Looking back at Panthers’ NHL-record playoff drought

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Sure, the Florida Panthers backed into the playoffs last night thanks to a Buffalo Sabres defeat. And yes, this team isn’t going to scare the sixth seed after leaning upon a league-high 18 charity points. Even with all that in mind, you’d have to have a cold soul* if you weren’t happy for Panthers fans who haven’t watched their team play a postseason game since April 9, 2000.

The Panthers broke the longest playoff drought in NHL history on Thursday, so it seems like a logical time to look back at 10 seasons of futility (the lockout erased one season, after all). The team’s such a mess that I’ll just do the best I can to break things up into digestible eras.

Terry Murray gives way to Duane Sutter: After leading the Panthers to a franchise-record 98 points in what was once their last playoff season (1999-2000), Terry Murray was fired 36 games in 2000-01. Duane Sutter finished out the last 46 games and managed one more season before being canned as well (01-02).

Panthers in 2000-01: 22-38-13-9 (66 points)
2001-02: 22-44-10-6 (60 pts.)

Duane Sutter’s overall record: 22-35-15 (Note: for the sake of sanity, I’m combining ties and OTL’s going forward in this spot. You’ll live.)

The Mike Keenan Era: Keenan spent two seasons as the Panthers’ head coach before shifting to GM from May 2004-September 2006. Things get a little screwy because the lines between coach and GM can get blurred – there were a lot of cooks in the kitchen – so let’s just try to keep it simple. (Rick Dudley spent time as general manager and coach, too … so seriously, it’s confusing.)

2002-03: 24-36-13-9 (70 pts.)
2003-04: 28-35-15-4 (75 pts.)
LOCKOUT
2005-06: 37-34-11 (85 pts.)

Keenan’s coaching record: 45-73-35
Rick Dudley’s coaching record: 13-15-12
John Torchetti’s coaching record: 10-12-5

The Jacques Martin Era: The Panthers eventually promoted Jacques Martin from coach (2005-06) to coach/general manager, allowing him to shop for and cook his own groceries – to paraphrase Bill Parcells. Martin’s recipe wasn’t so robust in Florida, though. Martin spent the 2008-09 season as GM while Peter DeBoer took over as coach.

2006-07: 35-31-16 (86 pts.)
2007-08: 38-35-9 (85 pts.)
2008-09: 41-30-11 (93 pts.)

Jacques Martin’s coaching record: 110-100-36

The Let’s Just Call it the Grab Bag Era: DeBoer saw three different general managers in his three seasons in Florida: Martin, Randy Sexton and Dale Tallon. If that doesn’t show you how much of a mess this franchise has been, I don’t know what will.

2009-10: 32-37-13 (77 pts.)
2010-11: 30-40-12 (72 pts.)

Peter DeBoer’s coaching record: 73-67-24

To Review

So, since the last time the 1999-2000 season ended, the Panthers have had: seven coaches, seven general managers (counting interim ones such as Chuck Fletcher) and three finishes in second place in their division. (Every other finish was in third place or worse.)  They’ve lost 40+ games twice and suffered through five more seasons with 35+ defeats. As much as the 10 failed seasons have been about losing and disappointment, they’ve also been clear evidence of the toxic effects of stability.

Then again, you could also argue that the Panthers gave the keys to two guys (Keenan and Martin) who didn’t really benefit from receiving a decent run of stability.

***

Like I mentioned, the Panthers didn’t exactly kick down the door to the playoffs, but it should be obvious that even this moderate achievement is huge for the clueless Cats. They haven’t won a playoff series since they were swept by the Colorado Avalanche in the 1996 Stanley Cup finals, however, so the big question is: how far are they from being a legitimate threat? Is this already the year?

* – Sabres fans get a partial pass for obvious short-term reasons.

PHT’s Three Stars: Vasilevskiy, Callahan lead Lightning in Game 5

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1st Star: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning

Vasilevskiy’s great play continued in Game 5 after a bit of a stumble to start the series. In making 28 saves, he helped the Lightning beat the Washington Capitals 3-2 to take a 3-2 series lead in the Eastern Conference Final. He’s now stopped 100 of the last 106 shots he’s faced. Tampa can clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Final with a win Monday night in Game 6 (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

2nd Star: Ryan Callahan, Tampa Bay Lightning

Callahan had his biggest game of the playofs with a goal and an assist in the Tampa win. He first assisted on Cedric Paquette‘s opening goal 19 seconds into the game and followed that up with an early tally himself in the second period. His goal, which would end up standing as the game-winner, came just 33 seconds into the middle period.

3rd Star: Dan Girardi, Tampa Bay Lightning

The blue liner logged 19:34 during Game 5 and blocked a game high four shots, including one in the final minute on Alex Ovechkin to help preserve the lead.

[Quick-striking Lightning on verge of Stanley Cup Final berth]

Highlight of the Night:

John Carlson might have nightmares about this save by Vasilevskiy with seconds to go:

Factoid of the Night:

Sunday’s schedule: Vegas Golden Knights at Winnipeg Jets, 3 p.m. ET, NBC, live stream (Vegas leads series 3-1)

MORE:
Conference Finals schedule, TV info
NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Quick-striking Lightning on verge of Stanley Cup Final berth

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You can’t spot a team a 3-0 lead and expect to win in the playoffs.

