Mar. 30, 2012; Columbus, OH, USA; Florida Panthers right wing Kris Versteeg (32) skates off the ice as Columbus Blue Jackets scored a goal on an open net in the final seconds of the third period at Nationwide Arena. Columbus Blue Jackets won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

Trouble in South Florida?

Kris Versteeg skates away as Blue Jackets celebrate. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

Looking back two weeks ago we notice a complete turnaround in the play of a Florida Panthers team which held a firm spot on the Southeast division lead, and looked as if they’d clinch with ease.

Just two weeks ago, the Florida Panthers were midst of a 5-game winning streak – off of which would hopefully catapult the team into the post season for the first time in 11 years – flash forward to today, Florida has lost 4 of their last 5 and have seen their lead diminish to just four points.

Two weeks ago commenced our drive for 95, as 95 points is a firm number which would see the Panthers clinch a playoff spot. Since then Florida has picked up only 5 of a possible 12 points – even worse considering they played 6 teams lower in the standings, and all of whom are officially eliminated from the playoffs ( Carolina Hurricanes, Edmonton Oilers, New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens, Minnesota Wild, and a league worst Columbus Blue Jackets.

So, with just 4 games remaining and 4 points needed to enter the playoffs, where will the team find its points?

The Panthers will play 4 games in the month of April – or essentially 4 games in one week – all of whom are against tough opponents; the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday, the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, the Washington Capitals on Thursday, and finally close out the season on Saturday, April 7th against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Basically, the main reason Florida is not winning right now is goal scoring, something of which the team will have to address before the upcoming week commences. During their 5 games winning streak, the Panthers scored 18 goals in 3 games, including 6-2 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champions Boston Bruins. Since then the club scored 10 times in the last 6 contests.

Right now, a big part of the scoring drought can be seen through the play of forward Kris Versteeg. After jumping out of the gate producing steadily for the Panthers, Versteeg is really struggling as of late. After missing 9 games due to an undisclosed injury, ‘Steeger” returned to the lineup and went pointless for his first 7 games before finally getting an assist last night on the Tomas Kopecky goal.

As we march towards the playoffs, Florida Panthers fans really look forward for the team to find that extra step that has been missing over the past few games. The club needs to step up and push just that much harder if they want to succeed. As it stands right now, if the playoffs were to start today, the Panthers would face the New Jersey Devils, and if you’re wondering just what happened to the Panthers back in the year 2000, the last time the Panthers made the playoffs? The team was swept in the opening round by the same Devils organization, something of which we cannot wait to get revenge for.

Adam Reid

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