VanMurph's View: Bouncing Back
Monday, 03.2.2009 / 10:03 AM ET / Blogs
|Murphy and Vanessa Burch|
Murphy, an airline pilot originally from North Carolina, is better known as vanmurph on the Panthers message boards and he, along with his wife Vanessa are two of the most vociferous fans at the BankAtlantic Center.
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Well, after the Panthers finished the toughest home stand this season with a record of 3-2, they embarked on arguably the toughest road trip in several seasons. Having run into buzz saws in Boston and New Jersey, our guys rebounded nicely and are 2-2 on the road trip. So, how’re you feelin’?
Here’s my take on it: We are in a terrific position for a run at the playoffs. We’re relatively healthy, we’re confident, we’re playing with pride, and we have games-in-hand on our closest competitors. Blowouts like the ones in Boston and New Jersey happen fairly regularly around the league. Earlier in the year, for example, the Sharks lost to Detroit 6-0, the Islanders beat the Devils 4-0, and the Predators just recently pasted the Red Wings 8-0. The key to erasing a defeat like that from your memory is to go out and win your next game, which the Panthers did, TWICE. Bolstered by Craig Anderson’s solid play in the net, the Panthers came away from Madison Square Garden with two invaluable points. And then, licking their wounds from a 7-2 rout at the hands of the Devils in the Prudential Center, the Panthers boarded a train and headed to Washington for a date with the Capitals, who have the best home record in the Eastern Conference. Again, behind Andy’s solid goaltending, a strong defense, and believe it or not, an effective power play, the Panthers controlled the game from nearly every single angle. For me, the most satisfying aspect, and the one that makes me the happiest, is the fact that even though we got into a 1-0 hole less than 2 minutes into the game, we fought back with 6 unanswered goals. Our guys never got out of rhythm and they continued to attack and force turnovers. It was a statement win, just like so many others the Panthers have had in the last few months. Contributions to the victory came from both sides of the puck, and the scoring was once again spread around. Watching the Panthers play so well less than 24 hours after a bruising defeat made me feel proud, and it gave me a measure of confidence heading forward.
One last thing about the game against the Capitals; I noticed that the home crowd in DC turned on their team pretty quickly. I found it amusing that a group of bandwagoners, who’ve witnessed some very good hockey this season, could be so virulent towards their boys after seeing just one poor period. As the division-leading Caps headed to the locker room down 4-1 after 20 minutes, the fans up there actually booed them… I found that odd, because when I see their full arena now, I just sit and wonder where all of those “fans” were when the Caps were mired in last place 15 months ago. I was up there watching our Panthers beat them in an 11-round shootout, and the place was practically a ghost town. Well, they may have forgotten how empty their arena was, but I haven’t, and I think it’s funny. This photo was taken on 11-28-07. Oh how quickly they forget…
A couple of things are on everyone’s mind: The trade deadline possibilities surrounding Jay Bouwmeester and the situation with Nick Boynton. I’ve received a lot of email in the last few days from folks asking my opinion about these two things, and wanting to know if I’m privy to any inside information about either of the stories. The answer to the second part is unequivocally no. I don’t have any inside scoop on anything that pertains to the personnel on the team. I receive my news from the same places most of you do: The local newspapers and the Panthers’ website. George Richards and Steve Gorten do a fantastic job of covering the club, and I read their articles and blogs every day. Dave Joseph and the writing staff at floridapanthers.com also cover the Panthers very thoroughly, and they provide a lot of terrific insight and interviews.
Now as far as my opinion goes, I generally keep it to myself on matters that would mostly involve conjecture. If there aren’t enough facts to support a conclusion, then I am usually mum on a subject. As far as the Bouwmeester and Boynton situations are concerned, I’ll give you my basic opinion. I don’t think J-Bo wants to be here. The reason I say that is because reportedly a huge contract has been on the table since the season began, and he hasn’t signed it. Now I hope I’m wrong, and I hope he signs here for at least another season, but if I was a betting man, I’d say he’s either dealt at the deadline or he leaves immediately after the season. With regard to Nick Boynton, I don’t have the slightest idea what happened that caused Coach DeBoer to send him back to South Florida in the midst of the most important road trip in a decade. But I know this for a fact; I trust Peter DeBoer implicitly, and I trust his judgment on ALL things having to do with this team. As you may recall from reading some of my earlier blog entries, I am a big fan of Nick Boynton. I think the guy is gritty and tough as nails, and I especially like the way he drops the gloves in defense of his teammates. But, I’ll reiterate that I trust Coach DeBoer’s judgment without reservation.
The following are just a couple things I wanted to mention.
