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Despite Loss to Bruins, Florida Panthers In A Good Spot at Thanksgiving

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SUNRISE — When the Florida Panthers gather ‘round their dinner tables later tonight for Thanksgiving dinner, they certainly have a lot to be grateful for.

A hot start to this season is certainly one of them.

Despite losing 3-1 to the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night, the Panthers are in a pretty good spot.

“The last month has been very good for us,’’ said Anton Lundell, who scored Florida’s lone goal Wednesday after deflecting a long shot from Nick Cousins.

“We had a slow start, but then we found our game and the last ten games we’ve been really good. We can be proud of that.”

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In the NHL’s salary cap era (2005-23), teams who hold a playoff position on Thanksgiving morning make the playoffs 76 percent of the time.

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Of course, this does not take into consideration the 2019-20 season which was halted due to the pandemic — as Florida held a playoff spot that Thanksgiving but, alas, did not make it out of the qualification round in the Toronto bubble.

As far as the Thanksgiving Rule goes, the data does not include that 2019-20 season nor the second lockout (2013) or the Covid 2021 season because neither had started at Thanksgiving.

As things stand today, the Panthers have 25 points in their first 19 games which puts them second in the Atlantic Division and third-overall in the Eastern Conference.

Florida coach Paul Maurice said he is content where his team stands right now, when asked about the Thanksgiving benchmark he was fully aware of where Florida stood last season.

On Nov. 24, 2022, Florida was in fifth place in the Atlantic Division and a point back of a wild card spot.

The Panthers, in fact, were the only team in the Eastern Conference not to hold a playoff spot at Thanksgiving who ended up making it.

Florida replaced Detroit (third in the Atlantic) as one of the East’s final eight — at No. 8 as the final wild card. In fact, last year was so tight at Thanksgiving only the Bruins and Devils were playoff locks.

We all remember what happened once the Panthers made it.

“It’s just a fact,” Maurice said on Thanksgiving Eve, “but it clearly does not matter. You can get to the Final and not be in. The underlying reason for it is that three-quarters of the teams who are above that bar happen to be really good hockey teams. That’s probably not going to change very much.”

During the 2021-22 season, Maurice’s Winnipeg Jets were one of three teams in the West who held a playoff spot at Thanksgiving but did not make it.

Maurice resigned as coach of the Jets in December of 2021.

“It really depends on the other teams around you,” Maurice said last year. “If there is a big divide in your conference, it is going to be tough for those teams to get back in.

“If you are within a four-point block, at any point of the season, either in-or-out it is not insurmountable. It is going to switch back-and-forth as we go along.”

PANTHERS ON DECK

WINNIPEG JETS @ FLORIDA PANTHERS

  • When: Friday, 8 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida; ESPN+
  • Radio: WAXY 790-AM; 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
  • This season — Winnipeg Leads 1-0: @Winnipeg 6, Florida 4 (Oct. 14); Friday @ Florida
  • Last season: Winnipeg won 2-0
  • All-time regular season series: Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets lead 53-31-8, 5 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Monday at Ottawa, 7 p.m.

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