Last evening I endured the mind-numbingly slow commute west from downtown Fort Lauderdale to see in person whether this Florida Panthers squad was for real, or just a fringey playoff team. The Atlantic Division leading New Jersey Devils would make a good measuring stick.
The Cats dominated the Devils all night with strong forechecking and excellent puck movement through the zone, and thank God for that. Watching the Devils' dump and chase hockey is about as much fun as seeing children die of starvation. The Panthers seemed to beat Jersey to every loose puck and Panthers goaltender Tomas Vokoun stood on his head whenever the defense broke down in front of him. Stephen Weiss, Richard Zednik, Nathan Horton and Cory Stillman all had goals, while stud rookie Michael Frolik and David Booth added a couple assists a piece in the rout. The Devils got skunked by Vokoun. Final: 4-0.
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If the Panthers can keep playing at this level, they're not only looking at the playoffs, they could pull home ice advantage in the first round. If only there were enough fans showing up to make that worth something...