In just another attempt to bring the fans closer to the team and vice versa, floridapanthers.com would like to introduce our newest fan blogger, Murphy Burch. Joining YourBlog's Cliff Peeke, Murphy will be writing about his views on the Panthers for this season.
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
Hey, don’t look now, but the Panthers have won three in a row, four of their last six and have gained at least a point in all six of those games, including two each in Madison Square Garden and the Verizon Center!
This team is beginning to gel, and I firmly believe the Panthers have the ability to win this division and be a force in the playoffs. We’re currently one point out of second place in the division, and one point out of 8th place in the Conference, with a game-in-hand on Carolina. We’re 6 points out of the division lead, with a game-in-hand on Washington. Even being minus several key players, our guys came back from 2-goal deficits at home to earn a point against both New Jersey and New York, and then they marched into New York City and shutout the Rangers 4-0 (earning 3 of 4 possible points in a home-and-home series against one of the best teams in the conference). Two nights later in our nation’s capital, the Panthers defeated the Southeast Division leaders and showed yet again they have what it takes to win against the best teams in the league. We’re a little over a quarter of the way through the season, and although I’d rather be on top fighting off challengers, I am satisfied to be in the mix and competing night-in and night-out. For hope and inspiration, we need look back no further than last season when the Capitals were mired in last place and going nowhere, fast. Then a miraculous 37-17-7 finish propelled them to the top of the division and into the playoffs (thanks in no small part to the Panthers going into Raleigh and beating the Hurricanes on the next-to-last night of the season).
Our team is playing good hockey and they’re adapting very well to Coach DeBoer’s system. They’re becoming more aggressive on the forecheck and the backcheck, and they’re consistently winning the battles along the half boards and in the corners. This aggressiveness has begun to pay dividends, and it’s a key ingredient in the success Coach DeBoer has enjoyed his entire career. I’m excited about the remainder of our season, and I absolutely believe we’re a much better team than our 11-11-3 record indicates. Again, keep in mind that the Panthers have recently beaten two of the best teams in the conference while several of our key players have been out with injuries. The play of Craig Anderson has also been stellar! There’s not much else that needs to be said about the guy who leads the entire NHL in save percentage. He’s been rock-solid in the net, and he’s deserved every single start he’s made. Also worth mentioning is the attitude with which Tomas Vokoun has approached this whole situation. He’s the consummate professional. Last night, just before the opening puck drop, T-Vo was the last guy out on the ice shaking hands with Andy, and after the game, he was out there again, congratulating him on the win. If you’re going to have goalie controversy, at least it’s good to know that both of them are such great guys.
Of late, the Dvorak, Campbell, Peltonen line has been on fire! In DC, they each had a goal and an assist, and last night the hot play continued. I agree with George Richards, this line needs a name! I’ve heard a couple going around: The “CPR” line, which came off of George Richards’ blog, and the “Soup to nuts” line, which I heard Randy Moller talking about yesterday morning. I like ‘em both, but no matter what they’re called, I just hope they continue to find the back of the net, and continue to play the type of hard-nosed, gritty hockey that’s propelled them to the top-line status they’re currently enjoying!
Last week Wade Belak was traded to Nashville after initially being waived. Wade was a guy many of us had hoped to see a lot more of on the ice, doing what he does best. Unfortunately for the fans of this team, we only got to see him mix it up a couple of times last season, and only once this season. But that one time was a real doozy! I bet Derek Boogard still winces when someone says the name “Belak”. I wish Wade the best up in Nashville, and I hope he has a ton of success, unless they’re playing the Panthers… Then, just to be safe, I hope he’s a healthy scratch… In the trade we received former Tampa forward Nick Tarnasky, who’s already begun to contribute on our 4th line. Welcome to the Panthers, Nick. Here’s hoping you are able to cause as much havoc against our opponents as you have against us in the past! If last night’s game against the Sabres is any indication, you’re going to be a big hit with Panthers fans! We love to see hard hits and traffic in front of the net, and that’s what you’ve delivered for us so far!
Is anybody else fed-up the Versus exclusivity deal? We’ve missed two Panthers games so far this season, both wins, because of the blackout. As much as I love listening to Randy Moller call a game, I’d much rather watch it on TV, or at the very least, watch it on the computer using the NHL Game Center package that cost over a hundred bucks to purchase. For those of you not familiar with the Versus deal, it states that during their featured game of the week, no team may broadcast their game unless it starts after 9:30pm EST. The deal is a real lose-lose for fans on the east coast because unless your team is playing in the Versus game, or playing west of the central time zone, you get stuck watching whatever game Versus decides to air. While the Panthers were scrapping for a victory in DC Tuesday, you could listen to it on the radio, or watch the Lightning play the Flyers on Versus. I have zero interest in watching anyone else play hockey when I know the Panthers are out on the ice somewhere, so I stepped back in time and listened to it on the radio. But in all fairness, when Randy called those goals in DC, I was jumping around with my hands in the air, just as if I was in the arena! If you’ve not heard Randy call a game, you really should tune in to 790 The Ticket some time. Not only will you get excited because of his inflection and enthusiasm, but you’ll probably get a good laugh too. He’s a pretty colorful guy, and he’s got a terrific sense of humor.
I’ve manipulated my schedule at work so that I will be able to attend the Panthers games up in Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver. It’s a trip I’ve looked forward to making from the moment I saw the Panthers’ schedule back in September. The anticipation and excitement are even more intense now that the Panthers are collecting points at an impressive clip! Also, my lovely wife will be joining me for the Vancouver game, so that one will be extra special! If you liked the arena summaries I provided from LA, PHX, and Anaheim, I hope you’ll check back next week for the first of the three from the western Canada trip.
Before I go, I’d like to congratulate Kenndal McArdle on his first ever call-up to the NHL! And I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that the David Booth game-tying goal with 7.2 seconds left against the Devils was the most exciting goal I’ve ever witnessed. The next day at work I was so hoarse from yelling that I had to sip on warm tea just to be able to talk to Air Traffic Control! In the last few years, we’ve been on the receiving end of those comebacks more times than I’d care to remember, so to actually be present for a pair of Panthers miracle goals in the closing moments of a game was a terrific experience! Then the incredible come-from-behind effort against the Rangers took away what was left of my voice! The late period heroics, and the penalty-kill in overtime were outstanding! Those are the types of things that can turn a season around in a hurry…
I appreciate you stopping by the blog. I’d also like to remind you of the tailgate tomorrow afternoon in the northeast parking lot, just north of the handicap parking spaces. We’ll probably get started around 5:00. Just look for Jerry’s Panthermobile, or Carl’s Panthers-laden flagpole, and stop by for a while! It’s a terrific way to meet and greet with a bunch of die-hard fans.
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’s a pleasure to correspond with each of you. I’ve also enjoyed meeting several of you at each of the Panthers’ recent home games!