Home Panthers Take Commanding Lead in Wild East Wild-Card Race

Panthers Take Commanding Lead in Wild East Wild-Card Race

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Alex Lyon has some serious goaltending skills. He holds a whole bunch of records at Yale and last year he won an AHL Championship for the Chicago Wolves with a shutout. During one game he had an unbelievable rock-star performance, stopping 94 out of 95 shots to win in five overtimes! Just this past week he might have saved the Florida Panthers’ season.

The Panthers are playing the soundtrack to The Lion King in their locker room after wins, as a nod to goaltender Chris Lyon who has earned four successive victories in Sergei Bobrovsky’s absence due to illness. Tuesday was one of these wins when the team won 2-1 over Buffalo and soared to the top of the Eastern Conference wildcard standings. Lyon stated that it felt like a playoff game.

The Florida team, who were once out of the playoffs, have now successfully won four games in a row. This is especially impressive, since they had the best regular season record last year!

The Panthers have the most points in the East so they get the first wild-card spot. The New York Islanders also have 87 points, but they come in second on a tiebreaker. Unfortunately, the Penguins have been left outside because their loss to New Jersey dropped them down to 86 points.

Florida, the Islanders and Pittsburgh each have four games left that they need to win in order to qualify for the playoffs. Other teams still have a chance of making it too, but they need lots of luck. Last week, things didn’t look very good for Florida when they lost four games in a row. Luckily, since then they’ve won four games in a row so their coach Paul Maurice isn’t too worried yet.

Maurice said, “It’s like we’re racing each other and we don’t have any lead. All of us are just running full speed towards the finish line and it looks like it’ll stay that way until the end.”

Florida’s hockey team is going to play four games this week and next: two at home, two on the road. The first is against Ottawa on Thursday, then Saturday against Washington, then Toronto on Monday and on April 13, Carolina will be their last opponent. Ottawa still has a chance to win because even though Washington has been knocked out of contention, Toronto and Carolina could still change where they rank in the playoffs.

The Islanders have four games left before the end of the season: They’ll play Tampa Bay on Thursday at home, Philadelphia the following day also home, then travel to Washington for Monday’s game. Then they get to finish April off at home against Montreal. It’s not a difficult schedule since Tampa Bay has already secured its spot in Round 1 and none of the other teams need extra motivation as everyone else will be taking breaks soon.

Pittsburgh will also host Minnesota on Thursday, go to Detroit for Saturday’s game, welcome Chicago on April 11th, then visit Columbus on April 13th. All these opponents should make it an easy journey for them until their last match-up.

“We have some important games coming up,” Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby said.

The Panthers and Islanders both need to win all of their remaining 4 games so that the Penguins won’t be able to catch them. However, if either of these teams lose a game then this would give the Penguins a better chance at beating them.

It’s going to be a very busy time in the Eastern side. And, even though Florida didn’t have much luck earlier this season, they now have another shot at it thanks mostly to a goalie who was only able to get seven victories during his first five NHL seasons and just three wins this season for the Panthers before these last four games.

When talking about it, Lyon said that you should keep an even keel no matter what: “You can’t let yourself get too excited or too disappointed – just keep moving forward!”

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