The 2011-2012 National Hockey League season was a great one for the Florida Panthers, even if it ended earlier than anyone wanted. Florida having such a good year meant that there were plenty of memorable moments for fans to enjoy. The question now is which were the best? Luckily for all of the Panthers fans out there Sunshine State Hockey is here to provide our top 10 moments of the 2011-2012 season.
Starting today, and for the next 10 days, we will count down our 10 favorite moments from this past season until we reach #1. On the final day of our countdown we will have a little surprise that everyone should definitely enjoy. Let’s begin this top 10 list with our choice for the #10 most memorable moment of the 2011-2012 Florida Panthers season.
#10 – Cats visit Winnipeg for the first time since 1996, win 5-2 (November 10th, 2011)
Before the game on November 10th it had been a long time since the Panthers made the far trip to Winnipeg to take on the Jets (16 years to be exact). The Cats knew that they would have to take the ruckus crowd at the MTS Centre out of the game as soon as possible, and they did exactly that with the help of forward Kris Versteeg. Thanks to a four point night by Versteeg, including his first career hat trick, Florida picked up an easy 5-2 win over the Jets, causing their fans to send them off with a chorus of boo’s after the game.
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Be sure to check back with Sunshine State Hockey tomorrow for the #9 moment on our countdown of the top 10 moments of the 2011-2012 season.
Sorry for the delay with posting these photos from game seven between the New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers, we just had to take a couple days to recharge our batteries. The following gallery contains pictures taken by Sunshine State Hockey while the link will lead those who click it to the Panthers official game seven photo page.
The fans in South Florida have been waiting a very long time for their hockey club to make another trip to the Stanley Cup playoffs. The last time the Florida Panthers were involved in the post-season Bill Clinton was President of the United States, Sony released their highly anticipated PlayStation 2, and yours truly was 12 year’s old. Thanks to General Manager Dale Tallon, rookie Head Coach Kevin Dineen, the entire Panthers staff, and the 2011-2012 roster no one has to wait any longer to see the Cats play some extra hockey.
While the Panthers fan base has every right to be excited they should also be worried about their teams’ first round opponents. The New Jersey Devils are one of the most balanced teams in the National Hockey League. They have a quick striking offense, a shutdown defense that can trap any club in the neutral zone, and one of the best goaltenders to ever play the game, Martin Brodeur. Florida will definitely have their hands full in this series and it will take a complete team effort to even have a legitimate shot at making it past the well structured Devils.
The Florida Panthers were led offensively by the top line of Kris Versteeg, Stephen Weiss, and Tomas Fleischmann until their opponents began to figure out how to shut the trio down. After that, around the halfway point of the season, it was up to everyone else on the roster to provide balanced scoring. That is exactly what happened as Florida got offensive help down the stretch from players such as Mikael Samuelsson, Sean Bergenheim, and Marcel Goc. Shockingly Fleischmann was the only one from the former #1 line to stay consistent throughout the entire 2011-2012 season, registering 27 goals and 61 points, while Versteeg and Weiss did very little in the final two months. The Panthers will need their top three forwards to produce at the level they did before and the rest of the club will have to keep up the balanced scoring if they want to keep up with the powerful New Jersey offense.
The Devils enter the first round match-up against Florida with three 30 goal scorers on their roster. Ilya Kovalchuk (37 goals), Zach Parise (31 goals), and surprisingly David Clarkson (30 goals) all had a great 2011-2012 regular season offensively and look to carry that success over into the post-season. New Jersey, much like the Panthers, also had balanced scoring outside of their big three led by the resurgence of Patrick Elias who picked up 78 points in one of his best seasons in the last three year’s. Put Elias together with Petr Sykora and Dainius Zubrus and the Devils have six forwards that are going to keep the Florida defense very busy.
