Connect with us

Florida Panthers

Feel The Power: Florida Panthers Lighting It Up

Published

on

Florida panthers
The Florida Panthers’ top power play unit celebrates another goal — this one by Carter Verhaeghe — in a win against the Colorado Avalanche last Saturday night. // Roger Lee Photographer (561) 866-2000

The Florida Panthers have been pretty much unstoppable on the power play lately.

Since Jan. 1, the Panthers have the highest power-play percentage (34.9 percent) and the most power-play goals (22) in the entire league.

The team with the next-most power-play goals in that span? 

The Tampa Bay Lightning with 16.

Sam Reinhart, who scored 12 in that span, has more power-play goals than 22 other teams in the NHL since the calendar flipped to 2024.

“I think we have strengths all over it,” Brandon Montour said of Florida’s power play.

“When 13 is scoring every night on the power play, it’s easy, but we have [Matthew Tkachuk] on the goal line and Carter Verhaeghe down low, or myself and Sasha Barkov can shoot the puck too, and those guys can tip it or what not, so as long as we make those fast-paced plays and we’re playing quick enough to play aggressive as give, you can see what we’re doing.”

Nine times out of ten, opposing teams know the first thing the Panthers are looking to do on the power play; they just can’t stop it.

“You would think, at some point, they are going to sit on Reino,” Aaron Ekblad said with a smirk. “But our power play is so lethal. Montour can shoot the puck 100 miles per hour; Verhaeghe can pick a corner like no one else in the league. Reinhart or Barkov? Barkov can shoot from anywhere. So, these guys can tear you apart in so many ways.

“Reino said it best: He needs guys to get it to him. And you have (Tkachuk) making no-look passes, ones through his legs. And they’re right on his tape.”

Tkachuk and Reinhart have connected on a quick pass from the bumper to the slot numerous times throughout the season.

On one occasion, the Colorado Avalanche had their four-man box surrounding Reinhart, and Tkachuk still found a way to thread a quick feed through.

And, of course, Reinhart fired a one-timer past Colorado goaltender Alexandar Georgiev for his 22nd power-play goal of the season and his 39th overall.

“The puck was moving so fast, there was almost no way to defend it,” coach Paul Maurice said of that goal. “It was on and off the stick with perfect placement.”

And with the threat of Reinhart in the slot, it has also opened things up for others.

Verhaeghe, a recent addition to the power play, has scored a career-high eight power-play goals, firing shots off the flank when the feed to Reinhart isn’t open.

Tkachuk has also gotten his fair share of deflections of Barkov and Montour shots from the point.

“They’re taking that play away more and more, so the backdoor [is open.]” Maurice said.

“Carter has five goals from the left flank, David Pastrnak has seven, and Steven Stamkos has 11, so what I’m saying is that he’s getting that shot off. You can’t cover both of them. 

“But at the end of the day, a lot of pucks that get shifted to the net to Matthew, that’s kind of the default. If you can’t get it through or have a play made, Matthew’s hands are so good at knocking pucks down that we can just get it in there.”

However, the power play has not always been this automatic for the Panthers.

Through the first month of the season, the Panthers were running at a paltry 14.5 percent (11th in the NHL at the time) and were having a lot of frustrations moving the puck.

They worked on it heavily with assistant coach Jamie Kompon and have been operating at a 27.3 percent clip since — which is good for the third-best in the league.

“We talked a lot about it, we worked on it, and we watched video,” Barkov said.

“We have a good coach for that. He’s always on top of it and he tells us what to do. And then we have great players there we can score, who can make plays, who can move the puck. So we trust each other and play with confidence.”

A lot changed since their struggles in the first month, too.

On top of Verhaeghe’s introduction to the first unit, Montour did not slot back into the lineup until mid-November due to a shoulder injury he suffered in last year’s playoffs.

The threat of both players’ presence alone has opened up much more for the unit since they were added.

“So much of that happens up top,” Maurice said. “What Montour and Barkov do as far as freezing people up and being a threat, if neither of those guys are shooting the puck, they would just sit on top of Tkachuk and Reinhart. 

“The power play is considerably faster, probably in mid-November and early December it started to get warmed up and it’s been pretty good ever since.”

ON DECK

FLORIDA PANTHERS @ TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

  • When: Saturday, 5 p.m.
  • Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM 2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Season Series — At Tampa Bay: Panthers 3, Lightning 2 (Dec. 27)Saturday. At Florida: March 16.
  • Last season: Even 2-2
  • All-time regular season series: Florida leads 76-50-19, 10 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Tuesday vs. Ottawa, 7 p.m.

Get FHN+ today!