Welcome back to another exciting edition! This time, I’m composing this literary work from Boston. Let’s get right to business with the most important things happening right now.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW
-Tomorrow night, it’s the Panthers and the Bruins at TD Garden. You won’t want to miss that one; the game starts at 7:00 PM Eastern. The Panthers will need a win to vault back into the Atlantic Division’s top spot. Positioning will be on the line for each team. And the Panthers are looking for some revenge against the Bruins, who are one of the only teams to have the upper hand in a season series against the Panthers in 2015-16. In three previous meetings between the two this season, Boston has taken two in regulation, and another in overtime. However, this fourth and final matchup of the season between the two teams has the most riding on it in terms of playoff implications. The last game between the two teams- Monday, March 7th at the BB&T Center- resulted in a 5-4 overtime win for Boston. The Bruins will be entering the second half of a back-to-back when the puck drops tomorrow night because they play the Rangers in New York tonight; we’ll see if that affects Boston, and if the Panthers can jump on them early. The Panthers arrived in Boston after Monday night’s game in New York, and will have had time to rest and practice ahead of tomorrow night’s game. Boston has also hovered around .500 at home all season, while playing much better on the road.
-Speaking of playoff implications, the top spot in the Atlantic Division could be up for grabs in a rivalry matchup between the Panthers and Lightning in Tampa on Saturday night at 7:00 PM. The Panthers have controlled the season series against the Lightning, carrying a record of 3-1-0 through four games of the season series to this point. The Panthers won the last meeting by a 5-2 score at home on January 23rd, and have outscored the Lightning 11-9 in regulation during the previous four matchups. One major area in which the Panthers have been especially effective against the Lightning this season: shutting down some of their top players. Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, who has 34 goals on the campaign, hasn’t scored and has just two assists in four games against the Panthers this season. Tyler Johnson has just one assist over three games against the Panthers in ’15-16. Lightning goalie Ben Bishop is giving up just a shade over two goals per game this season, but over three starts against the Panthers, his goals against average is 3.27.
-In a previous installment of “Plagens Points,” I highlighted the success that Jiri Hudler has had during his career when facing Eastern Conference teams. Here’s a key note heading into tomorrow’s game against the Bruins: in 12 games against Boston in his career, Hudler has 10 goals and 16 points according to the fine folks at www.hockey-reference.com. He had a goal last time out, and has four goals in 10 games for the Panthers since being acquired the day before the trade deadline.
-Again, as pointed out in a previous edition of this literary work, Jonathan Huberdeau has traditionally been on the scoresheet a lot in the month of March. That has continued this season, as he has enjoyed eight points in eight games during the month. Huberdeau also has six points in seven combined games against Boston and Tampa Bay this season, including four points in four games against the Lightning.
-While we’re on the topic of recent trends, perhaps nobody has been on more of a roll than Vincent Trocheck. His 12 points in 11 March games have made this month his best of the season in terms of points, surpassing his 11-point February. Trocheck has goals in his last two games, three goals in his last four games, and has gotten stronger and stronger as the season goes on; a great sign for one of the top young centers in the Eastern Conference. What’s more? His two-way game has been rock-solid, and his line with Jussi Jokinen and Reilly Smith has been as good as any in the game over the last month.
-The new album from Killswitch Engage titled “Incarnate” debuted at #6 on the Billboard 200; their highest charting album to date. Huge congratulations to them, and the album is awesome. Check it out.
-The lineup announcement for the Vans Warped Tour happened yesterday, and it’s the best lineup in years. I’ve been to 20 of them; it’s annually one of the best days of the calendar year. Less Than Jake, Teenage Bottlerocket, Masked Intruder, Sum 41, Reel Big Fish, Atreyu, and Motionless in White are just a few of the bands I can’t wait to see. I’ll be continuing my tradition (Since 2006) of picking up a Rockstar and two McGriddles on the way to the venue as the best possible way to start the day.
-I tweeted a picture of a smoked meat sandwich I had at Reuben’s in Montreal last week. It’s a Montreal specialty, and it was pretty much as big as my head. Randy Moller and I went, and agreed it was one of the best smoked meat sandwiches on record.
-From the folks who brought you that In-N-Out Burger video a couple weeks ago, a new installment of what we’re calling “Dining with Doug” is in the works. And did you see our video from the Hockey Hall of Fame? Being able to walk around the Hall with Denis Potvin, and hear some of his stories in the process, was a ton of fun! Huge thanks to him and Panthers web producer Dave Courtney for making that a great video.
-On the Panthers team plane, there are these awesome little cheese and cracker plates. It wasn’t until sampling these that I learned how much I enjoy gouda cheese. But then I realized that the word “gouda” contains all the letters in my first name, so it’s a pretty natural fit. I sit next to Dave the web producer on all the flights, and he enjoys the assorted cheeses too. We both really like white cheddar.
-Feel free to Tweet me during the broadcasts, during the Panthers Insider Show every Saturday at 9:00 AM Eastern, or any other time you’d like @DougPlagens.