PLAYOFFS : “TILL DEATH DO US PART”

March 18th, 2009
PETE DEBOER COACHING THE PANTHERS

PETE DEBOER COACHING THE PANTHERS

Head Coaches Pete DeBoer of the Panthers and Paul Maurice of the Canes are best friends who were each others best man’s at their weddings years ago.

Their teams are locked in a fierce playoff battle for the 8th and final spot in this years Stanley Cup dance.

If the Panthers make the playoffs with the current roster they have in Florida not only should DeBoer win the coach of the year but he surely will despite this seasons coaches have had in San Jose and Boston respectively, but with much more talent than DeBoer has in Florida.

PLAYOFF BATTLE IN EAST

Currently sitting today the Carolina Hurricanes are the holders of the 8th seed in the conference with the Panthers one point out- in 9th with a game in-hand. The Habs are just two points ahead of the Canes with 81 points. The  Buffalo Sabres are the only other team in the mix still, they have 76 points with the same amount of games left as the Panthers (12).

That is tight to say the least with the Panthers having a slight advantage with a game in-hand that only means something if they win it.

Last night unfortunately the hometown Panthers ran into the Washington Capitals who were coming off their most embarrassing loss of the season in Atlanta. The Panthers paid for the bounce back game by a very powerful Caps club who I’m sure were read the riot act by coach Bruce Boudreau who is a fine coach himself.

In fact the game would be the worst timing of the season in all ways for the Panthers getting outplayed by the desperate Capitals winning 3-0.

“We knew we had to bounce back after last night - that was horrible,” said defenseman John Erskine, who doubled his point production with a pair of assists. “We stuck to the system and we got a big win.”

So that left the race with Montreal & Carolina in the playoffs at 7th-8th and the Panthers with a game in-hand not making any ground.

The Panthers hanging on where they are is really unbelievable with the teams leading scorer Steve Weiss who has scored only 11 times but does have 50 points.

So it’s safe to say the Panthers are led by good coaching from DeBoer along with some great goaltending at times from Tomas Vokoun who has 22 wins for Florida with a .925 save %. His back up Craig Anderson is also a respectable 12-6-5 with a .923 save % giving the Panthers some solid nights in goal.

On the back end where GM Jacques Martin made the very difficult decision to not trade soon to be free agent defenceman Jay Bouwmeester and his solid contribution to the Panthers. Then there is the injured former Maple Leafs all star defencemen Bryan McCabe who has scored 12 goals to go with 21 helpers and is desperately missed right at the moment.

Carolinas coach Maurice was on Toronto radio 590 yesterday and commented himself that he would be very happy to see both his team the Canes and DeBoer’s make the playoffs together this season. He went on to say Pete has given the Panthers an identity this year and that they once talked all the time only to see that stop with the race so tight.

In the end last nights game in Ottawa which saw the Sabres drop a 4-2 decision to the Sens after Buffalo being up 2-0 after the first- could be crippling for the Sabres playoff hopes.

My guess is as much as DeBoer and Maurcie would like to see each others teams make it in the East it’s going to come right down to both those teams for the final playoff spot.

I like Lindy Ruff as a coach and always wish his team well but this season is not the year with number one goalie Ryan Miller injured which is killing them at the moment in Buffalo.

So that leaves the Canes-Panthers and the Habs-Rangers as the teams all within the 6th to 9th spots battling in the East.

The Panthers will need to bring up the play of their young roster up front and rely heavily on the veteran goaltending and defence to get them in the post season.

HOW THE WEST WAS WON !

The race in the Western Conference is much more of a log jam in terms of how many teams still have a chance at playoffs.

I admit I’m biased in that I want the Edmonton Oilers to make it as they are not only a Canadian team but a team that plays a style I like with some great young players mixed with solid vets.

So if the season ended today I would be a happy man with the Oil tied for 7th-8th in the West with the Preds who because of coach Barry Trotz work ethic is still in good shape. Both teams are tied in points with 75 but the Oilers have a game in-hand on the bunch.

After that Dallas sits tied in 9th with the Wild who both deserve to be on the outside looking in- with the tough looking West.

Dallas because they threw a teammate under the bus earlier in the season when whiners Mike Modano & Marty Turco spoke out against Sean Avery instead of keeping it internal. It’s to bad that I want the Stars out but I think no matter what you keep team things inside the room to deal with, injured captain Brendan Morrow was not around to use his common sense at the time.

With the Wild it’s solely a matter of I hate the way they play the game under coach Jacques Lamaire with the damn stifling boring defence. My only soft spot with the Wild is they have a favorite of mine in tough guy Derek Boogaard who patrols the wing for the Wild.

The other teams in the race starting with the Blues have 73 points one win from the 8th playoff spot are getting millage out of veteran players under coach Andy Murray. But John Davidison the former goaltender broadcaster who took over as President of the Blues when his buddy bought the franchise has certainly blown enough smoke that he has some fooled that he is a hockey mind to which I think is a joke.

The Ducks are quickly slipping away in the West having traded away Chis Kunitz for Ryan Whitney which combining him with Chris Pronger & Scott Niedermayer on their D keeps them in the race somewhat.

7th-EDMONTON 69 GAMES LEFT HAVE 75 POINTS

8th-PREDATORS 70 GAMES LEFT HAVE 75 POINTS

9th-DALLAS 70 GAMES LEFT HAVE 74 POINTS

10th-WILD 70 GAMES LEFT HAVE 74 POINTS

11th-BLUES 70 GAMES LEFT HAVE 73 POINTS

12th-DUCKS 69 GAMES LEFT HAVE 70 POINTS

HOCKEY GOD WILL BE PROVIDING OUR PICKS FOR YOUR PLAYOFF POOLS: PLAYERS -STRATEGY

For Hockey God I’m Dave Frost