Murphy Burch is back for his second season of blogging. He will be sharing his views on the Panthers during the year, along with fellow fan blogger, Cliff Peeke (Peeke's Points).
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
I don’t think the Panthers could’ve picked a better night or a better opponent against whom to end a four-game losing streak. Coming out relatively flat in the first period against the hard-charging Flyers, the Panthers gave up a goal on a turnover, and finished the first period down 1-0.
But as I later discovered when watching the replay of the game on DVR, Coach DeBoer gave the guys a pretty spirited chat during the first intermission, and they responded with a vengeance in the second period. Leading off the change in momentum was Gregory Campbell, who dropped the gloves and held his own against Philadelphia’s Dan Carcillo. Seconds later, Bryan Allen continued the swing with his own bout against Ian Laperriere. The comeback was on. With a pair of Panthers and a pair of Flyers already out of service with fighting majors, Chris Pronger got caught slashing the stick of Steven Reinprecht, and ended up wedging himself into the penalty box with his two teammates. On what was arguably the Panthers’ best power play of the season, Dmitry Kulikov
took a Bryan McCabe pass from the point and fed it cross-ice to Stephen Weiss
at the top of the near circle. When Weisser’s wrister slammed past David Booth’s screen of Ray Emery, the score was knotted at one apiece.
With just under eight minutes left in the second period, Scott Clemmensen
had a little trouble containing a shot from Claude Giroux, and it slid just over the goal line for the Flyers’ second and final goal of the game. However, not wanting to go into the dressing room down by a goal, the Panthers pressed hard with less than a minute remaining in the period. Weiss backhanded a rolling puck off the boards out to Jordan Leopold at the point and Leo sent a screaming slapshot directly at Horton who was solidly camped behind the Flyers’ defense in front of Emery’s crease. Horty turned and deflected the puck into the net for his second goal of the season! At this point, the momentum was firmly on the Panthers’ side and they carried it into the second intermission.
Seven minutes into the third period, with the Panthers caught in their own zone and down a man after Boother was called for tripping, it was Radek Dvorak’s time to do what he’s done more than any other player in Florida Panthers history; score a short-handed goal…Bryan Allen attempted to clear the puck from behind the Panthers’ net by flipping it towards the near wall. The puck hit the half boards and bounced out to the point where it hopped over Pronger’s stick and D-Vo was all over it! Maneuvering around Pronger and racing out of the Panthers’ end, Radek scooped up the puck and sped through the neutral zone and over the Flyers’ blue line. Despite being hooked by Pronger back near center ice and nearly being dragged down at the last second by Simon Gagne, D-Vo backhanded the puck just over the approaching poke check of Emery and deposited it firmly into the back of the net! What a thing of beauty that goal was! Besides being the eventual game winner, it also breathed a lot of life into the crowd at the BankAtlantic Center. It seemed to give our guys the little bit of extra incentive they needed to finish the game strong and give Clemmensen his first win as a Florida Panther.
Speaking of Clemmer, he turned in a terrific performance and made some key saves en route to the Panthers 4-2 win over Philadelphia. Getting his first start of the season, he made a very favorable impression on the home crowd and used the opportunity to show off what is certainly one of the best goalie pad and mask combinations in the NHL. As he mentioned in this interview with GrowlTV’s Glenn Odebralski, Clemmensen’s new mask is a play off his previous designs, which he modeled after former Toronto Maple Leafs goalie, Felix Potvin. He prefers bigger designs on masks as opposed some of the smaller, busier designs of other goalies, referring to them as looking “tie-dyed.” The paint scheme of Clemmensen’s mask is reminiscent of John Vanbiesbrouck’s famous Panther head design of the mid 1990’s.
The crowd at the BankAtlantic Center was not as heavily laden with Philadelphia fans as I was expecting. Make no mistake about it; there were quite a few Flyer fans in attendance, but despite being up by a goal twice during the game, they were not as raucous as in the past. The one time a “Let’s Go Flyers” chant tried to get started, Panthers fans shouting “Let’s Go Panthers” quickly drowned it out.
Sitting a couple of rows behind the Panthers’ penalty box was a guy who seemed to be a little confused…He was dressed in a St. Louis Blues hat and a St. Louis Blues jersey that was so small it looked like he had stolen it from an infant. This guy was vehemently anti-Panthers, and he reveled in jumping to his feet and yelling at the Panthers in the box. Well about a half a second after Reinprecht buried a pass from Rostislav Olesz into the empty net to take a two-goal lead with 1:20 remaining in the third, the Blues fan and his buddy decided it was time to go. It was actually amusing and a little refreshing to see our fans give this guy the business as he left the rink. He wasn’t the only one to bail with Reino’s goal; hundreds of people in orange and black made their way toward the exits once it became apparent that their team was going to end up on the wrong side of the score. There was a little good-natured ribbing taking place as they headed up the aisles, but nothing compared to what Panthers fans would’ve received in the Wachovia Center...
Once the horn sounded, about twenty rats were tossed out onto the ice, and as has been the case for nearly a season and and a half, dozens of Panthers fans gathered in front of Pantherland to cheer for about 20 minutes after the game. I couldn’t really tell if the revelers were happy about beating the Flyers, or just glad that the four-game slide was finally over. For me, it was a little of both. I love beating the Flyers at home, and the only way the streak-ending win could’ve been any more satisfying would’ve been if it came against the Rangers or the Canadiens (who, by the way are off to a less than stellar start under their new head coach).
With a record of 2-4, there wouldn’t seem to be a reason for optimism, but in my opinion, there is. With the exception of the 4-0 loss to Chicago, and the embarrassing 7-2 shellacking we received in Raleigh, all of the games have been winnable. The two losses to New Jersey and Tampa were caused by turnovers, untimely penalties, a few soft goals, and a couple of failures to convert on really good scoring chances. With a little more disciplined play, we could just as easily be 4-2 heading into the third week of the season. Those types of mistakes are things that can be corrected, so while I’m not writing home to my mom about our record, I’m also not ready to throw the season under the bus just yet. Sure, we didn’t get the fast start we’d all hoped for, but there is reason to believe we’re on the right track. With the addition of Dominic Moore, and the strong play of Horton, Weiss, Olesz, and several others, I’m keeping a positive outlook on things. We have a pretty tough schedule coming up in the next few weeks, and I’m hoping we’re able to withstand the pressure and step up to the challenge. Games on the road against Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Washington, Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, and New York are certainly going to present a challenge to our guys. Let’s hope they can get some confidence-building wins and avoid all of the pitfalls that have plagued us in the past.
One last thing: The day after Clemmer’s new mask came in, T-Vo got a new lid too! Gone is the mask featuring leaping panthers on a light blue background, and in comes a new red mask to match his new red pads. It also features a pair of leaping panthers, and a yellow sun down the center.
Thank you to everyone who emailed me or sent me messages on facebook after the last blog entry. I enjoyed corresponding with each of you. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, or if you just want to say Hi, I can be reached at: VanMurph@hotmail.com
Thanks for stopping by the blog.