On the ice?

Is it by example? Putting your body on the line to help your team win? Attending charity events? Being available to the media no matter the situation?

Is it how you interact with your teammates? Patting them on the back when they do something right? Teaching them when they did something wrong? Calming them down when they’re making mistakes?

Is it just being old? How many cups you’ve won? How many years you’ve been in the league?

To me, leadership is a mixed bag. It’s a combination/selection of everything I listed above and more.

You can sense leadership in sport (and life, really) at any level, from the professional grade to the beer league. There are people who others gravitate to for inspiration, support, guidance or security. There are people who possess those unquantifiable quantifiable qualities that make people gravitate to them.

The term “Leadership” is used so often these days so it’s not insane to see why it’s been watered down and questioned as much as it is being. When a team wins or loses, part of that result was due to what we call leadership. Players cite their captains, alternates, goal scorers, grinders, goalies, coaches etc. as people who were impactful on the game’s outcome. Leaders come in all shapes and sizes and are defined by the many variations of leadership. There’s not just one answer, there’s not just one quality, leadership is an orchestra.

When it comes to a team’s captaincy group, I have no doubt that whoever makes the decision takes all of these qualities into account. Technically a team only has captains and alternates so that there is a designated group of people to talk to officials. Obviously that has evolved into what we have today. Being a captain or an alternate is seen as a prestigious honor.

We rank the best captains; we debate if a player should be captain, we even put more weight on a goal when it was scored by a captain or when captains fight! Obviously leadership matters in the NHL and whatever you quantify leadership as it has an impact on how you watch the game and how the game is played.

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Brandon Pirri: “I have a role on this team”

In the midst of yet another rebuild, the Florida Panthers will certainly have a lot of question marks to address this offseason. Rookie center Brandon Pirri isn’t one of them.

Acquired in a pre-deadline deal with the Chicago Blackhawks on March 2, Pirri, 22, has quickly become one of the Panthers’ most reliable and productive forwards on a team that has been bereft of offense for the majority of the season.

“It’s been good. The transition has been easy,” Pirri said of his first month in Florida. “Very comfortable, great locker room here.”

In 46 games split between Chicago and Florida, Pirri has tallied 23 points (12-11-23), placing him 25th in the NHL among rookies while playing in significantly fewer games than those ahead of him.

Brandon Pirri ( Kelsey Hinds @Kelsey1344 )

Brandon Pirri ( Kelsey Hinds @Kelsey1344 )

Additionally, since the trade deadline, Pirri’s performance has actually been on par with some of the biggest names that changed uniforms roughly one month ago.

With a post-deadline point total of 12 (6-6-12), Pirri has been producing around the same rate as Matt Moulson (10), Thomas Vanek (14) and Marion Gaborik (11). And unlike the three aforementioned forwards, Pirri has been doing the majority of his damage from the third line.

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Q & A With New Panthers F Brandon Pirri

Before being buried under the media frenzy that surrounded Roberto Luongo’s return to Florida, the Panthers made headlines last week when they announced that they had acquired F Brandon Pirri from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a third-round pick in 2014 and a fifth-round pick in 2016.

A 2nd round draft pick (59th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Pirri, 22, has tallied 11 points (6-5-11) so far this season for the Blackhawks while competing in 28 games in mostly a bottom-six role.

Already one of the youngest teams in the NHL, Pirri will spend the last 21 games of the 2013-14 regular season trying to stand out as numerous players fight for limited roster spots heading into next season.

Getting ready to compete in his first home game at the BB&T Center, Pirri was nice enough to talk to Panther Parkway after today’s morning skate and shed a little light on the trade that sent him to Florida, as well as his first few days of being a Panther.

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Florida Panthers Acquire F Brandon Pirri From Chicago Blackhawks For Picks

In what could potentially be the first of many moves as the March 5 trade deadline approaches, the Florida Panthers announced today that they have acquired center Brandon Pirri from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a third-round pick in 2014 and a fifth-round pick in 2016.

