After two dominating victories, is this the turning point for the florida panthers this season?
The Panthers in their last two games look liked Stanley Cup champions. 13 goals over two games against two elite teams this season, Vancouver on Thursday night and Toronto on Sunday night. With the Cats now currently in the second wild card spot and only one point behind Toronto for third in the Atlantic Division, is this where the train towards to post season pushed forward? Well there’s a lot of reasons to be hopeful.
On Sunday, Jonathan Huberdeau became the franchise leader in points with 420, passing Olli Jokinen. The best part about it, he’s only 26 years old. He still has so much time and he can be a household name someday like Crosby or Ovechkin.
Furthermore, Huberdeau this season has been on an absolute tear, as he leads the team in points with 59 through 44 games played. In addition, he has amassed a whopping 24 points over his last 13 games. Seeing all this, its almost a no-brainer to select him to an All-Star game.
For the Panthers to make a push towards the postseason, this man has to be one of the players that lead the charge.
Ever since he was bumped up to the second line with Vincent Trocheck, Noel Acciari has turned into a new player. Over his last 13 games, he has scored 12 goals after only lighting the lamp five times in his first 28 games. He currently has 17 on the year, which is more goals than Aleksander Barkov has this season (14). His newfound goal scoring ability should be leading the charge towards the playoffs, especially considering his experience in them.
the top line continues to produce
The top line of Huberdeau, Barkov, and Evgenii Dadonov is going to be an important factor in their push for the post season. In their last five games, this line has combined for 14 points. Throughout this season, this line has combined for 41 goals, 136 points and a +18 rating. Very impressive as this top line has shown it has that dangerous goal scoring ability.
As of right now, Dadonov is leading in goals with 19. Excellent work considering he’s going to need to be resigned by the end of the season.
Don’t Hassle the “hoff” Man!
Mike Hoffman has been finding the back of the net as of late. In his last 10 games, Hoffman has 6 goals and 11 points. In addition, he’s currently on two streaks, a four game goal streak and a six game point streak. Among the team, he is fourth in points with 35 and tied for second in goals with Huberdeau with 18. Very impressive for the forward, as he needs to keep finding the back of the net for a big post season push.
With all these great stats, this team should be hitting a new high and should easily find their way into playoff territory. However, there are some things that need to be worked on and might be holding this team back.
The Penalty kill looks like it was killed.
The penalty kill for the Cats has not been up to par. In the NHL, they are 22nd in the league for the overall PK at 78.8%. In their game against Arizona on Tuesday, the team went 0 for 2 on their kill. If this team wants to turn the corner towards the post season, they need to improve their penalty kill game.
Now as of late its been better, in their last 2 games, they’re 6 for 6. This upward swing needs to continue.
Injuries are somewhat hurting this team but it is nothing too severe. Sergei Bobrovsky left a morning practice a little soon earlier this week with an undisclosed injury and sat out for the game against Toronto Sunday. Joel Quenneville described it as “nothing too serious” and should be back in time for their game Thursday against the Kings.
Mackenzie Weegar missed his ninth straight game on Sunday due to an upper body injury. According to Q, he won’t be back until after the All-Star Break. That is a lot of time, so they’re going to have to hold on without him for the time being.
The team as of right now does not play until Thursday, which could be a huge problem because of the teams they’re chasing and the teams trailing them as it gives them time to make up some ground.
The Flyers, who are one point behind the Cats for the last wild card spot, play tonight against Boston and Wednesday night against St. Louis. A win tonight would leapfrog them into that spot. The Maple Leafs, who are one point ahead of Florida for third in the Atlantic Division, play Tuesday against the Devils and Thursday against the Canadiens.
Everyone wants to talk about games in hand for Florida, but they don’t mean anything if they don’t win them and if the gap is too far.
the push begins now
For the Panthers to make the post season, this hard push appears to have started now. A good winning streak should give enough space for the Cats to climb up the standings. If this team remains consistent and continues to cause havoc for top teams, this team should easily find themselves in the playoffs by the end of the season.
Thanks for reading this article! You can follow along with Panther Parkway @pantherparkway on Twitter! You can also follow our writers: @FrankRekas, @Josh_LOPanthers, @JacobWinans8, @prudentia0, @Mister_Joester! Make sure to follow and listen to our podcast @LOPanthersPod All images unless otherwise noted are courtesy of @KimSmithImages