Good afternoon, and welcome to another exciting edition of Plagens’ Points!
First of all, a huge thanks to all the fans who supported the Panthers during the ’15-16 season, and everyone who listened to the radio broadcasts. Seeing what this team was able to accomplish, from the 12-game winning streak to the Atlantic Division title, and being able to help bring you the action all season, was a dream come true. And like some of the players I talked to yesterday, I already can’t wait to see what’s in store for next season’s edition of the Panthers.
On that note, I’d also like to send a huge thank you to everyone in the Panthers organization on the business and hockey sides for an incredibly fun season.
Now, let’s take a look back at just a few of the important things from this season, and the stretch run.
-First of all, the experience that the Panthers gained was of immeasurable importance. The process of winning the Atlantic Division involved the Panthers gaining first place, and ultimately solidifying their stance atop the division until the final days of the season. In the playoffs, 11 different Panthers played in their first Stanley Cup Playoff games. During games five and six of the series against the New York Islanders, Aaron Ekblad played a combined 61:33, with 32:36 of that coming in game five; the second longest game in Panthers history. Ekblad’s defensive partner in the playoffs, Mike Matheson, played 59:47 over the two double-overtime games, including 32:18 in game five. The two seemed to form great on-ice chemistry quickly, setting up what could be a Panthers defense combo for a long time to come. Both have incredible hockey sense, and are so calm and poised for young players. Beyond Ekblad and Matheson, Panthers GM Dale Tallon mentioned during Tuesday’s media availability the fact that the Panthers had four defensemen under 25 playing regularly in the playoffs, and how encouraging that is.
-Don’t forget to vote for Aleksander Barkov to be on the cover of EA Sports NHL ’17. The game will hit shelves in September, but right now, you can vote on Twitter using the hashtag #NHL17Barkov to cast your vote. Vote early and often, because he’s one of the true young superstars in the game. According to the folks at hockey-reference.com, Barkov finished the ’15-16 season with the sixth-highest points-per-game total in team history with .89 points per game over his 66 games played. He also averaged .42 goals per game during the regular season, and his eight game-winning goals tied for the third most in a season in team history.
-In a previous edition of Plagens’ Points, I mentioned that Jonathan Huberdeau, who was about to come back from an upper body injury, generally finishes seasons on a hot streak. That trend held up again this season, as Huberdeau posted 19 points on nine goals and ten assists over 17 games in March and April. During his time in the NHL, Huberdeau has 64 points in 77 March and April games; an average of .83 points per game. Huberdeau’s biggest offensive production this season came against the Montreal Canadiens; he has a goal and five assists for six points over the four matchups against Montreal this season.
-Keep an eye on the Portland Pirates, the Panthers AHL affiliate, during their Calder Cup run. Currently tied 1-1 in a best-of-five first round series against the Hershey Bears, the Pirates are back on the ice in Chocolate Town for games three, four, and five tomorrow (7:00 PM), Saturday (7:00 PM), and Sunday (5:00 PM). Go to www.portlandpirates.com or www.ahllive.com for information on how to listen and watch the games with the Voice of the Pirates Jeff Mannix on the call. Hershey is one of the most fun environments for a hockey game in North America, and the Pirates will look to spoil the party. Eight players who were called up to the Panthers this season have played in the first two games of the series for Portland, so there are some familiar names. Through two games in the series, Rocco Grimaldi leads the Pirates with three points; all assists.
-And I’d also like to send a huge thank you to all of the great Panthers Radio Network affiliates. From the Treasure Coast to the Keys, there were great stations carrying every minute of Panthers action, and a lot of great people working at those stations. Thanks so much to all of you, and thanks to the listeners for making it all possible!
-You’ll notice a new edition of “Dining with Doug” coming with this Plagens’ Points today. But don’t fret; you’ll see a “Dining with Doug” from New York City in a couple weeks.
-On the note of “Dining with Doug”, I wanted to say thanks to Panthers web producer/video mastermind Dave Courtney for being the man behind the camera on all the web videos you see from the road. He’s great to work with and we have great conversations about things like what kinds of cheese we like while sitting in row six on the plane during trips.
-If I had to name a few candidates for “Lunch of the Year” on the road, let’s see… Thinking out loud here… Sauce on the Side (Calzones) in St. Louis, Al’s Italian Beef (Chicago) is always a crowd pleaser, Jack’s BBQ in Nashville, Reuben’s in Montreal (You’ll see it today), Café Rio (Classy quick-serve Mexican) in Denver, Slow’s BBQ in Detroit… and perhaps the best of all, In-N-Out Burger in Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose, and Arizona.
-We won’t have any Panthers broadcasts until sometime in the preseason in late September or early October, but that doesn’t mean we can’t keep the conversation going on Twitter. Drop me a line anytime @DougPlagens. I check it a lot. If you have room in your Tweet, just make sure to toss #NHL17Barkov in there.
-The Doug Plagens Summer music lineup is really taking shape. Locally, we’ve got Refused at Revolution in June. Then, I’m planning on catching three Vans Warped Tours, the first Chicago Open Air festival in July, and the Wrecking Ball in Atlanta, which is stretched over two days in August. At Wrecking Ball, I can’t wait to see Thursday play their first show in about five years. I was hooked on Thursday the first time I heard them on 89X, “Windsor/Detroit’s Only New Rock Alternative” sometime in 2001.
Plagens Points isn’t going anywhere! Keep it locked here for the offseason. Again everyone, thanks for your support of the Panthers, and thanks for listening to the broadcasts all season!
‘Til next time, folks. That’ll do it from here.