A 2nd round draft pick (59th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Pirri’s move to Florida reunites him with current Panthers’ General Manager, Dale Tallon, who held the same position with Chicago when Pirri was drafted.

Pirri, 22, has tallied 11 points (6-5-11) so far this season for the Blackhawks while competing in 28 games in mostly a bottom-six role.

Prior to his rookie season with Chicago, Pirri turned heads while playing for the Rockford Icehogs (AHL) where he managed to score 75 points (22-53-75) in just 72 games played during the 2012-13 season.

In joining the Panthers, Pirri will be surrounded by a few familiar faces in the locker room as both D Dylan Olsen and F Jimmy Hayes spent some time with the young centerman while in Chicago’s system.

Pirri’s entry-level contract is set to expire at the conclusion of the 2013-14 season at which time he will become a restricted free agent.

Thanks for reading and we welcome your thoughts in the comments section below!

Follow Jameson on Twitter @JamesonCoop

For All Your Florida Panthers’ Updates Follow Panther Parkway on Facebook

Follow Panther Parkway on Instagram @ PantherParkway

Dylan Olsen, The Panthers’ Early Christmas Present

With Christmas just under two weeks away, the Florida Panthers have already unwrapped a big present as newly acquired defenseman Dylan Olsen has brought consistency and a surprising offensive element to a previously struggling blueline.

Drafted 28th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Olsen, 22, polished his game while playing collegiately for the University of Minnesota-Duluth and later for the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate, the Rockford Icehogs. Already one of the NHL’s top defensive prospects, Olsen waited several years to crack the Blackhawks’ lineup even after continued strong AHL and training camp showings.

However, even as frustrations grew while laying in wait, Olsen never felt slighted and was quick to praise Blachawks’ exceptional depth at his position.

“You just have to look at the lineup they have, (Duncan) Keith, (Brent) Seabrook, these guys are Olympic gold medalists. Then they have young guys like (Nick) Leddy who has obviously established himself as an NHL player,” Olsen said of the Blackhawks’ loaded blueline. “It’s tough lineup to crack. They have so much depth in that organization.”

Though he never became a regular, Olsen was still able to compete in 28 games and one playoff appearance for the Blackhawks while filling in for injured teammates. In those 28 games, Olsen recorded one assist and registered six PIMs. Though his stay in the NHL was shorter than he had hoped, Olsen credited his brief stint with the team as a sign that he could compete and belonged in the NHL.

Then, on November 14, 2013, Olsen would finally get his chance to standout as the Blackhawks’ sent both he and teammate F Jimmy Hayes to the Panthers’ in exchange for veteran winger Kris Versteeg. Initially sent to the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage, a promise from Panthers’ General Manager Dale Tallon let Olsen know his time would soon come.

“The first night it happened, Dale (Tallon) called me and said we’re going to send you to San Antonio right now, but obviously we’re going to give you an opportunity to play up here,” Olsen said.

A man of his word, Tallon recalled Olsen from San Antonio after just three games – a decision he would not regret. Wearing number four, Olsen made Panthers’ debut on November 25th against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Dylan Olsen & Erik Gudbranson (Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports)

Dylan Olsen & Erik Gudbranson (Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports)

Helping Olsen ease into his new role with the Panthers was a familiar face in the form of defenseman Erik Gudbranson. A former teammate of Olsen’s on Canada’s 2010 U-18 World Junior Championships squad, Gudbranson and Olsen looked as if they had been playing together for years as the duo combined for three points (1G-2A-3P) and several key defensive plays in their first game paired together.

“He was great. Extremely easy to play with,” Gudbranson said of his first game with Olsen.“We’ve already played together in a World Junior U-18 Tournament. We knew each other. We knew what to expect from each other. The biggest thing was we communicated so well on the ice. Every time I touched the puck I know where he was, he knew where I was.”

A standout player from start to finish, Olsen’s stat line for his debut consisted of an impressive +2 rating, two blocked shots and an assist in 19:10 total TOI as the Panthers defeated the Flyers 3-1. 