And while the Washington Capitals tried desperately to not fall victim to their own undoing earlier in the game, they simply ran out of time in a 3-2 loss on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Lightning now lead the best-of-7 series 3-2 as the series shifts back to D.C. for Game 6 on Monday. Tampa is 7-0 all-time in Washington in the playoffs and has now won three straight in the series after falling behind 0-2.

In the first period and into the second, the Capitals appeared to be the same old disappointing playoff team — they just delayed their arrival this season for an extra round.

[PHT’s Three Stars: Vasilevskiy, Callahan lead Lightning in Game 5]

This does look like vintage Capitals collapse, no?

Giving their opponents a 3-0 lead in just over 20 minutes, including allowing goals at 19 seconds of the first period (Cedric Paquette) and 33 seconds of the second period (Ryan Callahan), isn’t a winning formula.

Nor is your superstar getting exactly zero shots on goal for the first 58 minutes of the game.

Sure, Alex Ovechkin hit the bar earlier in the third period, and once he did get shooting, he found twine on his second shot of the game with 1:36 left and the net empty, but it was all too late in the end.

Tampa is now a team on the verge of a berth in the Stanley Cup Final and the Capitals on the brink of their yearly disappointing exit from the postseason.

A silver lining: Evgeny Kuznetsov keeps producing. But you’re not winning a conference final riding on the back of one player, as Washington is figuring out.

The urgency displayed in the third period from the Caps would be better used spread out over all three periods.

But perhaps most concerning for the Capitals is how Tampa found their stride 5-on-5.

They didn’t manage to win the puck possession battle (as per usual in this series) but they did have a nearly 3-to-1 edge on high-danger scoring chances for at 15-6.

All three of their goals came at 5-on-5 and they didn’t have to rely on their power play to get their offense rolling.

That will be interesting to watch in Game 6. Giving the Lightning a man-advantage was a death sentence. But if they’re scoring 5-on-5 as well, Washington is going to be in a world of hurt.

This isn’t helping either:

MORE:
Conference Finals schedule, TV info
NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

NHL Playoffs 2018: Conference Finals TV Schedule

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The conference finals are now set with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals meeting in the East and the Vegas Golden Knights and Winnipeg Jets facing off in the West. The round to determine who will play for the 2018 Stanley Cup will begin Friday.

Here’s the full Round 3 schedule:

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Washington Capitals (Lightning lead series 3-2)

Friday, May 11, 8pm: Capitals 4, Lightning 2
Sunday, May 13, 8pm: Capitals 6, Lightning 2
Tuesday, May 15, 8pm: Lightning 4, Capitals 2
Thursday, May 17, 8pm: Lightning 4, Capitals 2
Saturday, May 19, 7:15pm: Lightning 3, Capitals 2
Monday, May 21, 8pm: Lightning @ Capitals | NBCSN
*Wednesday, May 23, 8pm: Capitals @ Lightning | NBCSN

Vegas Golden Knights vs. Winnipeg Jets (Golden Knights lead series 3-1)

Saturday, May 12, 7pm: Jets 4, Golden Knights 2
Monday, May 14, 8pm: Golden Knights 3, Jets 1
Wednesday, May 16, 9pm: Golden Knights 4, Jets 2
Friday, May 18, 8pm: Golden Knights 3, Jets 2
Sunday, May 20, 3pm: Golden Knights @ Jets | NBC
*Tuesday, May 22, 9pm: Jets @ Golden Knights | NBCSN
*Thursday, May 24, 8pm: Golden Knights @ Jets | NBCSN

MORE:
PHT 2018 Conference Finals Roundtable
PHT predicts NHL’s Conference Finals
NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub

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Sean Leahy is a writer forPro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line atphtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Paquette sparks quick-start Lightning in Game 5

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It took the Tampa Bay Lightning all of 19 seconds to get themselves into Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Washington Capitals.

Yes, the Lightning scored on their first shot on goal as Cedric Paquette took advantage of a neutral-zone giveaway and then some questionable defending by the Capitals in response (and a nifty play by Ryan Callahan).

Tampa has been plagued by slow starts in this series, so getting a goal within the first thirty seconds of the game couldn’t have been scripted much better.

Ondrej Palat scored later in the period to give the Lightning a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.

Both of Tampa’s goals also came 5-on-5, which hasn’t exactly been their strong suit in the Eastern final.

Neither team has won at home in this series, but Tampa took two big steps in the right direction in Game 5.

• Stream here
Series preview
Capitals vs. Lightning: Three questions facing each team

Capitals’ Burakovsky will be Game 5 scratch
Lightning survive barrage to even series with Capitals
• Baseball team to wear Washington Capitals-inspired jerseys (Photos)
Capitals confident in ability to continue road advantage vs. Lightning
Lightning power play, Capitals penalty kill will make or break series

MORE:
Conference Finals schedule, TV info
NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck