2012 NHL Playoffs: What a Playoff Win Means for the Florida Panthers

Brandon ShawContributor IIApril 16, 2012

SUNRISE, FL - APRIL 15: Victory Rats litter the ice as the Florida Panthers salute their fans by raising their sticks at center ice after defeating the New Jersey Devils in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the BankAtlantic Center on April 15, 2012  in Sunrise, Florida. The Panthers defeated the Devils 4-2. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Not many understand how long it's been since the Florida Panthers have won a playoff game.

April 17, 1997 is the exact date.

Since then, the Florida (Miami) Marlins won two World Series Championships, the University of Miami Hurricanes won a National Title and the Miami Heat won the NBA Championship in 2006.

Quite frankly, the Florida Panthers have been the laughing stock of the NHL. How could a team go so long without a win in a system that allows over half of the teams in the league to make the playoffs?

Here we are almost 15 years to the date, and the Florida Panthers have won a playoff game. The series between the Devils and Panthers are now tied 1-1, but this win means a bit more to Panthers fans than you think.

Back in 1996, many remember the "Year of the Rat," with a team that included Brian Skrudland, Scott Mellanby, Rob Niedermayer, and fan-favorite John Vanbiesbrouck. Even after getting swept in the Stanley Cup Finals by the Colorado Avalanche that year, Panthers fans were beyond proud of what they accomplished.

Florida isn't just a place filled with beaches and sand with no access to a hockey rink. There are many youth hockey leagues that participate equally with many northern youth programs.

GM Dale Tallon has done a tremendous job in turning this organization around.

Coach Kevin Dineen did a fantastic job in just his first year of coaching the club while finding away to manage many newcomers to the Panthers such as Kris Versteeg, Tomas Fleischmann, Brian Campbell and Jose Theodore and achieve what they set out to do from the beginning—win.

The Florida Panthers' 4-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils may seem like a typical playoff win. It tied the series as the two teams travel back to New Jersey for Game 3.

For Panthers fans, this was 15 years in the making.

After showering the Bank Atlantic Center with toy rats following their win last night, it's evident that playoff fever is back in South Florida.