Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Panthers Try to Lock-Up Division

The Panthers are coming off a great defensive effort in a win against a top team in Philadelphia. The 2-1 victory saw the Panthers blank the Flyers on the powerplay; their shorthanded units going 5-for-5. The win last night does as much for the team's confidence as it does for their conference standings.

Sean Bergenheim nets his 17th off a lucky bounce.

The Florida Panthers are currently 36-23-13 for 85 points, good for third in the Eastern Conference with 10 games remaining. They have a 5 point lead over Washington and a 9 point lead over Winnipeg, with games in hand on both (1 on Caps, 1 on Jets). The Panthers are said to only need to go 4-5-1 to clinch a spot. Limping into the playoffs is never a good idea though and with their remaining schedule there is no reason they can’t do much better.

Over the next three weeks the Panthers play 10 games, 6 on the road and 4 at home, starting tonight in Carolina. After that they are: vs Edm, vs NYI, at Mtl, at Min, at Cbj, at Det, vs Wpg, at Wsh, vs Car. That means that 8 of those games are against opponents lower than them in the standings.

I fully expect this team to go 9-1 in this final stretch, with the acceptable loss coming against Detroit. Other than those teams, every game is winnable and the games against the Caps and the Jets are absolute must wins. Look for one of those games to be where the Cats lock in for the division title. Although it is perfectly foreseeable to drop a game against a lower opponent.

Also, as they sit right now, second place in the conference is not out of the question. They are only two points behind the Boston Bruins with the same amount of games played. Though no matter where they finish it’ll be a tough first round matchup. It will certainly be an entertaining three weeks chock full of great hockey and hopefully at the end of it the Panthers will be back in the playoffs with their first ever Southeast Division regular season championship.

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