Murphy, an airline pilot originally from North Carolina, is better known as vanmurph on the Panthers message boards and he, along with his wife Vanessa are two of the most vociferous fans at the BankAtlantic Center.VanMurph's View Blog Archive
We’re eight games into an 82 game schedule, and our record is 4 and 4. That’s one game better than last year’s 3 and 5. With just one additional win in each month this season vs. last season; we’d have 14 more points, and a playoff spot…
Yeah, I know, after Saturday’s game in St. Louis, it seems like I’m trying too hard to find something positive. But think about this; our guys have gone stride-for-stride with the team that nearly everyone expects to win the Eastern conference (Montreal), and they’ve also defeated the hottest team in the Western Conference! Oh, and in the space separating those two games, they also put a whoopin’ on the Ottawa Senators behind a STELLAR
performance between the pipes by the best backup goalie in the NHL, Craig Anderson (More on Andy later in this entry). The fact that the Blues hammered us is just proof-positive that any team in the NHL can beat any other team in the NHL on any given night. Chalk it up to statistical theory.
I’ve said it before, and this won’t be the last time I repeat it, but this is not the Panthers of old. The team Jacques Martin has assembled, and the team Coach DeBoer sends out onto the ice each night is perhaps the best we’ve seen in South Florida since 1995-1996. The addition of Cory Stillman, Keith Ballard, and Nick Boynton has pushed this squad to the next level. The Panthers are not only beginning to gel offensively and defensively, they’re also playing an exciting brand of hockey not seen here since Radek Dvorak was a rookie. In Ottawa, we watched our team get out to a quick lead and hold on to it, and against San Jose, we witnessed the Panthers trading goals with the very powerful Sharks who were relentless in their attacks. We also saw Tomas Vokoun stop 47 of the 50 shots fired at him that night, and in the end, both game’s results were the same: A Panthers Victory. Now, I’m not forgetting the effort up in St. Louis; I’ll talk a little about that in a few minutes.
The buzz in the BankAtlantic Center during the latter stages of the San Jose game was something of which we should be proud. The Panthers fans stepped up the intensity and sustained a level of enthusiasm I hope will be contagious in the coming months. On one particular offensive push, the Panthers had the Sharks pinned in their own end for close to two minutes. During the attack, the Panthers peppered Nabakov with shot after shot, and as soon as a San Jose player would touch the puck, our guys would begin an aggressive forecheck and regain control. Several of our players escalated their performances and played key roles in keeping the puck inside the blue line during the blitz. The longer the possession progressed, the louder the crowd became, and when the Sharks finally got the puck into the neutral zone, the masses came to their feet in appreciative applause for the outstanding offensive feat we’d just witnessed! Leaning over to Vanessa, I asked, “Can you believe these guys?” To which she replied, “The Panthers or the fans?” Now, imagine that same level of energy and participation with an arena full of Panthers supporters!
Speaking of Panthers fans, we weren’t the only ones in the BAC last Friday night. No, we had dozens of San Jose bums too. It wasn’t the outright invasion we normally face, but there were enough Sharks jerseys in attendance to make me take notice. One jersey in particular that caught my eye was on a lady who sat not too far in front of us. It looked like it belonged on an infant, and it didn’t quite cover all the bits when she would stand and cheer for her team in OUR HOUSE… Not good at all. Also that night, for the first time this season, I saw an opposing team’s fan with his face painted… Now folks, I love the Panthers as much as I love the clear blue sky, but there is NO WAY under that same blue sky that I’d ever wear face-paint to a road game. It’s a lose-lose. If your team fails to win, you will be mercilessly harangued from your seat all the way out to your car. If your team is victorious, the sight of a paint-faced out-of-towner may just be enough to send a local homer over the edge, and you may end up wearing the remnants of his $9.00 mustard-laden hotdog. So to prevent any ‘accidents’, I just avoid the war paint on the road.
