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.

Game Day Preview: Rangers vs. Panthers. So Walk Tall, Or Baby Don’t Walk At All.

NEW YORK RANGERS: 19-19-2 (40 PTS.) vs. FLORIDA PANTHERS: 15-20-5 (35 PTS)

GAME DAY SONG: New York City Serenade (live from Rome) Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band

The Florida Panthers hope to close out the 2013 year on a positive note with a win this evening and erase what’s been a forgettable 2013.  In the middle of a five game homestand which started off with two losses at the hands of division rivals Tampa Bay and Detroit, the Cats rebounded very nicely with a 4-1 victory on Sunday against the Montreal Canadiens.  That win ended a three game losing streak which was preceded by a five game winning streak.  Despite the inconsistency this year, the Panthers are 8-4-0 in their past dozen games.

It’s likely going to continue this way for the balance of the season for Florida based on the roster of players that they have and the competition that they face, especially in the tough Atlantic Division they are now part of.  There are two areas of concern for Florida this season that have put them in the position they’re in.  In forty games the Panthers have only scored 95 goals.  I’m certainly no math whiz, but a team isn’t going to be very successful overall when averaging 2.375 goals per game.  Brad Boyes leads the team in goals with nine, yet has only one goal in the last 17 games he’s played, not counting one game where he was a healthy scratch.  The offence has also suffered from a very anemic power play, which finds players taking shots that are no where close to being on goal.  The power play sits at the bottom of the league with a 11.2% success rate.

On defence, while the Panthers have played much better since Peter Horachek took over, Florida has still given up 128 goals on the season.  The penalty kill is also last having killed only 73.2% of the chances against them.  So while there’s work to be done in both zones, things have been better for the past 6 weeks, yet unfortunately we can’t remove the first month of the season.  Brian Campbell states what has been a common theme in Florida:

“We gotta string together as many (wins) as we can get here, so hopefully we can get a good start going and finish it off with a couple more at home here,” Campbell said.

If you’re looking for a bright spot in Florida, look no further than rookie center Aleksander Barkov.  He’s  not flashy, but he’s steady and plays like he’s been here a couple years already.  He’s made very few rookie type mistakes in his young career, and looks like he’s only going to get better.  He’s made some of the smoothest passes you’ll ever see, and his hockey sense puts many vets to shame.  Just wait to see how good he’s going to be when the Panthers get a real finisher to play on his wing!  Barkov has three goals and five assists in his last nine games, and is first among rookies in face-off percentage.

The Rangers are having struggles of their own and sit at .500 on the season.  Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has struggled so far with a 11-15-2 record, but may have broken out of his funk with a 4-3 victory against Tampa on Sunday night.  Lundqvist had previously sat out the three games before Sunday, giving way to backup Cam Talbot who has a record of 8-3-0.  Not that there could possibly be a goalie controversy in New York, but it looked as though one could have been brewing.  Look for Lundqvist to be in goal tonight, as he’s 6-3-0 in the last nine games against the Panthers with a stingy 1.57 GAA.

Leading the Rangers in points is Mats Zuccarello who has 28 (9G-19A), followed by Brad Richards who has 27 on 9 goals and 18 helpers.  Rick Nash who has only played 23 games this season is still looking for his groove with only 7 goals on the season.  The goals leader for the Rangers is Chris Kreider who has 1o.

The Panthers would do themselves a huge favor by staying out of the penalty box tonight.  Not only because they have the worst killing unit in the league, but the Rangers have scored on 8 of their past 23 man advantages in the last six games.  Florida has been above average this year when playing five on five.  It’s when they’re a man short that they get themselves in trouble.  Not giving up a quick (early) goal is another detail that Florida needs to adhere to.  When you’re offensively challenged it’s difficult to fight back night after night, and puts a lot of strain on your overall game.

Remember, tonight’s game starts at 5:00 P.M.  Enjoy the final game of 2013, and have a very Happy New Year.

