CORAL SPRINGS — When Joe Thornton decided to continue his chase for the Stanley Cup with the Florida Panthers, folks around the NHL took notice. Now, so have the oddsmakers as the Panthers are one of the betting favorites to win it all this season.
The NHL betting odds at FanDuel have the Panthers +900 to win the Stanley Cup — just behind the Colorado Avalanche (+600) and the two-time defending champion Lightning (+850).
During training camp, Florida was among the top eight at +2000.
Before trading for Sam Reinhart at the draft, the Panthers were at +2500.
”They should be really proud that they have pushed themselves to at least be in that conversation,” interim coach Andrew Brunette said Monday.
“It doesn’t really mean anything until you start beating those teams when it counts. We’re still trying to get to that point where we are that team.”
Florida’s hot start to the season — the Panthers came into Monday leading the entire league with 29 points — has obviously moved the team up in the eyes of the betting public.
The Panthers have not only been favored to win all but a handful of their first 18 games, but they have done so as well.
Florida is 13-2-3 this season including a perfect 10-0 on home ice.
The Panthers’ home start is tied for second all-time and a win against the Flyers on Wednesday night would tie the NHL’s all-time record with the 1963 Chicago Blackhawks.
People around the sports world, not just those putting money down, have noticed Florida’s fantastic start.
Brunette took over for Joel Quenneville when the Panthers were 7-0 and, aside for a couple of bumps, Florida has not skipped a beat.
The Panthers’ unbeaten season came to an end with a shootout loss in Boston and they went through a 0-2-2 road trip.
Other than that, things have been running pretty smoothly.
Florida leads the league with 81 goals and its +27 goal differential is tied for second with Carolina behind Edmonton.
“Our expectations have been about what the next game will bring and how we prepare,” Brunette said.
“It sounds cliche, but they believe they are good but I think they want to be great. We are pushing each other, they’re pushing themselves to take that next step, to be that next team. It’s fun to be part of the process with them and watch them grow.
”Like I have said multiple times, over the last couple of years since I got here three years ago to see the growth of the group. They are not satisfied in being good. They want to be great.”
General manager Bill Zito did not make many additions to this year’s team from last, instead keeping things together as much as possible.
Florida lost Chris Driedger and Alex Wennberg to the expansion Seattle Kraken, bought out Keith Yandle and traded Anton Stralman while adding Reinhart and Thornton.
One of the nice additions has been the play of rookie center Anton Lundell who spent last season playing in Finland after being drafted 12th overall by the Panthers in 2020.
Lundell is now centering Florida’s second line with star Sasha Barkov out with an injury and he says his team is tuning out all the praise and just focus on the task at hand.
”We don’t think that way,” he said. “We just try to have fun and play hockey. We go one game ahead, try to win every game and not think that far ahead. That’s the key to our game.
”We know we have a really good team. Everyone is a huge part of the team, everyone is important. It feels good out there right now. We know we can win against anyone in this league.”