It’s been 1,449 days since the Florida Panthers were last in the playoffs.
On April 26, 2012 the New Jersey Devils won game seven in double overtime over the hosting Panthers in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Florida returns to the postseason after a record season, 103 points, featuring a 12-game winning streak and resurgent seasons from 44-year-old Jaromir Jagr and 37-year-old Roberto Luongo.
The No. 1 seed in the Atlantic Division, Florida, will start the first round at home Thursday and Friday as the New York Islanders sneak into the playoffs as the first wild card team.
The BB&T Center in Sunrise, FL has seen its darkest days where only hundreds of fans would come and support their lowly Panthers, but Thursday and Friday night it should be rocking, to cheer on the team with the fifth most points in the NHL.
Roberto Luongo, in his seventh postseason but first with the Panthers, spoke about the atmosphere for the series opener.
— George Richards (@GeorgeRichards) April 14, 2016
Two playoff droughts are on the line, as the Panthers haven’t won a postseason series in 20 years, when they went to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1996, but the Islanders hold the longest time without a series win, 23 years.
One streak will be snapped, and if the regular season has anything to say about it, the Panthers won two of three matchups, one in a shootout.
The New York Islanders, led by 33-goal scorer John Tavares, are in the playoffs for the third time in four seasons. They are battling injuries and will have to start the series without top defenseman Travis Hamonic and without top goaltender Jaroslav Halak.
Some interesting storylines include the fact that Florida starting goalie Roberto Luongo was picked by the Islanders in the first round (No. 4) of the 1997 NHL Draft and played 24 games with them in 1999-2000 before being traded to the Panthers. And the last time the Islanders won a playoff round, they did so against Jagr and the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1993.
Everything is set for a fun couple weeks of action and an exciting Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Puck drop from Sunrise, FL is at 8 p.m. on Thursday and 7:30 p.m. on Friday.