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.

given up 128

Panthers’ Best Goal and Save of November

After a month in which they fought their way to a 4-8-3 record it’s safe to say that the Panthers’ November campaign was not without controversy. From the firing of head coach Kevin Dineen to the trading of former top-line forward Kris Versteeg, the team began to once again push forward towards a new identity.

While the Cats still find themselves a far cry from a playoff team, they have begun to show improvement under the watchful eye of new head coach Peter Horachek. Even in many of their defeats the team has shown signs of turning it around as the once lowly Florida franchise continues it’s rebuild toward consistency and prominence.

On the ice, the save and goal shown in the videos below aptly demonstrated where the team hopes they are heading – forward.

Best Goal: Aleksander Barkov (11/10/13 vs. New York Rangers)

On the surface this goal by Panthers’ rookie Aleksander Barkov may seem rather pedestrian, but it is the complete series of events that leads to the goal that make it noteworthy. From the crisp passes to the almost zen-like patience of the young Fin, Barkov picks his moments perfectly and helps the team net a rare powerplay goal.

Best Save: Tim Thomas (11/19/13 vs. Vancouver Canucks)

While Tim Thomas may have already amassed a handful of highlight reel saves in his tenure as a Panther, I have decided to choose a series of saves rather than just one particular moment for this month’s top spot. After having already stopped 27 of 29 shots on the evening, Thomas helped will the Panthers to possibly their most impressive victory of the season as he stopped all three Canucks’ shooters in the Cats’ 3-2 shootout victory.

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Loss In New York Pushes Panthers Drought To Nine

 

And the hits just keep on coming. The Florida Panthers dropped their ninth consecutive game (0-5-4), this time to the New York Rangers 4-3 at Madison Square Garden. While in this game the Panthers had a rare second period lead, it took the Rangers less than 15 minutes to turn that lead into the all-familiar two-goal, third period deficit. This time, the requisite comeback fell one goal short in the end.

I have to admit, it’s tough trying to find some bright spots in a situation like this but, I’m going to try. The effort level was there which seems like a weird to thin praise since it SHOULD be there every night. Aleksander Barkov broke a nine-game goalless drought with a power play goal (!) in the first. Brian Campbell tallied his first two goals of the season, something sorely needed.

But, with all of that, the bottom line is that it still wasn’t enough to get the win. Too many brain-dead turnovers and senseless penalties cripple this team on a nightly basis. And no matter the effort level, this team just isn’t good enough to overcome it. And don’t look now, but here come the league-leading Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday. Should the Panthers not be able to win that one, the losing skid will hit ten for the first time since the close of the 2010-11 season.

Follow All Panther Parkway writers on Twitter: Me @davidlasseter, Frank Rekas @FrankRekas,Paige Lewis @PaigeLewisFL, Jameson Cooper @JamesonCoop, and Amanda Land @HockeyGirl2530. Visit our Facebook fan page here and give us a like and share anything you wish with us.

Panthers vs. Rangers. This Is No Time To Get Cute

FLORIDA PANTHERS: 3-10-4 (10 PTS.) vs. NEW YORK RANGERS: 8-8-0 (16 PTS.)

MUST SEE, GAME DAY SONG: NEW YORK CITY SERENADE, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band

Life in the NHL can be a lot of things, but one thing it’s not is easy.  Just ask the Florida Panthers and new head coach Peter Horachek.  The Panthers who were in the midst of a seven game losing streak fired their coaching staff Friday, giving the new bench boss and his staff one practice to prepare his team for back to back games this weekend.  After yesterday’s loss to Ottawa, the Panthers are now the owners of an eight game losing streak as they enter the renovated Madison Square Garden to face off against the New York Rangers, who after a sluggish start of their own, seem to be finding their groove.  The Rangers are now 8-8-0, 6-4-0 in their last 10, and like the Senators on Saturday, are looking for their third consecutive win.

