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10/19/2009|Florida Panthers Hockey Blog
Just to be straight, I am a Flyers fan, but I live in S. Florida and I’ve been employed by this website to write Panthers blogs, so here’s my first of the season. Enjoy, because this may be the most optimistic one you read from me all season.
I will mark October 16, 2009 on my calendar as one of the greatest, if not the greatest sports moment in my life. Now I’m sure I’m stretching things a bit, but seriously, it’s not everyday that you get to sit front row, parallel with the face off dot, to watch your favorite team play hockey in the opening games of the NHL season. That is however, where I found myself on Friday night at 7:00 PM EST, watching my beloved Flyers skate at the Bank Atlantic Center in Sunrise, FL, thanks of course, to my wife doing what she does best and that is getting tickets. She has a coworker, who has a friend at Fox Sports who somehow got these tickets for us and for that I will be forever grateful. It was a few hours of my life that I will remember for an eternity.
Now for those of you that have sat right on the ice at the glass as a common occurrence, well, count yourself blessed, because I am neither that fortunate or rich, take your pick. There I was however, looking at the faces of the guys I’ve watched for a few seasons, guys hardly older than my seventeen year old stepson. These are the same guys who I yell at the TV for on a semi-regular basis. These are the guys are who looking at me and reading my signs. Yes, you read that right. Another brilliant idea, by my hockey loving, sports fanatic wife. You can’t go to a hockey game and sit on the glass without a few signs. First there was the; “Hey Mom, I’m not in the balloon, I’m at the hockey game.” which apparently, many people didn’t seem to comprehend because we didn’t spell out balloon, but replaced it with a drawing of the balloon. Then there was my personal favorite; “Hartnell ~ Booth’s finger tastes like chicken” which had Danny Carcillo smirking pre-game and a couple players nudging Scotty and pointing our direction. The same can be said about my wife inspiring the “Richards fish was THIS big!!!” sign. I’m pretty sure Richards himself got a kick out of it, although I don’t know if he caught anything as big as assistant coach’s Craig Berube’s 17 pound mackerel. However, there we were, standing and cheering in our Flyers gear, amusing the fans beside us and quite possibly entertaining the Flyers players we were there to have entertain us. This in itself gives me a smile just recollecting the moment.
As for the game itself, it was rather an uninspiring game. The Flyers came out on fire and seemed to outwork, outclass and outmuscle the Panthers. However, if there is one thing I can say for this current Cats squad and something that has carried over from coach Peter DeBoer’s style last season and that is simply that they are a very resilient bunch. At one point after the horrible defensive giveaway that led to the first goal by Arron Asham, I thought perhaps the score might be 4 or 5 to zero after the first period, but instead it was only 1-0, thanks to some fine play by goalie Scott Clemmensen and his best friends on the night, the two goal posts.
The second period, was more of the same. The game featured very tight checking and the Panthers seemed to effectively clog up the middle and keep any Flyer scoring chance to the outside. Clemmer was effective, if not somewhat outstanding, despite constant pressure for most of period. However, just as we have seen on numerous occasions from the Flyers, the Panthers game started to take it’s toll and seemed to frustrate the Flyers. The period featured 2 decent fights, with Carcillo beating down Campbell and Laperriere dancing with Allen, which was right across the ice from us. Many people can’t seem to understand what fighting brings to the game, however, if you happened to catch this game, you would actually understand and perhaps gain a clearer understanding of it’s importance to the game. Hockey is predicated a lot on momentum. Much more so than any other sport and both these fights gave the Cats some much needed momentum. The Panthers seemed to gain energy from the bouts and the Flyers didn’t seem to be all that unbeatable. With a quick goal to close out the period, the Panthers definitely had the edge.
The third period was more defensive play from the Panthers and when a man down, they capitalized on a bad giveaway by Chris Pronger and were suddenly up 3-2. Now, this effectively spelled the end for the Flyers because if there is anything that a Peter DeBoer team does well, it’s hold a lead and they were able to do it, despite some heavy pressure from the more talented Flyers squad. (I know, someone is going to email me that they didn’t do that against the Lightning a few days earlier and I suspect the coach bag skated them for an hour the next day to prove his point.)
That game was a prototypical Panthers win, one that I suspect will be replicated a lot this season. These Panthers won’t blow anyone out, but they will grind you down and sap your energy and if you let them hang around long enough, they will knock you out. I’m officially coining this game as the “Peter DeBoer special”. The Panthers won this game on some fine defensive play, some solid goaltending and perhaps finally getting their legs back under them from staring the season in Finland. I’m not going to kid myself and think that this team will finish in the hunt for the playoffs, because I just don’t think they have the offensive firepower necessary to be competitors, but what they will do is win a bunch of games, by taking advantage of their opponent’s miscues.
Naturally after the game, as we exited the arena, we took a lot of good natured ribbing, but not one Panther fan threatened to beat us up. We even got to socialize with some fans tailgating after the game celebrating their hard fought win. Of course, many of the Flyers fans in attendance responded with “we’ll see you guys in the playoffs, oh wait, you won’t be there…”, but I would find it very comical if DeBoer works a miracle and somehow this team is playing at the end of April.
After reading a couple of blogs last season about opposing teams coming out after the game at the back of the arena to sign autographs, we made our way to the back, hoping to cap off an incredible hockey experience. We congregated with a couple other Flyers fans and waited. The Flyers began to appear and despite our cheering and shouting, none of them came over to spend a few minutes chatting about the game or to sign our jersey’s. We did get a couple of smiles, nods and waves, but I suspect Coach Stevens had all of them on a pretty tight leash given their poor performance in the third period. However, it certainly would have been awesome if Hartnell would have come over and autographed our sign and let us know if Booth’s finger really did taste like chicken. I guess we’ll never know.
FRE is a Canadian expatriate living in South Florida and blogging the Panthers for S-H, he also runs the hockey news site, www.hockeyoutsiders.com