The last home game against Boston was reported as a near sellout, and in fact, standing-room-only tickets were being sold. But it was plainly evident once the game started that there were thousands of empty seats in the arena. So what that says to me is that people who bought tickets aren’t showing up for the games. Some of the emptiest sections contained some of the best seats in the house, so I’m assuming that a good percentage of those seats belong to sponsors or corporations. Now I’m glad they bought tickets, but I would have to imagine they got a discount on them and from a revenue perspective, a good portion of that discount was likely expected to be recouped on concessions or in other areas from the people who are supposed to occupy those seats. Not to mention the emotional lift that would be provided to our players as the lights came up and revealed a lesser degree of green in the crowd (the color of the empty seats).
As a regular guy who sits in his seats every single night, it’s unfathomable to me that you could have seats for a Panthers game and NOT SHOW UP. Quite frankly, it’s embarrassing when the puck drops and the arena isn’t even close to being full. Our team is in 6th place in the conference and they’re playing exciting hockey. If you have tickets, please show up. If you own a company and have lots of tickets and employees who want to come to the games, give them the tickets! There are only 11 home games left, and a little over a month remaining in the regular season. Let’s see if we can’t garner full support for our guys as they push toward the postseason. If you have bonus tickets left, corral your friends and drag them out to the BankAtlantic Center with you!
OK, some of you who regularly attend the games at the BankAtlantic Center may have noticed that there have been a few rats thrown onto the ice after victories this season. Well, shortly before the start of the 2007-2008 season, a group of us on one of the Panthers message boards decided to try to revive a tradition that is unique to Florida Panthers hockey. We wanted to bring the rats back in some form or another to reconnect with a very memorable part of the team’s history. Since throwing objects onto the playing surface during the game would result in a penalty, we came to the conclusion that if we wanted to rekindle the custom, we’d have to do it at a time when there would be no chance for the Panthers to be penalized by the referees for delay of game. And what we came up with was to do it AFTER victories. No prior coordination is needed, just a keen eye on the scoreboard and an ability to recognize 0:00 on the clock. Easy enough, right?
After the first few wins of last season (including a few road games), and several throughout this season, Vanessa and I tossed our rats onto the ice. We ran out of rats sometime in November, and until recently we hadn’t bought any more. But some of us strongly feel that reconnecting with our past is a good thing, and we’ve put in motion a plan to bring back the rats! The Panthers are playing their best hockey this century, and one way to show your appreciation in a visible manner is to join thousands of other people and toss a rat or two onto the ice after our guys win. I’ve contacted the organization about it, and so long as people understand that it’s to be done AFTER victories, the front office welcomes the idea with open arms. So, why don’t you bring a few plastic rats with you the next time you come to the BankAtlantic Center for a Panthers game? The season is coming to a close, so what better time to revive the tradition than on a stretch run and into the playoffs?
I mentioned a little earlier that there are only 11 home games remaining in the regular season. Now I don’t know about you, but to me, that would normally be a very sad realization. One of my favorite things about being a Season Seat Owner for the Panthers is getting to open my ticket booklet for the first time when the packet arrives in September. I love how the booklet feels, and I love flipping through the tickets just knowing that they are going to be my means of entering the building for 41 Panthers games! As the season progresses, however, and the booklet gets thinner, the thoughts of the off-season and the many months without hockey usually start to creep into my mind. Just the other night when I tore out the tickets for the game against the Bruins, it was the first time I actually thought about how close we are to the end of the regular season. Only now, I’m not really sad about the regular season ending. Rather, I’m looking forward to playoff hockey in Our House! I think we’re in for a very exciting few weeks ahead, and I can hardly wait to pull that last ticket out of the booklet on April 11th!
Ok, one last thing before I close this entry. Just for fun, I’m going to share a Florida Panthers stat with you that I’m certain none of you will have known until I tell you. If you’ve been to the BankAtlantic Center for any of the Panthers’ last 10 home games, you may have picked up a copy of the Growl Program on your way into the building… Well, on the cover of that program (beginning with the game against Dallas) was a guy with a rather large pie hole and a cowbell. Ok, here’s the stat; as luck would have it, the Panthers’ record during those 10 games was 7-3! Why is that a stat with which only I would have kept up? Well, the guy on the cover of the program was yours truly. I didn’t want to jinx the record, but I think the game against Boston was the last one for which I’ll be on the cover, so it’s ok now to bring it up… Did I mention the record was 7-3? Ok, just wanted to make sure.
Thank you for stopping by the blog. I hope you’ve enjoyed this entry.
If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, or if you just want to say Hi, I can be reached at: VanMurph@hotmail.com
Thank you to everyone who emailed me after the last blog entry. It was a pleasure to correspond with each of you.