It's a hockey night in South Florida for the final time this season. The Panthers host Atlanta tonight in the finale at the BankAtlantic Center. The games between these two teams have been great this season and the Panthers should come out smoking trying to end the season with their 37th win. Atlanta lost in Washington last night to end any playoff hopes. The Thrashers must be dejected and will likely have a tough time getting up for this one. Roberto Luongo should be back in goal for Fan Appreciation night. It'll be a great time at the rink for the fans. Tonight means the end of this season but it has me already thinking of 06-07. The Panthers will finish above .500 and have their best season in five years. That sets up well for the future. Let's wrap up this season with some awards...
MVP...Tough choice between Luongo and Olli Jokinen. I'll go with the goalie who played in nearly every game and gave his all every night. Luongo had some huge games this season and many nights was the reason the Panthers had a chance to win. Now, he needs to follow through on his word and sign a fair long term deal this summer!!!
MOST IMPROVED...Easy one for me watching the maturity of Jay Bouwmeester all season. He is so much better in game 82 than in game two. Bouwmeester's offense has been strong the second half of the season and his off ice dedication has improved as well. Next season he should be one of the top 15 defensemen in the NHL.
GAME OF THE YEAR...There were so many great moments, especially at home. I'll go with the 3-2 shootout win over the Rangers. That Friday night game at the BankAtlantic Center should be the way hockey is every game in South Florida . Full house, electricity in the air and a Panther win. Jokinen won the shootout for the Cats that night as they got closer in the playoff race.
Next season will start before you know it and the Cats will have expectaions on them for the first time in a long time. That's a good thing as the bar for this franchise has been raised. Thanks for checking in every game and have fun at the arena tonight!!!