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OLIVE: Building the Perfect Panthers 'Flex Plan'

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

When I first started to think about making my own "Flex Plan," I felt a little bit like I had become Charlie Kelly searching for Pepe Silvia on FX's It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, an image I'm sure you've seen multiple times even if you've only ever spent a few minutes on social media.

The options simply seemed endless.

Tweet from @JamesonCoop: Trying to come up with the perfect #FlaPanthers "Flex Plan" pic.twitter.com/u2QnyDKRf6

Twenty tickets. That was really the only limitation I had. A "Flex Plan" has to add up to at least 20 tickets. So, from there, the first decision I had to make was to how I wanted to divide those tickets. I could've picked 20 games to attend solo, or maybe five to attend with a group of four.

In the end, I decided to keep it simple and go with a base-level plan of 10 games for two people.

When building out my plan, I decided to spread the games out quite a bit. There was no packing in a bunch during the team's nine-game homestand or going more than a month without a trip to the rink. I really do think this is the best approach and, hey, if you end up needing more tickets during the months in which you have some more free time, you can always pick up extras later.

I also tried to make sure my plan offered up a taste of all the different things that BB&T Center has to offer fans this season. From special events to promotional nights, this plan is a bit of a catchall in terms of test driving everything you can do in addition to simply watching the games.

Now, it's important to note that there's already plenty of pre-made plans available. You have things like "The Weekender Plan" that includes tickets to 10 of the best Saturday and Sunday games, and the "Home for the Holidays Plan" that focuses on games in November to January.

All those plans are great, but I think mine gives them a run for their money.

So, without further ado, here's my 10-game "Flex Plan" for the 2019-20 season.

GAME 1: Saturday, Oct. 5 vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

Six months.

That's how long you've had to get excited for this matchup.

After kicking off their 2019-20 campaign in Tampa on Oct. 3, the Panthers will return home to open their home slate in a rematch against the cross-state Lightning at BB&T Center on Oct. 5.

This game will not only mark new head coach Joel Quenneville's first time behind the bench in Sunrise during the regular season, but also the likely home debuts of several new players, including offseason acquisitions such as goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and defenseman Anton Stralman.

Speaking of Bobrovsky, the Lightning have a bone to pick with him.

Despite scoring a league-best 319 goals during the 2018-19 season, the President's Trophy-winning Bolts were swept out of the playoffs by Bobrovsky and the Blue Jackets in the first round of the 2019 Eastern Conference playoffs, scoring just eight goals in the entire series.

Does Bobrovsky still have Tampa's number? Check out this game to find out!

GAME 2: Tuesday, Oct. 22 vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

There are only four home games in October, so I'd suggest double-dipping this month.

Your last chance to catch the Cats before they ride into November on a four-game road swing, the Pittsburgh Penguins will make their first of two trips to BB&T Center this season on Oct 22.

While the chance to watch Aleksander Barkov take on Sidney Crosby would be enough to make this matchup great all on its own, there's also the allure of delicious food. Thanks to the brand new "Nacho Tots Tuesday" promotional night, you can take in this game while chowing down.

At each Tuesday home game throughout the season, fans will have three different ways to enjoy this cheesy, potato goodness: regular tots for $5, nacho cheese tots for $6 and loaded nacho for $7. I'd personally go for the loaded, but you can't go wrong with any of them.

As for the game itself, it should be an exciting clash that, if history has taught us anything, will go down to the wire. Of the last six meetings between the Panthers and Penguins, five of them have been decided by just one goal, with two of those matchups going all the way to overtime.

Grab your tots and buckle up - this one's going to be good.

GAME 3: Saturday, Nov. 16 vs. New York Rangers

No matter where you're from in South Florida, you can be a part of Panthers Territory.

When the Panthers welcome the New York Rangers to BB&T Center on Nov. 16 it will mark the third of 12 planned "Territory Takeover" nights at the arena, an intriguing new initiative designed to celebrate local communities in the tri-country area during each of the club's Saturday games.

While more information is still forthcoming on these nights, the idea of combining a little bit of hometown pride with a whole lot of Panther power sounds like a recipe for a very fun night. And, since this is the final "Territory Takeover" before Thanksgiving, why not come out and party with your Cats crew before sitting down at the dinner table later in the month with your other family.

In conjunction with the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, this game will also serve as Florida's annual Hockey Fights Cancer Night, designed to unite the community in support of cancer patients and their families. As it has been in the past, players will wear special jerseys during warm-ups that will later be auctioned off in support of the Florida Panthers Foundation.

As for the on-ice action, there's plenty of storylines in this one.

The matchup will not only pit Sergei Bobrovsky against his pal and former Columbus teammate Artemi Panarin, but also feature an intriguing battle between a pair of Finnish forwards, both of whom were drafted second-overall, in Aleksander Barkov (2013) and Kaapo Kakko (2019).

GAME 4: Sunday, Nov. 24 vs. Buffalo Sabres

Sandwiched in between road games in Carolina and Washington, the Panthers will host their final contest before a brief Thanksgiving break at home against the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 24.

The first of three 5 p.m. games the Panthers will enjoy this season, the early starts allows for plenty of time to both catch the game and then spend some time with your family after the final buzzer sounds. Better yet, why not bring some of your extended family with you to the arena?

The Panthers have had a lot of success against the Sabres in recent seasons, winning 21 of 28 matchups since the start of the 2012-13 campaign. In that time, Aleksander Barkov has been a real thorn in Buffalo's side, notching 20 points (8 goals, 12 assists) in 18 head-to-head contests.

You might remember one of those eight goals from last season, a beautiful overtime winner off a very nifty pass from Jonathan Huberdeau that secured a 3-2 win on Nov. 30, 2018 at home.

