Even at the age of 44, Jaromir Jagr is one of the key reasons why the Florida Panthers will be on home ice when their first round series against the New York Islanders starts tonight (8:00 p.m. ET, CNBC), but as much as they needed him in the regular season, they might be relying on him even more in the first round.
That’s partially because of Florida is expected to miss a key forward in Vincent Trocheck, but obviously his wealth of experience is also a factor. Barring a last minute setback, Jagr will take sole possession of 18th place on the all-time playoff games played list tonight, passing Brett Hull and Scott Niedermayer in the process. Jagr is also just three games shy of Martin Brodeur and six games away from Wayne Gretzky.
Jagr is in a position to also reach some major postseason marks if he’s offensively productive during the Panthers’ playoff run. In the near-term, he’s just a goal away from 10th place and Jean Beliveau on the all-time playoff goals list and his next point will make his the fifth player to ever record at least 200 career postseason points.
It’s hard not to contrast those accomplishments against the Panthers franchise he now plays for, which has only advanced beyond the first round once and that was back in 1996. Still, the Panthers have been trending in the right direction in recent years with their blend of an exciting young core and veterans like Jagr, Jussi Jokinen, and goalie Roberto Luongo.
That mix might be able to get them past the New York Islanders and beyond.