SUNRISE — Although the Calgary Flames left South Florida disappointed, they also came away impressed by the Panthers with coach Darryl Sutter saying Florida was a “team that’s built and meant for playoff hockey.”
Sutter knows quite a bit about the subject.
In his 18 seasons behind an NHL bench, Sutter has led his teams to the postseason 14 times — not counting this year — and won the Stanley Cup twice with the Los Angeles Kings.
On Tuesday night, the Panthers continued their dominating play since coming out of an extended Christmas break by beating the Flames 6-2.
While Sutter lamented his team’s performance after the game — “there’s not a postseason if you play like you did tonight’’ — he was plenty complimentary of the Panthers.
“That’s a different level of team,’’ Sutter said in his postgame Zoom meeting with the media as reported by Sportsnet.
“We had some guys that couldn’t take the size and couldn’t take the speed of the other team. We’ve seen it other times this year against teams like that.”
Matthew Tkachuk said playing the Panthers was “a little bit of a reality check,” and called Calgary’s test as “a measuring stick type of game and obviously we didn’t measure up very well today.”
Like Sutter, he sounded impressed by the way the Panthers are playing right now.
“I think they’re one of the best teams in the league we have played, yes,” Tkachuk said.
The Panthers, obviously, have been rolling of late.
In their past four games coming out of the break, the Panthers have gone 4-0 and have beaten the Rangers, Lightning, Canadiens and Flames by a combined 24-10.
The Panthers have never scored this many home goals in their history.
In Sunrise, the Panthers are now 18-3-0 which is by far the best home record in the NHL and Tuesday marked the 12th time this season Florida had scored at least five goals at home which also leads the league.
With Florida’s success has come some national recognition. The Panthers are one of the betting favorites to win the Stanley Cup with the team hanging out around the top of most polls.
The Panthers came into Wednesday a point behind Tampa Bay for first place in the entire league.
“Over the course of the last season, I think they have earned it as a group,’’ said interim coach Andrew Brunette, who is now on the board as a coach of the year candidate at BetOnline.ag with 14-1 odds.
”I think a lot of people from the hockey world, not just other teams, but other players I have played with kept saying that is the best hockey they have watched against Tampa in the playoffs. They love the way we play.
“It is still early in the season, there is a long way to go to say we are anywhere really. But anybody that turns on a hockey game and watches the Florida Panthers play right now is going to be entertained, sometimes too entertained on both ends of the ice.
“We showed a bit in that second period and in the third. When we get wave after wave and everybody rolling, we are a pretty dangerous hockey team. Again, I have been pretty fortunate to coach these guys.”