When a team is struggling the way the Florida Panthers have been, it is easy to point out the bad that has been contributing to the losses.
Bad in-zone defense, awful line changes, lack of effort have all contributed to the teams’ current five game losing streak but in all that there has still been some good that has presented itself.
In the last five games, the team’s penalty kill – namely Quinton Howden – has shinned. In 18-opportunities, teams have only scored twice – a Travis Zajac goal against the New Jersey Devils and a Travis Hamonic marker versus the New York Islanders.
If you want to be technical, they still come out even while shorthanded with their two shorthanded goals they have scored during the losing streak – including one by Howden.
During the losing streak, Howden has averaged 2:34 of ice time while down a man, and has used his speed to create for his team and cause nothing but havoc for his opponents.
A power play that is two for its last five opportunities actually gives the Panthers winning the special teams battle, not bad for a team that has lost each of those contest and has the worst special team unit in the league.
Howden hasn’t been alone, as Erik Gudbranson has logged plenty of minutes during the penalty kill. Averaging over three minutes while shorthanded, Gudbranson has been that physical presence in front of the net that the team needs.
With 15-hits and six blocked shots to go along with that big frame, he looks like he will continue to develop into a great penalty kill contributor.
A penalty kill that is operating at 88% is impressive, no matter how long a stretch it is but factor in that the Panthers haven’t won a game during the stretch makes it that much more impressive. Despite their high kill rate, there is still work to be done.
Most of their success comes from their relentless pressure before the team can get into the zone, but work is needed at their play once the action is their own end.
Success often comes at how teams are able to perform in the special team’s battle, but for the Panthers that hasn’t been the case. It’s easy to talk about the offensive upside of Alexsander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Brandon Pirri, Vincent Trocheck – and even Howden – that is only half the battle when building a successful team.
Howden and Gudbranson’s abilities on the penalty kill, matched with Barkov, Bjugstad’s and Pirri’s offense will go a long way with this team make the next step forward.
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