Video: BUF@FLA: Huberdeau sets up Barkov's overtime winner

In his career, Barkov's 20 points against the Sabres are his second-most against any team.

GAME 5: Thursday, Dec. 12 vs. New York Islanders

In a galaxy far, far away…

Whether you're rooting for the Jedi or Sith, the BB&T Center is where you'll want to be on Dec. 12, when the Panthers celebrate their annual "Star Wars Night" against the New York Islanders.

In addition to watching Vincent Trocheck and Aaron Ekblad attempt to best players like Mathew Barzal and Anders Lee, there will also be Storm Troopers, Wookies, droids and numerous other characters from the Star Wars universe parading around the arena for great photo opportunities.

Then, of course, there's the beer.

Making its glorious return, the Panthers will host "$5 Beer Thursdays" during every Thursday home game throughout the season. On these nights, fans over 21 years old can enjoy sipping on a special selection of suds for only five bucks while enjoying all of the sizzling on-ice action.

With Boba Fett and cheap beer on site, why wouldn't you have this game in your plan?

GAME 6: Thursday, Jan. 16 vs. Los Angeles Kings

Thanks to the All-Star Game and Bye Week, there aren't a lot of home games in January.

After lacing up for 10 games at BB&T Center in December, Florida will play only four this month, so I'd suggest making a trip to the arena when the Los Angeles Kings come to town on Jan. 16.

Following this matchup, the Panthers will embark on a six-game road trip. That means this is your last chance get your hockey fix in South Florida for nearly three weeks, as the team won't play again on home ice until Feb. 6. If last season is any indication, this contest should also be a good one.

The Panthers went 2-0-0 against the Kings in 2018-19, winning those games by a combined score of 10-4. Over the course of those victories, Evgenii Dadonov tallied four points (two goals, two assists), including notching a pair of goals in a thrilling 4-3 win in Los Angeles on March 16.

Since this game falls on a "$5 Beer Thursday," I'd also recommend saving room for a pint.

GAME 7: Thursday, Feb. 6 vs. Vegas Golden Knights

You saw them off in January, so why not welcome them back in February?

After wrapping up a six-game road trip, the Panthers will finally return to Sunrise to jumpstart a short two-game homestand against the Las Vegas Golden Knights on Feb. 6 at BB&T Center.

Florida split its season series with the Knights in 2018-19, securing a 3-1 win on Feb. 2 at home before coming up just a hair short in a 6-5 shootout loss a few weeks later in Vegas on Feb. 28. In those two games, Mike Hoffman notched three of his team-leading career-high 36 goals.

Once again, this game is also a "$5 Beer Thursday," so there appears to be a trend in my logic.

But if you can't make this game or are looking for a bigger party, the Panthers will be celebrating their third-annual "Pride Night" when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins two days later on Feb. 8.

Honestly, you can't go wrong with either!

GAME 8: Thursday, Feb. 17 vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Who's ready for their close-up?

In their only nationally televised game of the season (until the playoffs, that is), the Panthers will put on a show for a ton of first-time viewers when they host the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 17.

As I said before, this is currently the one and only national game for the Panthers on NBC's docket, so this is a matchup that everyone fan should want to be at in order to show the rest of the hockey world what Panthers fans are all about - the passion, the cheers, the chants, etc.

This game is also one of only two games that will be played in Sunrise from Feb. 10-25, as the team will embark on two separate road trips - a two-game and a five-game - in that time span.

As for the Flyers, the Panthers picked up five out of a possible six points against the boys from Broad Street last season, winning a pair of 2-1 games after falling 6-5 in a shootout in their first game of the season. As far as individual performances go, Aleksander Barkov managed to find his way onto the scoresheet in all three of those contests, registering a goal and three assists.

This is also the fourth "$5 Beer Thursday" on my list, apparently.

GAME 9: Saturday, March 7 vs. Montreal Canadiens

Without question, this is the one game you don't want to miss this season.

Following a Hall of Fame-worthy career, Roberto Luongo will have his No. 1 jersey retired and raised into the BB&T Center rafters when his hometown Montreal Canadiens visit on March 7.

Luongo is the first player in franchise history to receive this honor. However, two of the team's builders have also had numbers retired - 93 (in commemoration of Florida's first season) for original President Bill Torrey and 37 (his lucky number) for inaugural owner Wayne Huizenga.

Video: Luongo

Donning his mask for 19 NHL seasons, the 40-year-old is one of only three goalies to ever see the ice for 1,000 NHL games. Luongo also ranks second in league history in games played by a goaltender (1,044) and total saves (28,409), third in wins (489) and ninth in shutouts (77).

Spending parts of 11 seasons in South Florida, he also finished his career holding team goaltending records for games played (572), wins (230), shutouts (38) and saves (16,068).

Additionally, this game is a "Territory Takeover" night, so come out to the rink and let's try to shake the foundation of the building with one of the loudest "Luuuuuuuu!" chants of all-time!

GAME 10: Saturday, April 4 vs. Washington Capitals

Game 82 should be quite the shindig.

Hopefully heading into the playoffs, the Panthers will close the book on their regular season with a big fan-centric celebration when they host the Washington Capitals at BB&T Center on April 4.

As it has been in the past, the final contest of the season will also serve as "Fan Appreciation Night," a wild night at the arena that typically includes random fans receiving giveaways and gifts such as tickets to concerts, electronics, gift cards and much more throughout the game.

Well, there you have it -- my "Flex Plan" is complete.

Now, it's your turn to build your own!

Head on over to FloridaPanthers.com/FlexPlans or call 954-835-PUCK to get started.

Or, if you liked my list, just tell your ticket rep that you'd like "The Jameson."

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