After giving up two goals in the first two minutes yesterday, things started to get better, yet the result was the same that it’s been all season long.  You can’t play come from behind hockey in the NHL.  Every. Single. Night.  The Panthers cut the lead in half when Nick Bjugstad scored his second goal of the season two minutes later, with Tomas Kopecky getting the lone assist.  More importantly however is the fact that it was Tom Kop’s first point of the season.  Yet the Panthers woes, especially on the road continued, and it was their ineffective power play that let them down again.  With five opportunities including a 5 on 3 advantage, the Panthers were held scoreless again!  Please note that during the 5 on 3 the Panthers were unable to register a shot on goal.  Now after 17 games Florida’s power play has converted only 5 times in 59 chances.  Horachek vows to work on this part of the game, and while he does, just imagine how different things might be if the Panthers had scored 10 times instead of 5.  The momentum swing that a power play goal can provide a surge just at the right time, and helps build confidence during the game.

When you combine the slow start, and the inept power play, it’s plainly obvious as to why the Panthers are where they are.  In Horachek’s defence however, he hasn’t been given enough time to fix this, and he’s still trying to learn the names of his players.  We’ll see how this looks in 10 games, but things better improve quickly.  After tonight, the Panthers have an off day on Monday before the Anaheim Ducks visit South Florida Tuesday night, and thanks to the NHL schedule makers, the Cats head out west for a five game western road swing.  Good times will be had by all no doubt.

One move that Horachek made was naming defenceman Erik Gudbranson an alternate captain, as Erik wore the “A” for the first time in his young career, signalling that he has the confidence of his coaching staff.  Erik now in his third season needs to be the leader he was expected to be when the Florida Panthers made him their number one pick in 2010.  This change in coaching may give him a fresh start and a new outlook on his role here with the Panthers.  Horachek has indicated he wants to know the identity of his team and over the next few games, we could find out.

 We can discuss all we want about the certain parts of the game where Florida looks good, or has improved, but unless the Panthers start winning, none of that matters.  Not generating shots on a power play, especially with a two man advantage, making the same mistakes with turnovers, and taking ill advised penalties is more than just coaching.  The only thing that matters right now is winning. The culture in the room, the composure on the ice, and the maximum effort from all the players is the only way to move forward.  Let’s hope it begins tonight.

If you’d like to see what hard work, and paying attention to detail gets you, please watch the game day video I’ve linked at the beginning of this article.  Bruce wrote that song when he was 24. TWENTY FOUR!!!!!  And this past summer 40 years later, that performance can be called nothing less than musical perfection.

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.

Video: Rookie Tomas Hertl Puts on a Show in San Jose

After scoring a total of six goals through his first two career NHL games, it’s hard to imagine any player is having a better week than San Jose Sharks’ rookie winger Tomas Hertl. Though it is still very early in the 2013-2014 season, the 19-year-old Hertl already has experts racing to amend their Calder Trophy picks for this season as the rookie continues to showcase his exceptional scoring talents. Although Hertl first made headlines by scoring two goals against the Phoenix Coyotes on October 5th, the Czech Republic native made the hockey world explode on Tuesday night when he tallied four goals against a hapless New York Rangers’ team that should be very happy to be getting out of San Jose.

While scoring four goals in a game as a rookie is cause enough for celebration, Hertl’s night went from exceptional to insanity when he netted a dazzling between the legs goal over the shoulder of a helpless Martin Biron with 7:55 left in the 3rd period of the Sharks’ 9-2 route.

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Jonathan Quick’s Unfortunate Luck

Coming off of his worst season as a starting goal-tender for the Los Angeles Kings with a meager .902 save percentage, Jonathan Quick looks ahead to the 2013-2014 season to redeem himself as one of the NHL’s elite net-minders. With 2 games currently under his belt and a .893 save percentage, Quick looked to make a lasting impression tonight against Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers. With the Rangers already up 2-1 in tonight’s East vs. West battle, the Rangers were called for a penalty in the beginning of the 3rd period, which would put the Kings on the power-play in the Rangers zone. Unfortunately for Quick, as the Rangers cleared the puck out of their own zone, Quick came out of net to play the puck, and this unfortunate event took place….Really unfortunate. But in Jonathan Quick fashion, he held his head high and got back into the game and made some outstanding saves. Rangers went on to win the game 3-1.

