HomeNHLThe Florida Panthers Picked a Good Time to Get Hot
The Florida Panthers Picked a Good Time to Get Hot
May 14, 2021
In the event you’re a diehard Florida Panthers fan, it’s a must to put up with a bunch of flack headed your method always.
Limitless jokes about fan attendance. A long time of mediocrity. A glimmer of hope, solely to have that ripped away from you. Since shedding to the Colorado Avalanche within the 1996 Stanley Cup ultimate – the group’s third season within the league – the Panthers haven’t received a single playoff collection, solely making the post-season 4 occasions when you do not rely the qualifying spherical final yr.
However this yr, it is completely different. It feels just like the Panthers are on to one thing. The Panthers enter the playoffs in second place within the Central Division, proving to be the next seed than the defending Stanley Cup champions from Tampa Bay. The Lightning might have the expertise of a championship-winning run, however because it stands, the Panthers even have the sting within the standings – and, by definition, coming off of the higher season.
There’s by no means a foul time to go on a sizzling run, however there won’t be a greater time to realize momentum than heading into the playoffs, proper? The Panthers enter the post-season with a six-game profitable streak and a 10-2-1 run over the previous 13 video games up to now month, main the league in goals-for-per-game at 4.08 – making them the one group to interrupt the 4.0 barrier.
Florida has been a midpack group when it comes to goals-against per-game in that regard, however the group additionally used three goalies and dressed two others in that span, so there was a little bit of inconsistency as to who precisely was within the crease on any given night time.
Talking of goaltending, regardless of who has gone within the crease, they’ve discovered some type of success for a lot of the yr. Chris Driedger was the higher goalie all through the primary half of the season however Sergei Bobrovsky has bounced again in a giant method after embarrassing himself on a constant foundation final yr. Bobrovsky’s goals-saved-above-average continues to be a minus on the season and even when you’re simply the previous month, however he has confirmed able to preserving the Panthers in once they want him too.
Nonetheless, Driedger is a high 10 goaltender in most vital stat classes and deserves some motion. Bobrovsky must be the No. 1 man heading into the playoffs – you may’t overlook simply how good he was when the Blue Jackets swept Tampa in 2018-19 regardless of having a playoff profession common save proportion of .902 – however how quick will his leash be? The constructive is that the Panthers have two good choices to return to in Driedger and rookie Spencer Knight if wanted.
The Panthers have an actual middle-of-the-pack blueline, however Mackenzie Weegar has been such an essential piece of this group in Aaron Ekblad’s absence. Ekblad did plenty of the heavy lifting for this group this season – the pair of him and Weegar have been among the many greatest in anticipated objectives proportion this yr amongst all defensive pairings – however he is not anticipated again at any level within the playoffs so that does not matter a complete lot. Tampa has a transparent benefit right here with names like Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh, however the Panthers aren’t close to the underside in high-danger scoring probabilities in opposition to, in order that’s a constructive.
Up entrance, the addition of Sam Bennett has proved to be fruitful. Bennett had simply 12 factors in 38 video games with the Calgary Flames previous to the commerce in April, however with 15 factors in 10 video games with Florida, he has slot in completely on the group’s second line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Owen Tippett. Huberdeau has 19 factors in his previous 13 video games and Aleksander Barkov has 13 factors in his previous 10. Weegar’s sizzling season has gotten even hotter with 11 factors in his previous eight video games and even Gustav Forsling has added a pleasant scoring punch on the blueline with 5 factors in his previous 4 outings. Throw in Carter Verhaeghe, among the best worth signings in fairly a while, and the Panthers have a bunch that may do some severe injury and maintain their very own in opposition to a high-octane Lightning squad.
With Joel Quenneville main the ship in one in every of his most spectacular teaching ventures but, the Panthers have lastly lived as much as the expectations specialists have been projecting for a couple of years now. However going through off in opposition to a group like Tampa Bay might be a problem, even when the Panthers had a greater file in opposition to them at 6-2-0 this yr.
The Lightning may have Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos again at their disposal, the group’s high two scorers within the three seasons previous 2021. Stamkos hasn’t performed since April 8 and Kucherov hasn’t seen any recreation motion since hoisting the title final fall, so it would take them a couple of video games to get absolutely up to the mark. That is very Florida will actually need to make the most of the collection and pressure the Lightning to chase.
The Panthers is perhaps one of many solely higher-seeded groups to be thought of an underdog, however few groups have been pretty much as good because the Panthers as of late. That is an excellent factor heading into crucial time of the yr.