Florida Panthers on the Rise

Jack Meyer, News Editor

The Florida Panthers’ 2019-2020 season has been off to a tremendous start. Entering the All-Star Break, the Panthers currently sit at third place in the Atlantic Division with an impressive record of 29-17-5 — meaning 29 wins, 17 losses and five overtime losses. Additionally, the Panthers have especially been rising in recent weeks, starting off 2020 with an 8-2 record and a six game win streak before the All-Star game. With their current success, the Panthers have a good chance of securing their fifth playoff berth in franchise history and their first playoff appearance since the 2015-16 season. 

Following the 2018-19 season, when the Panthers finished 36-32-14, it soon became clear that the following season would be very different. Long time goaltender and fan favorite Roberto Luongo retired from hockey on June 26, 2019; as a result, the Panthers needed to find a new goalie. That search did not last long, as the Panthers signed goalie and two-time All-Star Sergei Bobrovsky to a seven-year, $70 million deal the following week. The Panthers also found a new head coach in Joel Quenneville, who previously won three Stanley Cups with the Chicago Blackhawks. The Panthers also signed defenseman Anton Stralman and forwards Brett Connolly and Noel Acciari to add a boost to their depth chart. 

While the Panthers had a tremendous off-season, some questioned if this new roster would meet their expectations. The Panthers got off to a bit of a shaky start, losing four of their first five games two of which went to overtime. However, the Panthers soon took off and quickly inserted themselves into the playoff race. The Panthers have had numerous statement wins that showed they are a force to be reckoned with, including a 5-4 shootout win against the Boston Bruins who currently are leading the Atlantic Division two wins against the Pittsburgh Penguins currently second in the Metropolitan Division and two recent victories against the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are close behind the Panthers in the playoff race. 

“We have been playing really well lately, and we just want to keep going and make the playoffs,” Panthers forward and team captain Alexsander Barkov said. 

The Panthers’ success can be attributed to notable contributions and breakout seasons from multiple players. Forward Jonathan Huberdeau leads the team in points (65) and assists (47) and is tied for second in goals (18); he was also named an All-Star this season for the first time in his career. Barkov has also had a strong season, as he has the second-most points (54) and assists (38) out of anyone on the Panthers, and has also chipped in with 16 goals. Other notable contributors include forwards Evgenii Dadanov, who leads the team in goals (23), Mike Hoffman, who has contributed 18 goals and 22 assists, and Acciari, who has also chipped in 18 goals. 

With this stellar offense and a defense consisting of two-time All-Star Aaron Ekbald, three-time All Star Keith Yandle and the recent addition of Stralman, the Panthers have proven to be a tough team to beat. Overall, the Florida Panthers have had an enticing season so far and the organization hopes they will finish the season as strong as they have started. 

“We have good fans, a good arena and a good team, so everything is good,” Barkov said.