A DISASTROUS month of february pushes the florida panthers out of a playoff spot by a wide margin
This month went so far down south for the Florida Panthers. With zero home wins and only winning five games throughout the month, this slump put them in a very bad spot, five points out of the third spot for the Atlantic and five points out of the final wild card spot.
So where do we start with this dumpster fire?
defense? earth to defense?
This is starting to turn into a broken record at this point.
Once again, the defense has been lackluster and continues to hurt this team throughout the season due to costly turnovers, lack of physicality, failing to clear both the zone and the crease, and bad positioning.
Anton Stralman, one of the newest acquired defenseman for Florida, currently hones a -5 rating. His partner, Riley Stillman, has a -3 rating. This is unacceptable, and this could hurt Stillman’s confidence since he’s still a rookie. Although he has a +1 rating, Josh Brown has been scratched on most nights. He has a great physical presence, but he needs to be better defensively.
Keith Yandle continues to be a liability on most nights with costly turnovers, stretch passes that miss the mark and pinching up on a play that results in an odd man rush or a man left alone in front of the net. His rating is +1.
The only bright spot that’s been noticeable on this team is Aaron Ekblad. He currently has the highest rating on the team with +7 and it finally seems like he’s coming to form. He’s made a few mistakes but he’s way better than he was last season, and that’s a drastic improvement.
The team currently has allowed the third most goals in the NHL this season. In addition, the Cats average 3.33 goals allowed per game, which is also the third most in the league. Yikes.
where’s the top line?
Now it is unquestionable that this line can score, no one can deny that. But it seems like they disappeared this month, especially in their big game against Toronto, which they lost 5-3.
The captain, Aleksander Barkov, only had nine points the entire month of February, which is about 13 games. In the course of his last five games, he’s only notched two points. The captain seems like he’s in a slump.
His linemate, Jonathan Huberdeau, was actually decent in the month of February with 12 points over the course of the entire month. However, he has only one point over his last five games. For the All-Star this year, this is extremely worrying.
Evgenii Dadonov was not that good either. Despite being shuffled around in multiple lines, he only has two points in five games and five points in the entire month of February. Not a good look for an upcoming UFA.
This is supposed to be the line that Joel Quenneville goes to when the team needs to score. They haven’t looked good recently.
However, not all of the forwards on the team have looked bad
“Hoff” the chain!
Mike Hoffman has been lighting the lamp almost every night since the deadline passed. He has eight points in his last five games and 16 points over the course of February. He should be slotted onto the top line soon and he should be expecting a big payday come June.
Hoffman is set to become an UFA for the first time in his career by the end of the season, Florida has to be willing to open the checkbook if they want him to stay.
Goaltending needs tending to
Now I agree that most of the goals scored are due to a lack of defense. But, that does not mean their stats aren’t affected.
Sergei Bobrovsky has actually played well as of recent, but because of the early parts of his month of February, his stats have dropped to a .900 save percentage and raised him to a 3.23 goals against average. Not a good look for someone getting paid $10 Million a year.
Sam Montembeault started in four games in February but played in six in relief of Bob. Over the course of those four starts, he only won one game. His stats has suffered too, he currently has a .890 save percentage and a 3.34 goals against average. The worst part about that: he’s only played 14 games the entire season. Not good.
However, good news is that Chris Dreidger is close to returning as he just came back from his conditioning stint in Springfield.
The power play is currently 8th in the league for Florida with 21.7 success rate. The man advantage seems to be coming back to life for this squad, but being too fancy or one too many passes seems to kill their momentum.
The kill continues to be a problem for this team. It is currently 21st in the league with 78%. This can be in part due to the teams defense, but it also tells that the team needs to be more disciplined.
Trocheck checks out
It’s hard to lose players you fell in love with in this league, but ultimately, the NHL is still a business. Vincent Trocheck was dealt out of Sunrise over the deadline in exchange for Erik Haula, Lucas Wallmark, and two prospects. Trocheck has not been the same player since his injury, but I feel this team is going to miss his leadership and his grit.
Haula and Wallmark already have their first points as Panthers and they are great in the circle, but the impact is not immediate. They should be doing so soon as I expect them to get better near the end of the season.
The shocking part is that general manager Dale Tallon did not acquire any veteran defenseman over the deadline, despite expressing interest in doing so and even offering other players in the process.
It seems like all hope has faded with this organization. The team can still mathematically get back into a spot but it’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of help across the league. It seems that the team will miss the postseason for the fourth straight season.
But hey, crazier things have happened in this league.
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