Five Things The Panthers Must Do To Make The Playoffs

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With eight years in a row of not making the playoffs the Florida Panthers have set their sites on this being the year that they finally end that curse.  Last year they certainly came close missing by one point and finding out on the last day of the season that the Montreal Canadiens made it instead.  If things are going to change the following five things must take place.  And if you notice the sky falling and a total collapse of the Eastern Comference are not on this list. 

#1  Improve the Power Play:  Last year the Panthers ranked 24th in the NHL successful only 16.6% of the time.  This is an area that must improve.  When you’re a team lacking scoring you are going to have to take advantages of these opportunities.   The loss of Jay Bouwmeester won’t hurt this much, but the addition of Dennis Seidenberg and Jordan Leopold should help on the backline.  Bryan McCabe now becomes the number man on the point and his totals should improve after scoring 15 goals last year along with 24 assists.   The Panthers gave up 51 power play goals last season which was 25th in the NHL.

#2  Cut Down the shots against:  For some reason last year’s defense which was a solid as it’s ever been in Florida for some reason just could not improve in this area.  The Panthers gave up an average of 34.7 shots a game.  Far too much rubber coming at the goaltenders.  It could have been a result of the  forwards being too deep in the opposition’s zone, but if that’s the case they are going to have to come back and help some more.  This year’s defense is just as solid as last year’s so I would expect head coach Peter DeBoer to be preaching to the forwards that they need to improve the backchecking.  With all these shots against, the Panthers were number one in the league in saves! 

# 3  Tomas Vokoun must avoid another slow start:  Since his first season here in Florida, Tomas Vokoun has started off slowly.  Not a good thing for a team that is starving for offense.  Vokoun knows it, Peter DeBoer knows it and the team knows it.  Vokoun showed up in South Florida a month before everyone else to work himself into shape and be game ready alot earlier than normal.  He also seems to suffer from mid year slumps, which is something else that needs to stop.  Last year Craig Anderson was pushing him, this year it will be Scott Clemmensen.  It can only be a good thing to have Clemmensen pushing Vokoun, but the bottom line is that for all the money Vokoun is being paid he needs to dominate.

#4  Improve shootout record:  Last year the Panthers were 3-8 in shootouts.  If they had actually won just one more, let alone two, they would have been in the playoffs.  Therefore another special team item that needs work.  Whether it’s be more creative or work on it more in practice, this area as well can make a difference.

# 5  Nathan Horton must play to his potential:  Last season Horton scored 22 goals in 67 games playing mostly center a position he had yet to play in his brief NHL career.  This year he is being moved back to right wing and that alone should make a difference.  The biggest rap against Horton is that he appears lazy at times and looks as if he doesn’t care.  He has a wicked shot, that sometimes looks as if it’s going up to the 400 level.  He loves to go top shelf and that’s great, but he needs to bury his chances and score on a regular basis.  He easily can score 40 if he put his mind to it.  That’s the problem, and it needs to be fixed cause at that point, he could get lucky on a few more and end up closer to 50.

There you have it.  While this isn’t a fool proof recipe I would be that it would go a long way to getting the Panthers in the playoffs.  You can’t control what other teams do, but you can control what you do and that is where the improvement needs to be.

Thanks for reading.