Not long after the Florida Panthers finished beating the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday afternoon, they were boarding a charter flight bound for the west coast.
It was a long flight to California’s bay area, certainly, but it was much more enjoyable after a victory.
Much more fun following four straight wins.
The Panthers visit San Jose tonight and go into their game with the Sharks on a nice little heater.
Only a few short weeks ago, we were lamenting that the team was not scoring and its special teams were not producing.
Over the four-game streak, Florida has averaged 4.5 goals per game.
The power play was only 2-for-8 — but that actually bumped up their season numbers to 15.9 percent and 24th place.
The penalty kill, on the other hand, has made a huge difference.
Tied for last place earlier in the season with a success rate around 65 percent, the PK jumped to a more respectable 76.1 percent which ranks 21st.
During the four wins the Panthers have relinquished just one goal in nine attempts when shorthanded.
Florida has killed off the last eight penalties.
At one time they went four consecutive penalty kills without relinquishing a shot.
After the Chicago win, coach Paul Maurice had nothing but praise for his special teams.
“We haven’t had a night yet where it is just, probably, special teams at the end,’’ he said. “We couldn’t finish in the five-on-five department, but our penalty kill was outstanding, and we got two on the power play.
“So those guys need that feeling coming off the ice, that they were the difference in the game. They haven’t had that in tandem together so that was the most important thing for us.”
And what about Sam Reinhart?
Normally a slow starter, Reinhart is on fire.
He racked up three goals and ten points in the four wins. As of Monday, he was tied for third in the NHL with 11 goals.
After the first 14 games last season, Reinhart had two goals and five points.
All of which brings us to what to expect in San Jose.
The four wins did not come easy. Three were by a one-goal margin.
It has been well documented that this team must “scratch and grind” and “win ugly” to survive with losses of key personnel and a lot of new faces.
The Sharks are off to a horrendous 2-12-1 start, but strange things happen in hockey.
After giving up 10 goals in consecutive games, the Sharks beat Philadelphia 2-1 and then dropped Edmonton 3-2.
Our old pal Anthony Duclair is tied for second in goals with just three.
Former Panthers rifleman Mike Hoffman has yet to score.
Despite the collective poor showing, the Sharks have capable personnel and are due for a breakout.
Never underestimate your opponent.
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS @ SAN JOSE SHARKS
- When: Tuesday, 10:30 p.m.
- Where: SAP Center; San Jose, Calif.
- Streaming ONLY: ESPN+/Hulu
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WPOW 96.5 FM-2; 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
- Last season: Florida won 2-0
- This season — Florida Leads 1-0: @Florida 3, San Jose 1 (Oct. 24); @San Jose, Tuesday
- All-time regular season series: Florida leads 22-13-1, 7 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Thursday at Los Angeles Kings, 10:30 p.m. (BSF)