SUNRISE — After beating the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night, the Florida Panthers are snapped a three-game losing streak but remain on the outside looking in when it comes to holding down a playoff spot.
If you buy into the theory teams holding a playoff spot by Thanksgiving make it to the postseason, well, the Panthers are in trouble.
Only the Thanksgiving Rule is not set in stone.
And there are a LOT of games remaining.
The odds are good, yes, but every season there are three or four teams which lose their Turkey Day spot — and are replaced by other teams.
The Panthers currently sit fifth in the Atlantic Division, two points back of Detroit for third place.
Florida is a point behind Tampa Bay for the final playoff spot in the division.
Again, too early to be doing the math here and the Panthers are not.
At least not yet.
In the NHL’s salary cap era, which started during the 2005-06 season, about 76 percent of the teams which held a playoff spot on Thanksgiving morning made it to the NHL’s big dance.
As it stands today, only Boston and New Jersey really look like playoff locks.
On the flip side, there are only a few teams who look like lottery teams heading into December.
This season, at least in the East, looks pretty wide open. That is good news for the Panthers.
“We are not where we want to be in the standings, we have not won as many games as we would like to,” Sasha Barkov said.
“At the same time, it’s all about building the game and feeling more and more comfortable on the ice as the season goes along. I think we’re doing that. We just need to win some games and beating Boston was a huge one.”
As far as the Thanksgiving Rule goes, the data does not include a number of seasons due to work strife (2012-13) or Covid (2019-20, 2021).
Last season, 12 of the 16 teams who held a playoff spot on Thanksgiving morning made it — which is about normal.
Last season, seven of the eight teams in the Eastern Conference kept it going, with Florida and Carolina both staying atop its respective divisions.
Columbus was holding the last wild card spot only to finish 19 points back of Washington for the final position.
In the West, three of the eight playoff teams at Thanksgiving did not make it to the postseason with Winnipeg, Vegas and Anaheim being replaced by Nashville, Los Angeles and Dallas.
“It really depends on the other teams around you,” said Maurice, who ended up resigning as coach of Winnipeg a few weeks after Thanksgiving as the team fell to fifth in its division.
“If there is a big divide in your conference, it is going to be tough for those teams to get back in. If you are within a four-point block, at any point of the season, either in-or-out it is not insurmountable. It is going to switch back-and-forth as we go along.”
One reason the Thanksgiving Rule is given credence around the league is the fact that most NHL teams have played roughly 25 percent of their games by now.
The Panthers, for instance, have played 20 of their 82 games.
You sort of know what kind of team you have by now although the Panthers do appear to be a team in transition.
They are a team still trying to figure things out.
And there is plenty of time to do just that.
Because if you have played 25 percent of your games, that means you have 75 percent remaining.
That is a lot to be thankful for.
“There are two teams (Boston and New Jersey) who are making the playoffs. That is real to them right now,” Maurice said.
“But everyone else is sitting within four or six points which means there isn’t going to be a bottom end to this league. … We see young teams who will win a lot of games at the end, be hard outs for a lot of teams. There are too many teams in the exact situation for anyone to be feeling comfortable or say, ‘we’re in eighth, so we’re in.’ It’s almost a flip of last year. The East was done last year.”
PANTHERS ON DECK
ST. LOUIS BLUES AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Saturday, 6:30 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Last season: Split 1-1
- All-time regular season series: St. Louis leads 24-12-1, 3 ties