Advantage: New Jersey
When the Panthers entered the 2011 off-season they already had a fairly impressive defensive core that included veteran Mike Weaver and youngster Dmitry Kulikov. Add them together with All-Star defenseman Brian Campbell, former Panther Ed Jovanovski, and rookie Erik Gudbranson and Florida has one of their best D-core’s in franchise history. Of course when discussing the Cats defense it is important to mention the biggest surprise on the 2011-2012 Panthers roster, Jason Garrison. #52 had a major breakout season, finishing third in goals amongst all defensemen in the National Hockey League with 16. Florida’s D-men will have to jump in offensively all series long if they hope to continue the success they had in the regular season.
The New Jersey defense was anything but offensive this year, and that is going to be a problem for the Florida Panthers. The Devils have one of the best shutdown groups in the Eastern Conference, playing opponents into the classic NJ trap that the team has been famous for. This stingy style of play certainly helps an aging Martin Brodeur since he doesn’t have to face many shots on a nightly bases. Let’s also not forget that a solid defensive group plays an important role on the PK, and New Jersey has one of the best in the league. It will be interesting to see how the Devils react to Florida’s offensive minded defense and how the Cats handle going up against NJ’s shutdown crew.
When the Panthers began the season everyone thought that their weak point would be in net. Thankfully all of those people were dead wrong. Florida got strong goaltending all year long from surprise starter Jose Theodore, veteran backup Scott Clemmensen, and even rookie Jacob Markstrom when Theo went down with an injury. Truthfully if Florida did not have the good goaltending they would have lost a lot more games. The netminders, especially Theodore, absolutely need to stay solid between the pipes in this series.
It’s strange to think that the Devils have a question mark in net going into the post-season but age will do that to a person, even if it is Martin Brodeur. The legendary keeper hasn’t played his best post-season hockey in recent year’s and that’ll definitely be an issue for the Devils if that trend continues. Marty will have to stay strong in net and rely on his defense to keep the Panthers from getting to him.
The members of Sunshine State Hockey predicted that this series will be a long one with Florida coming out on top. Will the Cats be able to hold off the powerful Devils offense? Will Broduer live up to his legendary status? Will Stephen Weiss, Kris Versteeg, and Tomas Fleischmann return to early season form? All of these questions and more will be answered when the Panthers host New Jersey at the BankAtlantic Center tonight for game one of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Puck drop is 7:00 PM EST.
Just a little over 30 minutes ago the National Hockey League released the 2012 Stanley Cup Quarterfinal schedule for all eight match-ups. While many fans believed that the Panthers would play their first game on either Wednesday or Thursday of next week that is not the case. Florida will play host to the New Jersey Devils for game one on Friday, April 13th at 7:00 PM EST at the BankAtlantic Center. The complete schedule for the New Jersey/Florida series is as follows:
#3 Florida Panthers vs #6 New Jersey Devils
Game 1: New Jersey at Florida – Friday, April 13th at 7:00 PM EST
Game 2: New Jersey at Florida – Sunday, April 15th at 7:30 PM EST
Game 3: Florida at New Jersey – Tuesday, April 17th at 7:00 PM EST
Game 4: Florida at New Jersey – Thursday, April 19th at 7:00 PM EST
Game 5: New Jersey at Florida – Saturday, April 21st at 6:30 PM EST*
Game 6: Florida at New Jersey – Tuesday, April 24th at TBD*
Game 7: New Jersey at Florida – Thursday, April 26th at TBD*
(* If necessary)
For the complete list of scheduled times for all 16 teams in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs click here. Stay tuned to Sunshine State Hockey for daily playoff coverage as well as our preview of the round one match-up between the Southeast Division Champion Florida Panthers and the New Jersey Devils.
By: Marc Springston
While Brian Campbell was representing the Florida Panthers at the 2012 NHL All-Star game in Ottawa his teammates were finding different ways to relax away from the rink. From goaltender Scott Clemmensen spending the weekend with his family at Disney World to forward Kris Versteeg enjoying some country music at the annual Chili Cookoff the Panthers definitely took full advantage of the All-Star break. What the players must realize now…
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