The Panthers are at the halfway mark and they have their best record in eight season. Yes, there’s been some ups-and-downs, but the team seems to be turning the corner.
There’s been a lot of excitement through the first half for the Panthers, and the same could be said for the NHL. The good things through the first half for the league, in no particular order:
*The Winter Classic has just been a great game the past two years and it’s an event I think will only get bigger and better.
*The Canadiens are celebrating their 100th season. They’ve won 23 Stanley Cups, but none since ’93, and the league has to be enjoying seeing Montreal near the top of the standings.
*The state of the young superstars in the league and the transition from the likes of Gretzky and Lemieux. There was a void for a couple years, but now the NHL has some faces that are going to be around for a long time in Crosby, Ovechkin and Malkin. The torch has been passed and the NHL is going to be in great shape.
As for the bad?
*Definitely Sean Avery. The Stars were an organization built on stability and Avery certainly threw them off the track. Avery is a good player, but he ran his mouth one too many times and now he’s out of the league. I played against Avery, and the things that came out of his mouth were shocking. But nothing was quite as shocking as Avery on ESPN60. If you haven’t seen it, google it and it’ll give you some insight into this man. I’m all for second chances, so I hope the Stars regain prominence and Avery gets back in the league.
*The violence from hitting from behind and the concussions due to it are a major issue. Many people talk about banning fighting. I think it should go the other way. We should take out the instigator rule. Players should be allowed to police themselves because if we’re not allowed to police ourselves and referees are left to judge, we’re going to take more liberties with each other.
As for the Panthers, poised to make the playoffs, there’s been a lot of good things.
*Jay Bouwmeester plays huge minutes and his offensive numbers are starting to come around.
*David Booth. What more can you say? He has an engine that never stops. Who doesn’t love him?
*Gregory Campbell, Radek Dvorak and Ville Peltonen. That line has helped to keep the team afloat. They’re the most surprising because they’ve all surpassed or just about tied their season totals from last year. They’ve been great.
*The goalies have been tremendous considering they’ve seen more rubber than a tire factory.
*Michael Frolik is a young, rising star.
*Pete DeBoer. There were a lot of questions before the season about him and his staff, but he’s showed what he was all about. He’s the leader. When the team had injuries and problems early in the season, he didn’t use injuries as an excuse or a crutch. He just said he needed better performances from players and needed players to step up. That was a sign of a leader. He was able to get guys to buy into whatever he was selling at the most critical time.
Of course, every team can improve. For the Panthers, they need to improve their power play. They also allow too many shots on net on a nightly basis.
And, yes, consistency. They’ve had some chances to make runs, but they lost two games to Tampa and another on Long Island. They’d be in the playoffs now if not for some bad games against bad teams.
To make the playoffs, consistency will be the key during the second half of the season.