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Peeke's Points: One Month Off

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

I had to take a month off from the Panther blogging. I had to… I could not find any new way to express my frustration after a 4-6-0-1 start. The start was eerily similar to almost every start of this decade, and after writing this blog throughout last season… I just got tired of being frustrated.

Then after losing the two games to the Kings and Ollie’s Coyotes, I pretty much resigned myself to another pitiful season as we fell to 4-8-0-1. So I decided to take a month off. Since then, an injury-plagued Panther roster has somehow put together a very respectable effort collecting 16 out of a possible 24 points in the last twelve games as they’ve climbed out of the cellar and worked their way to the middle third of the league. Not great yet… but getting there. 

But the interesting thing is how they’re getting there without the services of several key players… Allen, Horton, Stillman, Zednik, and Booth. Well, for one, my favorite goalie Anderson has been a huge part of this resurgence. Sound familiar? The main reason the Panthers made a push last season (at season ticket renewal time) was because of Anderson. Only this year Coach DeBoer is giving him minutes well before the season is officially doomed. So perhaps this season we can make it to the All Star break in the playoff mix… and again we can thank Anderson. In the sport’s most important position, he leads the league with a .947 save percentage. That’s almost 20 points higher than Luongo. It is 20 points higher than another ex-Panther Alex Auld… what?... that means he’s at .927… and when he was here two years ago he finished at .888… figures. Anyway, it’s our guy Craig Anderson who leads the league and has no doubt played an integral role in our recent upswing.

But it’s not just him. I still love our defense, and while Bryan Allen is sorely missed, once again Cullimore steps in after entering the season without a contract (again) and helps round out a strong group. Yes, I know the Sabres had 46 shots last night, but many were from manageable angles and others were stopped without screens (not taking anything away from Andy who did play great). 

What I really like is the “team-play” concept… and we’re getting it done up front without the big name players. It’s been a long while since I’ve seen us winning so many battles along the boards in the offensive zone. It’s not “pretty” hockey… but it frustrates the opposition, wears them down, and wins games. And it’s the workman-like efforts of our third line… now becoming our top line… of Peltonen, Dvorak and Campbell. They are setting the example and have raised the bar on what it takes to win games in this league. Who would have figured?  Then, every once in while, we do make the “pretty” play and you start thinking that maybe, just maybe we do have something special going on down here. I mean, did you see that pass from Frolik to Campbell last night… a thing of beauty. And he’s another player contributing in a big way. Frolik plays with so much intensity and is also very talented and creative. There is no doubt in my mind that he has a bright future ahead of him.

I’m glad I took the month off from writing these blogs. I was so close to throwing in the towel only to see this turnaround change my perspective on the team. Now I’m back to listening to XM 204 (NHL), following all the internet hockey sites, talking Panther hockey with my friends, and getting deeply concerned about the contract status of our hot-glove goalie… Anderson.  Keep it going Panthers… it’s so much more fun writing these things when there are positive things to talk about.

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