Since that first showing, Olsen has yet to regress from the high level of play that has already endeared him to the Panther faithful.

In eight games for the Panthers’ this season, Olsen has totaled six points (2G-4A-6P) while playing responsible defensive hockey in his own zone. On a team normally starved for offense, Olsen’s contributions have been a welcomed surprise to the Panthers – and to Olsen himself.

“I really don’t know,” Olsen said with a laugh when asked to explain his recent offensive outburst. “This has never happened before.”

Having already been tasked with shutting down star forwards like Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby and Pavel Datsyuk, Olsen’s life won’t be getting any easier tonight as the Panthers’ welcome the Washington Capitals and the NHL’s top goal scorer, Alex Ovechkin.

Although the Panthers will need to continue an arduous uphill battle to regain playoff relevance this season, Panthers’ head coach Peter Horachek has faith in both his team and Olsen.

“He’s a big kid, he has a good shot, he shoots the puck really well — he has a really good first pass and he does things assertively,” Horachek said. “Right now, I think he’s contributing in a positive way.”

Thanks for reading and we welcome your thoughts in the comments section below!

Follow Jameson on Twitter @JamesonCoop

For All Your Florida Panthers’ Updates Follow Panther Parkway on Facebook

Follow Panther Parkway on Instagram @ PantherParkway

Florida Panthers Trade Kris Versteeg to Chicago

The winds of change continue to blow in stormy South Florida.

Having already relieved former head coach Kevin Dineen and his assistants of their duties last week, Florida Panthers’ General Manager Dale Tallon made his first big roster move on Thursday night as RW Kris Versteeg and LW Phillippe Lefebvre were traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for RW Jimmy Hayes and D Dylan Olsen.

“We are pleased to welcome both Jimmy and Dylan to the Panthers,” said Tallon in the team’s press release. “Jimmy is a young, strong, hardworking, versatile forward who brings both size and skill to our team. Dylan, a former first round draft pick, is a young, solid defenseman who adds further depth to our blue line. We thank Kris for his contributions to the Panthers, including helping us win the 2011-2012 Southeast Division Championship, and wish him the best of luck in his return to Chicago.”

In just over two seasons with the Panthers, Versteeg totaled 65 points (27G-38A-65P), but had begun to struggle in the year’s since the team’s improbable playoff run in 2011. Prior to being traded, Versteeg tallied 7 points (2G-5A-7P) for the Panthers this season.

In exchange for Versteeg, the Panthers will be getting two young skaters in Hayes and Olsen who both still have a lot to prove at the NHL level.

Hayes, 23, has played in 43 career NHL games with the Blackhawks, scoring 13 points (6G-7A-13P) and 16 PIM. The 6-foot-6, 221-pound forward has both the size and physicality that Tallon has tried to stock up on in Florida.. This season, Hayes has recorded eight points (4G-4A-8P) in 13 games with Rockford (AHL), while also appearing in two games for the Blackhawks.

Olsen,22, has played in 28 career NHL games with the Blackhawks and registered a  lone assist and six PIM during his brief stint in the NHL. This season, he has played in 18 games with Rockford (AHL), recording eight assists and eight PIMs.

We here at Panther Parkway wish Kris Versteeg the best as he enters the next stage of his career.

Thanks for reading and we welcome your thoughts in the comments section below!

Follow Jameson on Twitter @JamesonCoop

For All Your Florida Panthers’ Updates Follow Panther Parkway on Facebook

Follow Panther Parkway on Instagram @ PantherParkway

Third Period Rally Not Enough For Panthers

After seven games to open the season that saw the Florida Panthers produce inconsistent effort from night-to-night and even period-to-period, a pleasant trend over the past three games (all at home) is the consistency in work-rate . Tuesday night in Sunrise, the Panthers battled back from a two-goal, third period deficit to force overtime and a shootout but, in the end, the defending Stanley Cup Chicago Blackhawks walked out with a 3-2 SO win.
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Game Day Preview: Hawks vs. Panthers. Everybody’s Got A Hunger

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS: 5-1-2 (12 PTS.) vs. FLORIDA PANTHERS: 3-6-0 (6 PTS.)

