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Dave Strader's Playoff Blog

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
Hello once again Panther fans!

Let me begin my first playoff blog by thanking all of you fans who have been so supportive of our efforts on FSN Florida. While this season didn’t produce the playoff position that we had all hoped for, I think the signs shown by the team and the organization in the second half of this season point to an exciting and news filled summer.

For sixteen teams, the quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup begins this week and I’ll be on the road covering several series. I’ve been very fortunate to work for NBC and Versus in addition to my duties covering the Florida Panthers. In round one of the playoffs, I will be covering games for both networks….here’s a little preview of what lies ahead for me this week.

I begin my playoff work on Versus with games one and two of the Vancouver Canucks-Dallas Stars series on Wednesday and Friday. Of course, Wednesday night will be the first career playoff game for Roberto Luongo. What’s ironic about this assignment is that my partner will be another former Panthers goaltender…John Vanbiesbrouck! Beezer has been doing some TV work for HD Net and Versus during the season, but this is the first time we’ve worked together. John will add some great insight to the pressures that goalies face in the playoffs and no current NHL goalie knows more about that than the guy Luongo will face at the other end of the ice, Marty Turco. Turco has turned in some of the best regular season performances in recent NHL history, but he has failed to play up to that level in post-season action. In four playoff years, Turco has lost three of four playoff series with an overall record of 8 wins and 14 losses. His goals against average is also about a half a goal higher in the playoffs than it is during the regular season.

This has all the makings of a low scoring, grind-it-out type of series. I’m giving the edge to the Canucks because this one could go to a game seven at GM Place.

After Friday’s game in Vancouver, I’m catching a red-eye back to the east coast for a Saturday afternoon match up on NBC…the Thrashers hosting the Rangers in game two of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. Atlanta is appearing in the playoffs for the first time in franchise history and GM Don Waddell made some of the boldest moves at the trade deadline (Keith Tkachuk, Alexei Zhitnik, Pascal Dupuis and Eric Belanger). The Rangers were boosted by the acquisition of Sean Avery and the goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist down the stretch. This is one series where I can see the lower seeded team coming out on top. I’m going with the Rangers in six games

I’ll have a day to recover in Atlanta before heading back to the west coast and picking up games three and four of the San Jose-Nashville series next Monday and Wednesday on Versus. This match up of the four and five seeds should be a dandy. Like the Pittsburgh-Ottawa series in the East, a Stanley Cup contender will be eliminated in the very first round. I picked San Jose to go to the Stanley Cup Final during our last FSN telecast in Carolina, so I’m going with the Sharks in this one….in six hard fought games. Joe Thornton against Peter Forsberg…Jonathan Cheechoo up against Paul Kariya…and both teams with solid goaltending tandems! This is a series you don’t want to miss.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back with an update this weekend.

Dave Strader
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