Good morning and welcome to "Cats & Coffee," a weekly segment, presented by Koffee Kult, in which we serve up an exciting look at what's on deck for your Florida Panthers. Like our friends at Koffee Kult, this forecast serves up only the best -- so sit back, sip and enjoy our latest brew of news, notes and information!
These are uncharted waters, but we're traversing them together.
In the wake of the NHL season being put on hold due to the coronavirus, we're going to be making some adjustments to this weekly article in order to keep the conversations going for those still looking to regularly discuss the Florida Panthers and other hockey-related things.
The plan is to have a steady stream of content still be released throughout the coming weeks, starting with Cats & Coffee in its usual spot each and every Monday. And although this article has traditionally been used to preview the week ahead, it's going to be tweaked to fit the times.
Since we can't look ahead with any certainty, we will now focus primarily on the past for the time being. From articles to videos, we'll be using Cats & Coffee -- as well as other upcoming content pieces -- as a way to look back at some of the highlights from the season prior to the pause.
So, with that being said, we hope there's something below that brings a smile to your face.
Even when he's stuck in his house, Sergei Bobrovsky is making big saves.
To help ease the stress caused by the postponement of all scheduled events at BB&T Center -- hockey games, concerts, etc. -- the Panthers goaltender recently pledged $100,000 to assist the arena's part-time employees that have seen their hours abruptly vanish due to the coronavirus.
Following his charitable lead, Bobrovsky's teammates agreed to match that pledge, bringing the donation's grand total of $200,000. Additionally, Panthers ownership also stepped in to provide the remaining funds needed by creating a program that ensures workers will be compensated.
Looking beyond South Florida, Jonathan Huberdeau has also begun to raise money for the Center for Disaster Philanthropy's COVID-19 Response Fund by donating a signed jersey to a special "Athletes for COVID-19 Relief Auction" that is currently being held at athletesrelief.org.
Mike Hoffman also has a jersey listed in the auction, and other Panthers are sure to follow suit.
To read more about these donations, click HERE.
Keep up the good work, guys!
It's impressive to see how far Riley Stillman has come since penning this blog.
Prior to catching on full-time with the Panthers, the rookie defenseman took some time to write about dipping his toes into the exhilarating waters of the NHL, what it's like being the son of a former NHL-er, and how a desire to win drives him to be a better player each and every day.
"There's a lot of different things that push me each and every day, but that's the main drive," he wrote in January. "All I want to do and all I've ever wanted to do from the moment I started playing hockey was to win. There's nothing better than winning. And when the team has success, individuals have success."
Not long after that was written, Stillman earned a regular spot in the lineup playing alongside veteran Anton Stralman on the blue line. In 34 games, he tallied five assists, 59 hits and 56 blocked shots while averaging 19:07 of ice time per game, including 2:22 on the penalty kill.
To read Stillman's full blog, click HERE.
LETTERS TO ACCIARI
Before he scored back-to-back hat tricks, Noel Acciari answered your questions.
Just three games into the season, the hard-nosed forward sat down with FloridaPanthers.com to wade through a deep mailbag full of fun and interesting inquiries from Cats fans that covered everything from his move down to South Florida to his big and loveable golden retriever, Thor.
Interestingly enough, this is also the first time we heard about his nickname "Cookie."
"I've gotten a couple new nicknames since I've been down here," Acciari said in response to a question from @AndrewLevine5 on Twitter. "One of them is 'Cookie,' and that one's sticking. It's just because I like cookies. I'm a big Oreo fan, but any kind of cookie will do. I'm easy going."
To read the entire mailbag, click HERE.
WALKING THE RED CARPET
This moment was a long time coming.
In the midst of his eighth season with the Panthers, Jonathan Huberdeau finally got a chance to walk the red carpet after traveling to the 2020 NHL All-Star Game in St. Louis back in January.
Video: 2020 NHL All-Star Red Carpet
Making his first-ever trip to the league's annual best-on-best showcase, the talented winger had some fun during the Accuracy Shooting portion of the Skills Competition before going on to post a goal and an assist for the Atlantic in a 5-4 loss to the Pacific during the championship game.
"It was cool," said Huberdeau, who leads the Panthers with 78 points (23 goals, 55 assists). "A lot of guys were trying being creative out there. You can see how much skill they all have. It's nice to be out there with them and see that in real life. I had a really good time this weekend."
MATHESON ON TERRITORY TALK
While the majority of last week's episode of the Territory Talk podcast focused on a playoff push that has now been put on pause for the time being, there was a roughly 10-minute interview with Mike Matheson about Roberto Luongo that is definitely worth listening or evening re-listening to.
In the interview, which starts around the 14:20-mark of the episode, the Panthers defensemen talks about his relationship with Luongo, including his transition from being a fan to a teammate.
"He was a pretty big icon for me growing up," said Matheson, a fellow Quebec native. "To all of the sudden get to the NHL, turn around and realize that I get to be in a locker room with him, it was a little intimidating. But with the person he is, it takes that intimidation away pretty quickly."
Like Cats & Coffee, new episodes of Territory Talk are scheduled to be released throughout the league's current pause. So, make sure to tune-in each and every Wednesday for some fun!
CROWNING THE CHAMPS
I think Mark Pysyk might be on to something here.
Taking to Twitter last week, the Panthers defenseman came up with a novel idea to crown this year's Stanley Cup champion if the league's current hiatus begins to run longer than expected.
"Seems to me like there is only one real obvious way to decide a Stanley Cup Champion this year," he wrote from his handle, @mpysyk03. "Whoever was the last team to beat last years cup champs I think should get it. It's only fair. #panthers"
You can always count on the hybrid to bring the laughs even in tough times.
Still, looking back at Florida's last game, it's hard to argue they weren't playing like contenders.
After Brett Connolly gave the Panthers a 2-1 lead early in the third period, they held on to defeat the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues in a nail-biter in St. Louis on March 9. In addition to limiting the Blues to just one goal, they didn't even allow a shot over the last 2:31 of regulation.
For a breakdown on that final 2:31 (in GIFs!), check out this article HERE.
"The guys just seem like they have that spark back," said Panthers goaltender Chris Driedger, who turned aside 26 of 27 shots in the win. "Before the [All-Star] break, we were on a bit of a roll there and we had a lot of confidence and fun in the room. It feels like we're getting that back."
Whenever the Panthers do return to the ice, that spark is sure to still be there. Until then, hopefully we can get a few more tweets from Pysyk to tide us over.