GAME DAY SONG: Prove It All Night, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

When the schedule for this season came out, the only game that was on my must see list besides opening night was this one.  As a native Chicagoan this is my game of the year here in South Florida, and yet I wish it wasn’t so early into the season.  Mostly because the Florida Panthers are still trying to locate their identity, while the Chicago Blackhawks know exactly what there’s is.

In hopes of seeing a match that isn’t one sided, the Florida Panthers may be able to build on Saturday night’s shootout win against the Minnesota Wild.  The difference between a record of 3-6-0 is certainly better than 2-7-0, which would have included a four game losing streak to boot.  Saturday’s game featured a number of different line combinations, and a number of different players who saw their ice time reduced.  Forwards like Brad Boyes and Scott Gomez both saw limited action in the final period, as did defenceman Erik Gudbranson who seemed to struggle with his decisions.  Head coach Kevin Dineen is starting to make players more accountable by limiting their ice time, and it’s ab out time.  This comment after Saturday’s game accurately describes his sentiment:

“It’s a tale of two cities with our team,” Dineen said. “I talked before the season about accountability before the season and guys who weren’t playing well didn’t see much ice in the third. I think that it’s starting to take affect, knowing this is a performance-based business. Do your job, you’ll be OK.”

In the middle of a six game homestand, things don’t get easier or simpler tonight with the fast and high-powered offence of the defending Stanley Cup champions in town.  Florida who should be rested after taking Sunday off, will need to be at their very best tonight in what will be another in a long line of tests this early in the season.  While the pace of Saturday night’s game was fit for watching paint dry, this one has the potential to be over early if Florida isn’t ready.

The Panthers who have proved that when they play a full 60 minutes, they can be a competitive team giving themselves a chance to win.  The key is playing smart, giving full effort, and creating scoring chances, while limiting turnovers, odd man rushes and taking ill-advised penalties.  One would argue that’s the recipe that every team hopes for, however the Panthers are still learning that in order to be consistent, those are the things they have to do on a regular basis.

If the Panthers decide to match their speed with the Hawks, the contest will be over soon, unless the boys from the Windy City are suffering from heat stroke or sunburn.  The best way for Florida to beat the Hawks, or at least keep the contest close is to (dare I say) slow things down.  Finishing checks, clogging up the neutral zone, and limiting shots on goal is the best method to stay in this game.  The Panthers have speed, but they won’t match the speed, and quickness of the Blackhawks, who also are extremely adept at getting out of their zone quickly and efficiently.  While I’m not an expert, I’ve certainly watched enough Blackhawks games to know that frustrating them is the best way to beat them.  The question will be can the Panthers accomplish that, and if so, can they do it successfully for 60 minutes.

The Blackhawks feature one of the best core units of players in the game today.  Captain Jonathan Toews is undoubtedly one of the best two-way players in the NHL, and often puts the team on his back.  His support comes from players like Marian Hossa, who is another solid two-way player that’s strong on the puck, Patrick Sharp, a player that besides being good-looking, has one of the most accurate one timers in the game, and is a goal scorer who is due to go on a hot streak.  Of course you’re all familiar with Patrick Kane.  Kane is a gifted player who has speed, can dazzle you with his moves, and has a habit of scoring goals in bunches, as well as in the clutch.  Should this game go to a shootout, the Hawks will present a stern challenge to Florida, and these four players are among the best in the game.

There’s speed and quick puck movement throughout this lineup, including the defence, which features a core that any team would be jealous of.  Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are usually inseparable, but head coach Joel Quenneville at times breaks them up to help them regain their focus.  Johnny Oduya, Niklas Hjalmarssen and Nick Leddy all are good at moving the puck, and Hjalmarssen is their best shot blocker.  Leddy is only 22 and his ceiling hasn’t been reached yet.  His ability to move the puck and join the rush lessens the loss of trading Brian Campbell to the Panthers more and more.  Making smart decisions is still something the youngster is learning, and yet his development improves with more responsibility.

