With just eight games left in their season, the Florida Panthers officially have their backs against the wall. The team is now three points behind Pittsburgh for the second Wild Card spot and will go into Toronto tonight needing a win to avoid falling dangerously behind in the standings. Thankfully, the Penguins did lose in regulation to Detroit yesterday, so things have not gotten worse since their last loss.
After catching fire a few weeks ago, the Panthers have come back to Earth recently and are losers of four straight. Two of those losses were especially tough to take, as they fell to the Flyers and Senators. The team is a far cry from what they were last season, but newcomer Matt Tkachuk is certainly not to blame for that. The American forward has 97 points this year and would most likely be the MVP frontrunner if it wasn’t for Connor McDavid. Still, with suspect defensive play and goaltending, the Panthers are simply giving up too many goals right now to win the big games.
Now, they’ve got to go into Toronto and get a win against a team they’ve come up short against twice in two meetings this season. If they can get through it with a win, they’ve got a stretch of five games against non-playoff opponents after tonight that could be the difference between making and missing the postseason. In other words, they definitely still have a shot.
For the Leafs, tonight is all about keeping the momentum going and distancing themselves from the Tampa Bay Lightning. Now that they’ve clinched a spot in the playoffs but cannot catch the Bruins at the top of the division, a few more wins would likely give Toronto the opportunity to rest their stars if they wanted to. There won’t be any time to rest tonight, though, as the Panthers should be playing the game like it’s do or die from the opening faceoff. Tonight’s tilt should be a great one!
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