We welcome and encourage comments and feedback!

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.

Could Derek Stepan Be a Good Fit For the Panthers?

Offer sheets.  I like offer sheets about as much as I like shootouts and steamed broccoli.  (If you’ve ever gone to have a meal with me and watch a game you know I hate both).  Nonetheless offer sheets are a tool that can be used to, dare I say “steal” a player from a team that refuses to make a qualifying offer to that player whose contract has expired, and is too young, or hasn’t played enough to qualify for unrestricted free agency.  Offer sheets like shootouts (and broccoli for me anyway), can cause the involved parties to become quick enemies based on the end result.  Remember the Dustin Penner incident when Anaheim Ducks GM Brian Burke called Edmonton’s GM, Kevin Lowe gutless?  Good times.

While the unrestricted free agent pool has produced over 60 signings, there are a few restricted free agents that are quite intriguing.  For the sake of the Florida Panthers future, none of these players is more intriguing than New York Ranger center Derek Stepan. Stepan is a former second round pick, who was taken 51st overall in the 2008 NHL entry draft, and has been not only a dependable player, but a durable one at that.  Stepan hasn’t missed an NHL game in the three seasons that he’s played, and his point totals have increased in each of the three seasons he’s been in the league.

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Panthers Sign D Matt Gilroy

Source: Michael Miller (WikiMedia Commons)

Source: Michael Miller (WikiMedia Commons)

With Free Agency already underway, the Panthers have been quite active re-signing RFA Shawn Matthias, UFA Joey Crab, Jesse Winchester, and trading tough guy George Parros to MTL. In addition to these three signings and trades, the Florida Panthers announced Monday afternoon that they inked New York Rangers defenseman, Matt Gilroy.

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Preview: Eastern Conference Playoff Matchups

The Eastern Conference playoff quarterfinal matchups present some interesting games to watch.  Each series promises to be a hard fought battle and the team with the most skill and resiliency will come out ahead.

Here’s a sneak peak at each matchup:

1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 8) New York Islanders:  The Pittsburgh Penguins have been on autopilot for most of the season despite being without Sidney Crosby for the past 12 games.  The veteran Penguins will take on an inexperienced Islanders team that is relying heavily on goaltender Evgeni Nabokov and young forward John Tavares.  The Penguins who’ll be going for their 4th Cup, are loaded with experience and grit, and added more with the deadline acquisitions of Jarome Iginla and Brenden MorrowSidney Crosby is slated to miss game one, and it’s not sure exactly when he’ll return.  Needless to say, there’s enough offence to go around.  As for the Islanders, it’s all about their offence, hard work and good goaltending.  John Tavares is growing into quite the offensive force, and is well supported by Matt Moulson and a fiesty, gritty group as well.  This could be a fun series.  Players to watch are James Neal and Chris Kunitz for Pittsburgh and Tavares, Moulson and Evgeni  Nabokov.  As good as Pittsburgh is, this Islanders team could give them fits. Prediction:  Penguins in six.

2) Montreal Canadiens vs. 7) Ottawa Senators:  This will be the only first round-all Canadian series amongst the 16 teams.  Montreal who slipped down the stretch is still the favourite of this series, but by a slim margin.  Goaltender Carey Price of the Canadiens hold the future of this Montreal club in his hands.  In a turnaround season for Montreal they will need a collective effort from everyone to get past Ottawa.  As for the Sens, they’ve battled adversity all season long with injuries to Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson and Craig Anderson.  A  number of younger players chipped in and helped overcome the challenges that Ottawa faced.  Players to watch are rookies Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk of Montreal and Daniel Alfredsson, Cory Conacher and defencemen Erik Karlsson and Sergei Gonchar for Ottawa.  Prediction: Montreal in seven.

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