One of the traits of Chicago is their ability to score in bunches as was evidenced in their 3-1 victory over Toronto Saturday night, which saw them score three goals in the second period.  Sometimes it’s as if they’re waiting for a moment in the game where the opposition has relaxed, or become complacent, and before you know it…..boom you’re trailing.  The one area this season that hasn’t been entirely evident is the ability to finish teams off.  The Hawks have one regulation loss and two in overtime.  All three were due to leads that were lost in the later part of the games.  Something that rarely happened last season.  If my memory is right, I believe I read that the Hawks have only trailed in games this season by a combined total of just under six minutes.

Rookie Brandon Pirri scored in his second straight game, and also has an assist in the three games he’s played since being called up from Rockford in the AHL.  In seven previous games covering three years overall, Pirri was held scoreless, so he’s trying to make the most of his opportunity:

“The puck’s just finding my stick right now, so it’s a lot of fun,” Pirri said. “I’m just trying to do the little things right.”

Corey Crawford is the number one netminder and he’s backed up by former Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Nikolai Khabibulin. Crawford who was signed to a six year deal over the summer will carry the load for Chicago this season, has played in seven of the teams eight games, and will get the call tonight facing Tim Thomas.  Khabibulin has appeared in one game, which was a 3-2 victory over the New York Islanders back on Friday October 11th, and is due for some action.  With seven games in the next 14 days, look for his role to become slightly more prominent.

The Hawks and Panthers haven’t played each other since January 2012.  The Hawks have won the last three contests outscoring Florida 10-3.

In closing today’s preview, my hope is that tonight’s game will be an entertaining one.  With all the speed and skill on Chicago, the Panthers hopefully can use that to motivate them to rise to the occasion.  If the Panthers are going to get better, this is a game where they’ll need to prove it.

Thanks for reading.  We welcome your comments and opinions.

Follow the Panther Parkway crew on Twitter: Frank Rekas @FrankRekas, David Lasseter @davidlasseter , Paige Lewis @PaigeLewisFL, Jameson Cooper @JamesonCoop, and Amanda Land @HockeyGirl2530.  Also, please join our FaceBook Fan Page and hit the like button, send us photos, and tell us what’s on your mind.

Seven Florida Panther Home Games To Circle On Your Calendar

The NHL regular season begins on October 1st (yes Johnny, 72 days from now), when the Montreal Canadiens host the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Chicago Blackhawks raise their Championship banner against the Washington Capitals, and the Edm0nton Oilers host the Winnipeg Jets.  The Florida Panthers will start the season two nights later in Dallas against the Stars, as they open the season with a four game road trip taking them to St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Tampa before coming back to Sunrise for their home opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Looking at their overall schedule, the season will be challenging, as their are 18 back to back games, and a number of long road trips.  The award for finishing last in the league.

With the new divisions (Metropolitan?), and realignment being settled on, the one good thing is that all teams will play each other at least once in everyone’s building.  The bad thing is, I would still like the NHL to go back to the home team wearing white so we can see the colors of the visitors.  That said, here are seven home games that you should make sure that you attend:

* Friday October 11 vs. Pittsburgh:  Sid the Kid, ex-Panther Tomas Vokoun, and the rest of the Penguins will invade South Florida following the Panthers season opening four game road trip.  Nothing like a little challenge to kick start the season, but the Penguins always draw a good crowd, and opening nights are always packed here in Sunrise.  The Panthers traditionally play well at home against Pittsburgh and this should be no different, although it’s the second of back to back games following a road trip.  Even still we’ll get our first look at second overall pick Aleksander Barkov.

* Tuesday October 22nd vs. Chicago:  For me, the game of the year.  The Stanley Cup winning Blackhawks and Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Kane, two of the league’s premier players will visit at a very odd time.  Normally the Hawks play in Sunrise in February or March, giving fans from the Windy City a chance to escape the cold and snow.  This game will be fast, furious, and will be in the middle of a six game home stand.  If you want to see a team that’s built for winning, this is the game to come to.

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