Like the hero in Princess Bride, the Florida Panthers' playoffs hopes are only mostly dead. There is a very big difference between mostly dead and all dead -- mostly dead, as you know, is slightly alive. How slight? Sports Club Stats has done the math and puts the Panthers' chances at a whopping...15%.
But for the Panthers, there is no Billy Crystal in a wig bearing a magic pill to resuscitate them after Tuesday's crushing loss to the Flyers. They trail the New York Rangers by two points for the final spot in the Eastern Conference and must seize three of the remaining four points available to advance.
There's just a few scenarios that would see them through, and all depend on the Panthers winning out against the Thrashers tonight and Capitals on Saturday, and either the Rangers or Canadiens losing their next two games.
Stranger things have happened, we suppose. Here is what has to happen for the Panthers to stay alive:
- Panthers win both remaining games and the Rangers lose both, either in regulation or overtime.
- Panthers win both remaining games and the Canadiens lose both remaining games.
- Panthers win tonight, lose the next game in overtime, and the Rangers lose both remaining games.
- A meteor strikes New York City and the entire Rangers team is injured and unable to play. Canada breaks out in civil war and Montreal must forfeit as its players head off to the front. The Panthers then beat the Thrashers tonight and deliberately food-poison the Capitals on Saturday and then defeat them. Hooray! Panthers to the playoffs! (Hey, it could happen!)
In simplest terms, the Cats will be eliminated with a loss tonight, and the Canadiens and Rangers secure playoff spots with a win.
''I'm not a statistician or a mathematician,'' coach Pete DeBoer said after Tuesday's game. "I know we have to win our next two games. I still think we have a chance. I told the guys that. If we win our next two, I think we're going to get in.'' (What he really said, upon being told his chances were like one in a million: "So...you're telling me there's a chance." Not a mathematician at all, Coach DeBoer.)
The Panthers, who don't have a choice, really, continue to prepare for tonight's game after a day off yesterday. And fans grudgingly give up hope that they'll reach the playoffs, as they have every year since 2000.