PANTHERS (45-28-5) at MAPLE LEAFS (28-39-11)
What could possibly motivate the Florida Panthers when they visit the ACC tonight? The Panthers have secured a playoff spot, something that has been fleeting in their twenty-three year existence. Jaromir Jagr has had a hell of a season despite being the sports equivalent of old and Florida has likely secured home-ice advantage for at least the first two rounds of the playoffs. Of course they need to get past the first round.
Maybe it could be redemption . . . it was less than a week ago that the Toronto Maple Leafs doled out a 5-2 win against the Panthers. It was an embarrassing game for Florida. First in their division, second in the conference, they are not supposed to lose to a bottom dwelling team.
A quirk in the schedule has these two teams meeting for the third time in just over three weeks. When teams meet often in a short period of time, sometimes things can become testy. Will this happen tonight? The Leafs are still finding their identity while Florida is not really known as a bruising type team. Toronto is moving towards being a skill team (but Rich Clune has been recalled) while Florida ranks twenty-second in league penalty minutes. Expect a finesse game? Maybe. This is also the fourth and final game between these two teams this season with Florida holding a 2-1 edge in wins.
The Panthers should be commended for a job well done. They are not a salary cap team. Actually sitting in the bottom third in player salaries, Florida took on Marc Savards contract last summer in part to help complete a trade but also help the team get to the salary cap floor. This goes to show the good job Dale Tallon has done assembling a group of talented team players without breaking the budget.
Jagr has been nominated by the team for the Bill Masterton trophy. It is handed out annually to the player that best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey. Toronto nominated the now departed James Reimer. This move was questioned by many as they believed that the player should still be playing for the nominating team. While Reimer certainly demonstrated Masterson type qualities handling his stay with Toronto with class during trying times, Florida’s number 68 should be the overwhelming favourite to win this years edition.
Here we go again Nazem Kadri. After scoring a hat trick against the Panthers last week it has been down hill for the maligned number 43. Being called out by a rookie, two diving fines and a hearing with the NHL department of player safety today for the cross check on Luke Glendening on Saturday night. You may recall Kadri was suspended March 13th last season. This put him in repeat offender territory.
After his hearing earlier today he has been suspended for the remainder of the season. Missing four games will cost Kadri $200,000 in salary that goes to the players assistance fund.
This begs the question how many chances does Leafs management give him? This is his third suspension in as many years not to mention multiple fines for his diving and other offenses like throat slashing gestures. When is it enough? After a decent season he has done little lately to endear himself in a contract year. Stay tuned to Leafs Hub for a follow up story on the career on Mr. Kadri.
Happy Birthday TJ Brennan. The Leafs defenceman turned twenty-seven on Sunday.
Tonight is the second to last home game this year. Leafs players will play game 82 this Saturday night to conclude year one of the rebuild. What do you think Leafs Nation? Did Leafs management win a renewed faith from you? Are the Leafs heading in the right direction? Please discuss among yourselves.
Enjoy the game tonight.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Tobias Lindberg – Tyler Bozak – Kasperi Kapanen
Colin Greening – William Nylander – PA Parenteau
Rich Clune – Byron Froese – Brad Boyes
Brooks Laich – Frederik Gauthier – Michael Grabner
Morgan Rielly – Martin Marincin
Jake Gardiner – Frank Corrado
Andrew Campbell – TJ Brennan
Jonathan Huberdeau – Aleksander Barkov – Jaromir Jagr
Jussi Jokinen – Nick Bjugstad – Reilly Smith
Jiri Hudler – Rocco Grimaldi – Teddy Purcell
Garrett Wilson – Derek MacKenzie – Quinton Howden
Brian Campbell – Aaron Ekblad
Dmitry Kulikov – Erik Gudbranson
Jakub Kindl – Steven Kampfer