Welcome back to another exciting edition: the Atlantic Division title edition!
This year’s edition of the Panthers has been one of the best sports stories- not just one of the best hockey stories- of the year. From the 12-game win streak, to #SpaceyInSpace and Kevin Spacey coming to a game, 10 (and counting) sellout crowds at the BB&T Center, the new agreement with Broward County, all the individual milestones, and most recently, clinching the Atlantic Division title with two games remaining, there has not been a dull moment with the ’15-16 Panthers. Let’s get down to business with the most important things happening right now.
IMPORTANT HOCKEY THINGS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW
-Big congratulations are in order for Brian Campbell. He played his 1000th NHL game and team-record 374th consecutive game as a Panther on the same night that Florida clinched the Atlantic Division crown. All this during a season that also saw him become one of just three active defensemen to reach 400 career assists and a campaign in which Campbell’s plus/minus has climbed to +31, the NHL lead among defensemen and tied for third overall in the league. Campbell is also in line to set the new Panthers record for single-season plus/minus, which was previously held by Martin Gelinas in 2005-06 (+27). Campbell became just the 305th player in NHL history to play in 1000 games, and just the eighth in a very talented 1997 draft class to reach the milestone. I had a chance to interview Campbell prior to his milestone night, and regarding the 1000 games he said, “It just shows that if you put the time in and the effort, that good things can happen by improving every day, so it means a lot to me.” As for the Panthers team record for consecutive games, “I can’t wait for someone to break that record. That means they’re working hard.” He’s a class act and a great professional.
-As the Panthers have gone on another four-game win streak, Aleksander Barkov has been on a roll. His goal 10 seconds into Tuesday’s game in Montreal tied the franchise record for the fastest goal to start a game; Johan Garpenlov scored 10 seconds into the game on 10/17/96 in Colorado. The goal against the Canadiens last time out was his 5th in his last four games, it extended his point streak to seven games, and it gave him six goals nine points in four games against Montreal this season; his highest goal and point total against any opponent this season. If you’re wondering, the highest assist total Barkov has against a single opponent this season is three, against three different teams: the Canadiens, Islanders, and Lightning. Another note on Barkov: he’s averaging .89 points per game this season; the sixth best points-per-game average over a single season in franchise history, according to the good folks over at hockeyreference.com. Pavel Bure (Two seasons), Olli Jokinen (Two seasons), and Ray Whitney were the only Panthers to ever have a higher points-per-game in a single season than Barkov, just 20 years old, currently has.
-Speaking of the youngest Panthers, Aaron Ekblad continues to impress in all aspects of the game. His +18 is up from his +12 as a rookie a season ago, and at the moment, Ekblad is third on the Panthers all-time plus minus chart at +30 (Martin Gelinas leads at +34, and Paul Laus was +31). Two behind Ekblad on that list: Jaromir Jagr at +28. More on Ekblad, though: his 14 goals is a new career-high, and he’s been red-hot lately, registering six assists over a current four-game assist streak.
-Jaromir Jagr is up to 32 goals and 82 points in 97 games as a Panther; he has 64 points this season, and he’s coming off a two-assist game against Montreal last time out. What’s more: since February 1st, he’s at exactly a point per game, with 11 goals and 20 assists for 31 points in 31 games. The other winger on his line, Jonathan Huberdeau, has been on an impressive run as well. Huberdeau has eight goals and 18 points between March and April.
-The Panthers current four-game win streak is their fourth win streak of at least four games this season. Of course, the franchise record 12-game win streak occurred from December 15th to January 10th, and they also had two five-game win streaks: November 27th to December 4th, and January 22nd to February 4th.
-A new edition of “Dining with Doug” is out! We’ve had great feedback on the segment, so thanks everyone for watching! Again, a big thanks is in order to the Panthers web producer and videography extraordinaire Dave Courtney for his work behind the scenes. And a huge thanks to the folks at Sullivan’s Castle Island in Boston! We really enjoyed visiting on the most recent edition of “Dining with Doug.”
-The weekly Panthers Insider Show continues into the playoffs, so keep listening each week at 9:00 AM on 560 WQAM, and other times across the Panthers Radio Network. Check your local listings. Tweet Alex Donno (@AlexDonno) and me, and your tweet could make it on the air. Be sure to Tweet during the game broadcasts, especially as we head into the playoffs! You can join in the fun by tweeting @DougPlagens. We’ve had tons of great tweets from South Florida and around the world.
-All the Summer music festivals are being announced, which is always exciting. In addition to the Vans Warped Tour, a Doug Plagens staple for well over a decade, I have the Chicago Open Air Festival and the Wrecking Ball in Atlanta on the to-do list for July and August. Chicago is loaded: Killswitch Engage, Bullet For My Valentine, Trivium, Beartooth, Chevelle, and many, many more. In Atlanta, I’ll be most excited for a Thursday reunion show, the Bouncing Souls, PEARS, and a chance to bid farewell to Motion City Soundtrack. Rock on, folks.
-Speaking of new music, I've been listening to a lot of Millencolin lately. They’re a Swedish punk band that I’ve been listening to for about 15 years or so. I still remember seeing them at St. Andrew’s Hall in Detroit the day after Thanksgiving in 2003; a great show that included Senses Fail and Matchbook Romance as openers.