The business flight to Ft.Lauderdale and Tampa is a crowded affair with one goal in mind. This trip is not the usual focus of a spring break trip with a bunch of guys.This isn’t the end of the season, where the goal for the guys is to soak up a little sunshine, go and run the beach and flex the pectoral muscles looking for attention from the bikini clothed babes.No this trip is far from that escapade. The focus of this team at this time of the season is to move into a comfort zone in the western conference playoff run....and wins take care of that aspect very well. It is embedded into the minds of the coaches, the players and staff members.This is the time of year that has not been experienced by many on this team.The captain of this team can feel it by all the vibrations of scoreboard watching in the locker room.There is the constant talk about the game, the opposing teams with the constant pinnacle in mind, to climb the charts even higher in the Western conference race.
The CBJ have a great eastern conference record of 12-3-1 this year.The record against the SE Division is a perfect 4-0 at this point.The challenge will be to match the speed and aggressive nature of the Florida Panthers.Having watched them against the Leafs last night, they have a number one line of David Booth – Steven Weiss - Richard Zednik that can scoot and possess the uncanny skill of getting to the net with speed.Steven Weiss out of MarkhamOntario has the flair of a young man beaming with confidence. Last night he scored a shorthanded goal that rocked the crowd as he split the defense and then tucked a backhander under the crossbar.They proceeded to win 3-1, on its way to a season sweep of the Leafs.
It is going to be a little bit of a reunion for myself, as there are 2 other Dunnville Ontario natives within the Panther organization.Nathan Horton a former 1st round pick is currently out of the lineup with a tendon issue in one of his fingers.The head coach Peter DeBoer grew up in the Dunnville area (4,000) played some junior hockey for my brother Dan and then proceeded on to the junior ranks as a player, a successful coach in Plymouth and Kitchener of the OHL, and won a gold medal in the World Junior Championships in 2005 representing Canada.This is his first kick at the can as a Head Coach in the NHL….good for him as he has the Panthers running towards the post seson as well.They are a reflection of the CBJ’s in the Eastern Conference with 80 points, trying to secure a playoff bid for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.