Connect with us

Florida Panthers

Cat, Fancy: Florida Panthers Rolling into the Second Half of Season

Published

on

Florida panthers
The Florida Panthers celebrate a 2-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 17, 2023. The Panthers go into the second half of this season a point back of Boston for first place in the Atlantic Division. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers have taken 2024 by storm as they rolled past the midseason mark on a nine-game winning streak following Thursday’s electrifying 3-2 overtime win against the Los Angeles Kings in No. 41 of their campaign.

With the Panthers bringing such tidings of good cheer, it is an excellent time to look back at where they were a year ago — and how much better things are these days.

This year’s edition of the Florida Panthers looks like an absolute lock for a playoff spot. 

After Thursday’s action, Florida is fourth in the NHL in winning percentage and second in the Eastern Conference behind Boston.

This time last year? 

Talk of Florida being in the postseason seemed like a dumb conversation to have.

The Most Trusted Source of Florida Panthers Coverage, Anywhere

Subscribe to Florida Hockey Now!

Despite early season injuries and a host of personnel changes, these Panthers are on a 112-point pace — far ahead of last season’s final tally of 92 points and a last-minute playoff berth. 

On Tuesday, the Panthers won in St. Louis for their eighth-straight victory. Eight of the 20 who dressed were new to the team.

That number was higher in the opening two months when Aaron Ekblad, Brandon Montour, and Sam Bennett were injured.

Last season’s run to the Stanley Cup Final was nothing short of breathtaking. 

It is easy to overlook that the Panthers slipped into a playoff spot during the last week of the season.

They were the beneficiaries of a perfect storm of events, some of which they helped dictate.

Only, had Pittsburgh not been shocked by Chicago in its penultimate game and had the Panthers not stolen four points on the late game and overtime heroics against Toronto and Boston, last season’s history would be a lot different.

No one wants to again depend on a late-season hot streak and a third-string goalie (hey, Alex Lyon!) to get the Panthers into the playoffs.

Based on Florida’s first-half performance, it probably will not have to.

Get FHN+ today!

After 41 games last season, the Panthers were 18-19-4 (.488 point percentage), fifth in the Atlantic Division and nine points out of a Wild Card playoff position — with two teams between them and the final spot in the Eastern Conference.  

The goal differential was minus-8.

Seriously.

After 41 games in this one, Florida is a robust 27-12-2 (.683) and just a point behind Boston in the Atlantic Division — and conference — standings. 

The Panthers’ goal-differential is plus-29.

Seriously.

According to MoneyPuck.com, the Panthers have a 99.4 percent chance of making the playoffs this year.

Before this win streak, things did not look great, as Florida lost four of five.

Whatever was going on then is not going on now, with the Panthers dominating their opponents over the past nine games by outscoring them 39-17.

The most significant individual change from last season belongs to Sam Reinhart, who, with 30 goals and 52 points, is having a career-year (and contract-year) pace. 

Last season, after 41 games, he had 12 goals and 26 points. 

Matthew Tkachuk started slowly this year compared to last season, when he had 20 goals and 49 points. 

He has, however, been on fire. 

Tkachuk has 12 goals and 39 points, highlighted by seven goals and 16 points in the past seven games.

Tkachuk has been enjoying it all, as have his teammates.

“This streak has been awesome,’’ he said. “It really has, and I just feel like we keep getting better throughout it. It’s been a few weeks now, dating back to before Christmas. It’s kind of been longer than that.

“When you win, it’s always a good mood when you come to the rink, especially when you’re playing the way we are right now.”

Goaltending has been another strong point after it was a puzzle through the first half of last season. 

Sergei Bobrovsky was 9-12-1 at the midpoint with a 3.26 GAA and a .895 save percentage. He is 22-9-1 now, with a 2.42/.913.

Last season, Spencer Knight struggled, at times, as the backup. But Bobrovsky struggled. So did Lyon.

While Knight is regaining his form in the AHL this year, veteran Anthony Stolarz has an impressive 1.95/.923.

After the Colorado win, which put the win streak at seven, coach Paul Maurice remarked, “We are a pretty good defensive team.”

Understatement?

The Panthers have the third-lowest goals-against average in the league.

He particularly praised the goaltending.

“Our goaltending has been very solid. We haven’t asked Sergei or Anthony to be the whole story of the game, but they had to make big saves. That’s just natural in the NHL. We’ve got pretty good defense scoring. Our power play has come back.

“There are five components to a National Hockey League game. Goaltending is one. Your offensive and defensive games, then power play and penalty kill. They’ve all been pretty darn solid. We haven’t had to hang our hat on any one thing.”

The power play numbers of a year ago are similar to now, and the PK success rate is lower due to a slow start but rapidly improving. 

During the nine-game win streak, the Panthers killed 25 of 28 penalties. 

The season still has a long way to go.  

If the first half is an indicator, the term ‘Cardiac Cats’ may not be heard around these parts in the second half.

However, it was welcomed on Thursday as the Cardiac Cats were back — and their winning streak rolled on into the second half of what looks like a very interesting season.

ON DECK

NEW JERSEY DEVILS @ FLORIDA PANTHERS

  • When: Saturday, 6 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise 
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida; ESPN+
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WPOW 96.5-FM 2;WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Season Series (Florida leads 1-0) — At New Jersey: Panthers 4, Devils 3 (Oct. 16)March 15. At Florida:Saturday.
  • Last Season: Florida won 2-1
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Devils lead 57-36-7, 7 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Monday vs. Anaheim, 1 p.m.

Get FHN in your inbox!

Be the first to know. Enter your email to get the latest from Florida Hockey Now delivered straight to your inbox.

FHN on Facebook

Panthers Team & Cap Info

Meta