The Florida Panthers run to the Stanley Cup Playoffs is not complete by any means, but they at least can exhale a little bit.
Everything went Florida’s way on Tuesday night: Not only did Buffalo get beat by New Jersey but the Pittsburgh Penguins somehow found a way to lose at home to a Chicago Blackhawks team not only playing the second of a back-to-back but one who had lost 11 of 12 coming in.
By virtue of those two games, the Florida Panthers clinched a spot in the playoffs for a franchise-record third consecutive season.
Now, the attention turns to Long Island tonight at the Islanders play host to the Montreal Canadiens.
If Montreal were to beat the Islanders tonight — and based on what has happened to New York and Pittsburgh these past few days, it could happen — the Florida Panthers will be assured of the top wild card spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Regardless, Florida will know what position it is in later tonight.
That could affect how they approach Thursday’s finale against the Hurricanes.
Does Sergei Bobrovsky, who has not played since March 27 against Ottawa, start Thursday?
We will find out soon.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW
Brandon Montour is having himself a time this season as his breakout campaign has really helped the Panthers out.
He probably should get more Norris talk than he is getting.
We did not expect to be writing a ‘Florida Panthers Clinch’ story on Tuesday night but there it was.
There was no way the Penguins were going to squander this gift the Islanders gave them would they? No way.
Montour scoring to tie up Monday’s game against Toronto certainly helped.
- Mackie Samoskevich, the Panthers’ top prospect, is leaving the University of Michigan to sign with the Charlotte Checkers so he can play in the Calder Cup playoffs. He will get his Florida contract soon enough and is expected to be competing for a spot on the team come training camp.
- After all the attention Brooks Koepka and his traffic cone got a few weeks ago, one would understand if Aaron Ekblad was thrilled to see the LIV golfer lose at the Masters on Sunday. But Ekblad says he was not only rooting for the Jupiter-based golferbut put money down on him winning it. Must have been a nice text apology.
- Alex Lyon was honored by the NHL as the Third Star of the Week. Really could make the argument that was a little on the low side — but he will take it.
- This has not been the easiest of seasons for the Panthers or captain Sasha Barkov, but things are starting to work themselves out.
- The Panthers were desperate in the third period on Saturday night and as we have seen all season, Matthew Tkachuk came through with perhaps his biggest goal of the season.
- It has been just over a week since Keith Tkachuk called the Panthers a ‘soft team’ that was ‘getting everything it deserved.’ Is it a coincidence that the Panthers have looked a lot tougher — and have not lost since? We spoke to a couple of folks about it (including Matthew, Radko Gudas and Paul Maurice).
- Video from Maurice, Lyon and Montour following the OT loss to the Leafs is up on the FHN YouTube Channel.
- You can click the embedded videos below or click RIGHT HERE to see everything all in one place. If you hit subscribe (it’s free), you will know when new content comes up.
NATIONAL HOCKEY NOW
For the Pittsburgh Penguins, losing 5-2 to the Blackhawks on Tuesday night “was a tough pill to swallow.’’
But the Penguins are not done. They remain a point back of the Islanders with a game to play.
Pittsburgh is going to need some help from the Montreal Canadiens to get in now.
- Tough loss on Monday night for the Calgary Flames who were eliminated from postseason consideration with a shootout loss to Nashville. With Winnipeg beating the Wild on Tuesday, Nashville saw their season end as well.
- The Detroit Red Wings lost to Carolina on Tuesday and will be playing for pride in the finale Thursday against the Lightning.
- The Colorado Avalanche got Bowen Byram back before playing host to the Oilers.
- The Philadelphia Flyers snapped their seven-game losing skid against the Jackets.
- The Boston Bruins are breaking all sorts of records and they are doing it in style.
PANTHERS ON DECK
CAROLINA HURRICANES AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida/ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Last season: Florida won 3-0
- This season (Series tied 1-1): Florida 3, Carolina 2 (Nov. 9); Carolina 4, Florida 0 (Dec. 30)
- All-time regular season series: Carolina leads 70-46-10, 11 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers — First Round of Stanley Cup Playoffs, Game 1 (Time, Opponent TBD)