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Early Returns: New Florida Panthers Power Play Looks Good

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Florida Panthers defenseman Brandon Montour, center, celebrates his preseason power play goal with Sasha Barkov, Aaron Ekblad and Eetu Luostarinen (filling in for Matthew Tkachuk) as Sam Reinhart skates in. — Roger Lee Photographer (561) 866-2000

The Florida Panthers are only two games into their season and while the statistics may not reflect it, their power play has been pretty good so far.

The Panthers, with wins in games at the Islanders and Sabres to kick things off, have scored twice with the man advantage — both goals coming in the second period of Saturday’s victory in Buffalo.

That has been it as far as goals go.

The chances have been coming in bunches, however.

”We have been able to execute playing with speed just like we do playing 5-on-5 and that’s the mindset we want to have,” said Aaron Ekblad, who scored Florida’s initial power play goal at 2:31 of the second period Saturday to give his team a lead it did not give up.

“We want to keep attacking the net.”

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It is way too early to be looking at special team stats so far — and Florida’s 18.2 percent success rate should be better than it is.

The Panthers went 0-5 with the advantage in the opener on Thursday and 2-6 against the Sabres but per NaturalStatTrick.com, Florida has outchanced its opponents 45-7 while on the power play with an expected-goals for of 4.25.

”We liked our (first) game because the power play created between 10 and 15 chances,’’ said Brandon Montour, who got Florida’s second power play goal in the second on Saturday which turned into the game-winner.

“We had some unfortunate bounces, things didn’t go our way but we created some mometum for our team. We’re creating chances.”

Florida has outshot the Islanders and Sabres 19-6 while on the power play — meaning they have given up quite a few shorthanded chances.

Still, not bad for a new setup players have really only been running in full for the past 10 days or so.

The penalty kill has been even better, allowing one goal in seven chances — with the Panthers only being outchanced 9-6 when down a skater and outshot 6-3.

Sasha Barkov, who was third in the NHL in shorthanded goals last season with four, had a shot at his first on Saturday.

“I think the biggest thing you look for is whether there have been opportunities there,” Sam Reinhart said, “and there certainly are. We’re reading and reacting off each other well, we’re playing with pace. It was nice to get some results (Saturday) and we hope to continue with that confidence.”

Coach Paul Maurice changed up the Panthers’ power play during the preseason, putting Montour up top and giving him the chance to run things.

Ekblad, who quarterbacked the first power play last season before his injury, is now on the left flank where he can utilize his hard shot and where he scored from on Saturday.

Matthew Tkachuk, Barkov and Reinhart are the forwards close to the net with Tkachuk especially getting a number of good looks around the goalie so far.

Florida’s second power play unit has Gus Forsling up top with Anton Lundell, Carter Verhaeghe, Patric Hornqvist and Sam Bennett.

What Maurice wants to see — and has, at least so far — is an aggressive power play that puts pucks on the net and creates “chaos” as he says instead of a passing display which controls possession but does not get as many chances in deep.

”If you want, you can spend all of your time on the outside,” Maurice said. “You can put five players who are that skilled and they can move it around on the outside for a minute and a half. But you’re only getting one or two attempts at the net. I don’t particularly care for that style.

“And I think you see in playoff hockey there is more chaos in power play goals. It’s a broken play, it’s a rebound that gets jumped on and reattacked. I liked our cadance of it. We attacked the net at the right time.”

PANTHERS ON DECK

FLORIDA PANTHERS AT BOSTON BRUINS

  • When: Monday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Boston Garden 
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
  • Last season: Boston won 2-1
  • All-time regular season series: Boston leads 58-36-6, 6 ties

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