February is the shortest month of the year — and that’s cool with the Florida Panthers.
It was a month which was not kind to the Panthers.
Certainly, some good things happened in the second month of 2022.
Jonathan Huberdeau and coach Andrew Brunette took part in the All-Star festivities in Las Vegas. The Panthers were awarded the 2023 All-Star Game. The arena got brand new boards and plexiglas. Florida swept a tough three-game road trip.
That about wraps up the good stuff.
For the first time this season, the Panthers had a losing month as they went 3-4-0. Limited number of games due to the All-Star break, sure, but still a record on the wrong side of the ledger.
January was the best month in franchise history as the Panthers won a team-best 12 games. They opened February with a 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers, came back two weeks later with wins at Carolina, Minnesota and Chicago.
The team came back to Sunrise ready to extend their nine-game home winning streak only fell flat in a 6-4 loss to the Nashville Predators.
Florida, which had lost all of three home games in its first 26 games in Sunrise, matched that total in one three-game set this month.
The Panthers not only lost to the Preds, but also got beat by Columbus and Edmonton as well.
”We had swing, momentum things that kind of went our way all year just didn’t go this week,’’ coach Andrew Brunette said. “I thought we played really good road hockey the week before and then our group felt we were on home ice and things would be easy. In this league, teams are going to be ready to play us every night. There are no easy nights. Going ahead, it will be even harder. We will learn. We know that. Things just didn’t go for us this week.”
Florida does not play again until Thursday and its home record still looks pretty darned good at 23-6-0.
But it certainly looked a lot better last week.
“You can get into stretches in the season where you realize how hard it is to win in this league,” Brunette said. “The focus of 60 minutes; not 58 or 59 or 40 like the other night. Every puck counts, every play counts. It’s good learning for us because we haven’t learned all week. Hopefully we start getting a little better.”
Some fans are wondering whether the new dasher boards installed earlier in the month has anything to do with Florida’s sudden home losing streak.
Privately, one member of the team’s ice crew said that question might pop up if the team did not start winning at home again.
This was right after the Panthers lost to Nashville.
The truth is, the Panthers did not go 23-3 in Sunrise because they liked the ragged boards the team had used since the building opened in 1998. The Panthers were not 0-3 last week because they don’t know how to play with new boards.
For the most part, the Panthers have played decently.
They had a 3-1 loss against Nashville and coughed it up; against Columbus, a poor performance from backup goalie Jonas Johansson led to that loss as much as anything else. Saturday, Florida outshot the Oilers 47-22 but goalie Mikko Koskinen was fantastic.
Florida, at the very least, should have won one of those three games last week.
They are looking forward to getting back after it.
”The effort is there and we are trying hard to play every shift,” Sasha Barkov said. “There is no one taking a shift off although sometimes it may look like it. It may look like we’re not backchecking enough but the team we’re playing against is playing smart. They know we are an offensive team going to its chances. But they are waiting for their chance, playing smart.
“All three games we played this week, those teams played really smart against us. They got the win. There’s not reason to be frustrated. You don’t want to lose three in a row but we will learn from this. We get a little break, will be fresh for the next game.”