McDonald: Luongo and Jagr Are Leading Florida Back Into The Race

Jiggs McDonald came out of retirement to call one last game last night at the Barclays Center, and he got the pleasure to call a couple of future residents of the Hall of Fame.

Unfortunately, they were not on the Islanders side, because it’s far too early to know if John Tavares will be enshrined in Toronto, but it’s a very safe bet both Jaromir Jagr and Roberto Luongo will have their names called one day.

Jagr, of course, just keeps rolling along at the tender age of 45. Although he didn’t show up in the scoresheet last night, No. 68 was front and center on the Florida top line.

But the star of the night was of course Luongo, who stopped 29 shots in the Panthers 2-1 win in Brooklyn.

It’s a big change for the Panthers, who were eliminated last season by the Islanders in the first round of the playoffs.

“Last year is last year,” Panthers general manager and coach Tom Rowe said. “We’re really trying to get into a playoff position. … I don’t think there was a whole lot given about being knocked out last year the way we were knocked out. It’s a regular-season game, we had to get the two points.”

The Panthers are in the middle of the payoff race, there’s still plenty of time for them. Fourth place in the Atlantic they have the same number of points as third place Ottawa Senators.

So they are in it and if they are going to play into May, it will be on the backs of Jagr and Luongo.

“(Jagr) and Luongo are incredible,” Rowe said. “Coaching is not an easy job, but having two guys like that which our players can look up to and our coaches can talk to and get their feedback is invaluable.”

Sadly for the Islanders, every game they see Luongo in the crease is a reminder of what could have been. Instead of starring on Long Island, he was traded by then general manager Mike Milbury in favor of drafting Rick DiPietro, leaving Dany Heatley out there on the board.

We all know how that ended up. DiPietro is now known as Humpty and a radio personality, while Luongo is beating his former team and running up the list.

On Monday, he passed Terry Sawchuk for fifth place all time in wins with 448. And he keeps it going two days later with another stellar victory.

It’s what will drive the Panthers as they play through this winter into the spring.

“Right now, I want to get some wins; our goal is to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, so that’s what my focus is on 100 percent,” said Luongo on Monday in New Jersey. “The other things will take care of itself and we’ll reflect on them once all is said and done. But I think as a group we have one goal in mind and that’s to play good every night and keep collecting some points and get back into this thing.”

Will a few more performances like this, the Panthers just might.   

About the Author

Joe McDonald

Joe McDonald is the founder and former publisher of NY Sports Day. After selling to i15Media in 2020, he serves as the Editor-in-Chief and responsible for the editorial side of the publication. In the past, Joe was the managing editor of NY Sportscene magazine and assistant editor of Mets Inside Pitch. He has covered the Mets since 2004.

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