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Peeke's Points: A Must-Win Game

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
Panthers Blogger Cliff Peeke
Cliff Peeke, a Panther season ticket holder since Day One, is back blogging on for another season, giving the point of view on the Cats from a serious, die-hard fan’s perspective.

A Michigan native who’s played hockey (admittedly average at best) most of his life, Cliff grew up watching Red Wings games at the old Olympia Stadium. His allegiance changed to the Panthers the moment it was announced South Florida would have a team.

Cliff has played in adult leagues at IncredibleIce and his oldest son (age 25) plays there as well. His youngest son (age 9) is a member of the Jr. Panthers ’98 Squirt Travel Team.

Peeke's Points Archive

“A Must-Win Game”

It’s hard to imagine the second game into any season, including football, to be considered a “must-win game”, yet last night’s overtime victory over the Thrashers was just that.

An explosive start Friday night in Carolina showed promise of a high intensity attack, only to come unglued as the Dive Team rallied to tie, take the lead, and win with several goals that appeared to be weak. As I’ve stated several times, including last year pre-season, the Panthers desperately need to get off to a quick start. Their season will be defined by how well they play in the first two months. Right now, this should be their “playoff hockey”. I was very anxious, what with a loss in the books, to be at the game last night for the home opener… a must-win game.

With a near sellout, cowbell-crazed crowd in attendance, and an energy in the stands not often found, the Panthers really had only one outcome available to them… win. The game last night was the opposite of the night before. Early penalty trouble had the Thrashers on the attack, and Vokoun was forced to endure a cavalcade of shots. This time he stopped them, and gave the Panthers an opportunity to slant the ice in their favor as the game wore on. After seeing the Panthers outshooting the Thrashers 18-5 in the third period and coming up empty as time expired in regulation, you could sense an overwhelming anxiety throughout the arena. Too often in the past, fans have exited the arena in zombie-like states, as their evenings were ruined by the opposition’s overtime or shootout victories. We have grown accustomed to dealing with bitter defeats… and we are tired of it. Had David Booth not scored in overtime, and had we ended on the short end of the score, the loss would have been devastating to the team… and mostly to the fans.

So… rather than zombies exiting the arena doors Saturday night, it was the complete opposite…nearly 19,000 high-fiving, energetic, loud and HAPPY Panther fans. Not only an Opening Night early season win… but an overtime win. A Must-Win Game. As a fan, I’ve fallen into the annual trap of being overly optimistic about the Panthers. Maybe, just maybe, if the Panthers play these early season games with playoff intensity, I can look at the remaining games from my season ticket packet at the end of November and know the season really means something.

It looks like we’ve got another must-win game Thursday against the Wild. Why not take that approach… I would if I was the coach or player… but anyway, I’m doing it as a fan.
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