One of the best seasons in Florida Panthers history came to an end yesterday with a heartbreaking loss to the New York Islanders 2-1 in 2OT.
The Panthers played an outstanding game, leading 1-0 with 1 minute left in the game, NY pulled goaltender #1 Thomas Greiss with 1:30 left in the game, looking for an opportunity to score the tying goal to send the game to OT for the 3rd time in the series.
Panthers’ Centerman #21 Vincent Trocheck had the chance to put the game away with 1:10 left in the game, but the Panthers’ Centerman was tripped by Islanders Left Wing #17 Matt Martin and seconds later Panthers’ Right Wing #18 Reilly Smith who has scored 4 goals this series had a chance with a wide open net to extended the series to game 7, but he was tripped by Islanders’ Forward #86 Nikolay Kulemin & Defender #2 Nick Leddy. Twelve seconds later, Islanders’ captain #91 John Tavares scores the equalizer to send the game to OT and the rest is history.
“Yeah, but it wasn’t, so what do you do?,” Coach Gerard Gallant said when asked. “Obviously, you know, if they thought they would have scored on the other end they would have called it. It’s a tough call, it’s a fast game. It wasn’t much but the game would have been over. It’s tough to swallow.”
Panthers Goaltender Roberto Luongo played the game of his life, saving 31 shots before the Islanders captain scored the tying goal.
“It’s disappointing and there’s not much you can say,” Luongo said. “It’s always tough when your season ends when you don’t want it to.”
The Panthers finished the season 47-26, with a franchise high 103 points and the team captured their second atlantic division title in franchise history.
But this is only the beginning for the Florida Panthers, This is the first Stanley Cup playoffs appearance for the young Panthers’ core, with includes players like (C) Aleksander Barkov, (C) Nick Bjugstad, (L) Jonathan Huberdeau, (R) Logan Shaw, (R) Reilly Smith, (C) Vincent Trocheck, (D) Aaron Ekblad, (D) Michael Matheson & (D) Alex Petrovic. All under the age of 26.
The team has great veteran leadership with players like, (C) Dave Bolland, (R) Jaromir Jagr, (L) Jussi Jokinen, (C) Derek Mackenzie, (R) Teddy Purcell, (L) Shawn Thornton, (D) Brian Campbell, Panthers Captain (D) Willie Mitchell & two future hall of famers (R) Jaromir Jagr & (G) Roberto Luongo.
So the Panthers are definitely here to stay, but the question is how good can this team really become??
As many people around sports say, you have to learn how to lose first, to truly know how to win. Teams that come to mind our the Edmonton Oilers and most recently the defending Stanley Cup champions The Chicago Blackhawks.
Edmonton entered the league in 1979 and built their team from the ground up, adding players like (C) Mark Messier, (RW) Glenn Anderson, (RW) Jari Kurri, (D) Paul Coffey, (D) Kevin Lowe, (G) Grant Fuhr, (G) Andy Moog. Two years before their dynasty began in 1983, the Oilers lost twice in the playoffs losing in the first round to the LA Kings in 1981 & losing in the Stanley Cup final to the NY Islanders in 1982. Seven years later, the Oilers claimed 5 Stanley Cup titles with the help of the greatest player of all time in (C) Wayne Gretzky.
Chicago was in a very similar position the Panthers were in a couple of years ago. From 2002-2014, the Blackhawks drafted (C) Jonathan Toews, (RW) Patrick Kane, (D) Duncan Keith, (G) Corey Crawford, (D) Brent Seabrook & (C) Tuevo Teravainen. The hawks added multiple key players in (D) Brian Campbell, (RW) Marian Hossa, (C) Antoine Vermette, (D) Kimmo Timonen. One year before bring the cup back to Chicago, the Blackhawks lost in the Western conference finals Detroit Red Wings. The Blackhawks have won three Stanley Cup championships in five years: 2010, 2013, 2015. Current Panthers GM Dale Tallon was the GM for the Blackhawks from 2004-2009 which means that all of the Blackhawks superstars were drafted by Tallon.
Now let’s look at the Florida Panthers. In 2010 the team hired GM Dale Tallon which is arguably the best things that has happened to the franchise. Tallon has drafted (D) Erik Gudbranson (C) Nick Bjugstad and (LW) Quinton Howden, (D) Alex Petrovic, (LW) Jonathan Huberdeau, (RW) Logan Shaw, (C) Vincent Trocheck, (C) Aleksander Barkov, (D) Aaron Ekblad & (D) Michael Matheson. Tallon brought back (G) Roberto Luongo in 2014 and he has added players like (F) Reilly Smith & (D) Brian Campbell, (D) Willie Mitchell & (F) Jaromir Jagr. Plus Tallon brought in Panthers HC Gerard Gallant who was named the HC of the Atlantic division in the NHL All-Star game.
I’m not saying the Panthers are going to become the next great NHL Dynasty, but i think it’s safe to the say that the Florida Panthers will be a powerhouse in the Eastern Conference.