Authors Note: Normally, I don’t post pregame stories, but could hardly contain the excitement in preparation for tonight’s matchup.
Tonight, the Florida Panthers will try to do something that the team hasn’t in over 11 years: make the postseason. After the Washington Captials fell to Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 (with Stamkos’ two goals coming in the final two minutes of what was then a tie game.), Florida found themselves in uncharted territory. Two points will not only clinch the playoffs, but Florida’s first division title ever.
Center Stephen Weiss texted Stamkos after the game last night, thanking him for the help.
The buzz is indescribable. As of 4:00 PM ET, Stubhub had just 152 tickets remaining, with the minimum price being $13. For Saturday’s regular season finale, over 1,000 tickets remain at half the price.
“This has the makings to be a good day,” Weiss said after the team’s morning skate. “[We need to] put that aside for now and…” Weiss took a big sigh before finishing his sentence. “…just focus on our routine and process.”
Weiss has reason to sigh. He made his NHL debut 10 years ago today, April 3, 2002. Weiss scored his lone goal of the season that night, and it was the last game Florida won in the 2001-02 campaign. Tonight, for the first time in his career, he plays with the realistic possibility of his team not only having an “X” by their name in the standings, but a “Y” and home-ice advantage in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Weiss made his debut on his 19th birthday, and today, the Panther who wore the number 19 that season, and 9 the following nine years, finds himself leading his team into their game against the Winnipeg Jets.
Tonight’s game is also significant in that it is the 900th game since the Panthers played in the postseason.
Perhaps good things come in nines. Don’t expect the Panthers to score nine goals tonight, but look for a confident team that will give the Jets all they got so they can clinch at home and give the fans what they’ve been waiting 11 years for. Should Florida lose, they would most likely clinch on Thursday as they take on the Capitals in Washington D.C.
The Panthers have a chance to clinch if they lose tonight. Here are all of the Panthers clinching scenarios:
- The Panthers can clinch the Southeast Division with a win in any fashion tonight. The Panthers could clinch a playoff spot IF:
- They lose in OT/SO AND Buffalo loses in any fashion
- Both them and Buffalo lose in regulation