Ok, now on to the St. Louis game. I’ve spent the better part of the last 36 hours trying to think of a way to frame it in a positive light. So here’s what I’ve come up with: The Blues play in the city of St. Louis, which is located on the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers in the state of Missouri, 199 miles south of Vanessa’s hometown of Muscatine, Iowa. St. Louis a wonderful city with a plethora of nightlife options, and its chief export is beer. The city is divided into 79 government-designated neighborhoods, the divisions of which have no legal standing, although some neighborhood associations administer grants or hold veto power over historic-district development. Nevertheless, the social and political influence of neighborhood identity is somewhat profound in St. Louis. Some neighborhoods contain avenues of massive stone edifices built as palaces for Heads-of -State visiting the 1904 World's Fair. Others offer tidy working-class bungalows or loft districts. Many of them have endured as strong and cohesive communities… By the way, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m just yankin’ your chain…
There was absolutely nothing
positive about the game up in St. Louis, but I couldn’t resist a futile attempt at a little humor. You and I know we got our butts handed to us! Hey, hats off to the Blues! They came to play, and it showed. But that was Saturday and this is Tuesday. Let’s take a Mulligan and put it behind us. Bring on Ottawa.
Earlier, I mentioned Craig Anderson. He’s a fan-favorite, no doubt. But because of his work ethic, he’s also one of my personal favorites on the team. Saturday night notwithstanding, he’s been as solid in the net as anyone in the NHL, and in my humble opinion, Andy is the best backup goalie in the league. In fact, he could just as easily be starting on many teams. Watching him work his magic in the crease is an absolute pleasure, and you need look no further than the miraculous glove-save in Ottawa to know what I’m talking about. It’s not hard to respect him on a personal level either, because besides being a genuinely nice guy, he’s also the type of person who deflects the praise to those around him. On March 2, 2008, Craig stopped all 53 New York Islanders shots in a 1-0 shutout on Long Island. But rather than soak up the glory, he said, "A lot went untold there. A lot of guys were blocking shots, and a lot of guys were collapsing, putting their faces on the line. Most of the shots were from the outside. They did a good job of clogging up the middle and allowing me to see the puck. A lot of times, I got point shots that hit me in the chest." Now that’s the type of guy you just can’t help but love. Not only did he not take the credit for the history-making endeavor in the net, but two nights later, he went up to Boston and saved another 40 in a 1-0 overtime shutout of the Bruins! The combined 93 shot two-game effort was also an NHL record! Up to that point, the most saves ever in consecutive shutouts was 75 by Dominik Hasek for Buffalo in 1997. Craig deserves a lot of respect, and it can start by having his jersey offered for purchase in Pantherland. I know it’s a little thing, but I haven’t seen a single Anderson jersey for sale in there this season. What I’d really like to see is a t-shirt with something like “ANDY 53 (NHL record)” on it, or one with his picture that says, “I stopped 93 pucks over two consecutive shutouts and all I got was this stupid t-shirt”. We have a tremendous asset at the near-end of the bench, and I hope he knows how much the fans truly appreciate him.
On a more somber note, Vanessa and I want to wish Bryan Allen the very best in his surgery and recovery. Having suffered through multiple knee surgeries myself, my sympathy level is off the chart for what he’ll be going through over the coming months. Injuries have been plentiful for our hockey club the past few seasons, and it’s a trend I hope ends right now. With Bryan out of the lineup, guys like Keith Ballard, Karlis Skrastins, Nick Boynton, Jay Bouwmeester, and others will have to step up and fill the void. If the San Jose game was any indication of what the aforementioned are capable of, I think Bryan will be able to take his time and heal completely, instead of trying to rush the rehab process in the interest of getting back to pick up the slack. Good luck Bryan! The fans wish you a speedy recovery!
Before I close this entry I’d like to thank Cliff Peeke for welcoming me to the Panthers’ Blogosphere last week. Approval from a long-time diehard like Cliff adds a sense of legitimacy to my writing efforts, and I truly appreciate it. Reading Cliff’s blog last season was a pleasure, and I look forward to reading it this season, too. I’d also like to say a quick hello to Tenille Lively; she’s a photographer and the Art Director at Unrestricted Magazine. Vanessa and I met her briefly last week and I just want to say thanks, and let her know that it was a pleasure to chat with her!
Thank you for stopping by the blog! My next entry will probably be after the upcoming Atlanta game. I’ve been attempting to clear my schedule in order to take my first Panthers road-trip this season. With any luck, I’ll post entries from Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Anaheim in the coming weeks. Besides writing about the happenings on the ice, I also hope to offer you an in-depth comparison of the game-presentation differences and the general arena experience of those three Western Conference cities versus the experience inside the BankAtlantic Center.
If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, or if you just want to say Hi, I can be reached at: VanMurph@hotmail.com
Thank you to everyone who emailed me after the last blog entry. It was a pleasure to correspond with each of you.VanMurph's View Blog Archive