Florida Panthers: Necessary Moves to Make Playoffs Happen


The Florida Panthers currently sit three points behind the Boston Bruins for the last Wild Card spot in the NHL’s Eastern Conference.

The Philadelphia Flyers one point behind them. However, the Panthers have one game in hand on them with twenty-three left to go. The Bruins are on pace to finish the season with about 94 points.

For the Panthers to achieve that 94-point stature, they would have to earn 30 points in the remaining 23 left to go.

Since the Bruins currently have three more wins than the Panthers, they would likely have to go about 14-7-2 throughout the rest of the season to likely have a chance. That is of course if the Bruins remain at that 94 point pace and would need an example of a 13-9-1 record to do so.

After losing six games in a row and only earning two points in those games with an overtime and shootout loss, the Bruins rejuvenated themselves on Sunday with a huge 6-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Had the Panthers won on Saturday over the Ottawa Senators, they could have jumped the Bruins for the last Wild Card spot by a point, but they suffered a 4-1 loss. They did not fare much better on Sunday in Pittsburgh with a 5-1 loss to the Penguins. While the Panthers never seemed to have control in the Ottawa game, they played relatively well for the 1st and 2nd Period in Pittsburgh as they outshot the Penguins 27-16, they let up three goals in the 3rd Period and were outshot 10-8.

The Flyers have been on fire over the last couple of weeks going 5-1-4 in their last ten games. Most recently, they beat the Washington Capitals 3-2 on Sunday. While the Panthers do not play the Flyers for the remainder of the season and can only hope that their recent surge to add themselves back into the possible playoff mix ends, the Cats do play the Bruins three more times. Including two at home in Florida. While it is very possible for those three games to determine which team wins that final Wild Card spot, the Panthers can also dig themselves into a deep hole if the Bruins starts a winning streak this week and the Panthers continue their losing streak. It is also worth noting that the Flyers and Bruins do play one another once more on March 7th in Boston.

Florida Panthers
Florida Panthers /

Florida Panthers

The Flyers have a relatively easy next two games as they play the Hurricanes in Carolina on Tuesday and are in Toronto against the Maple Leafs on Thursday. They then come home to face off against the Rangers on Saturday. The Bruins host the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday, travel to New Jersey to play the Devils on Friday, and then return home the following night to host the Arizona Coyotes. The Panthers likely have the roughest next three games out of the three teams with their road trip ending in Chicago on Tuesday, host the same Blackhawks on Thursday, and start the first game of a back-to-back on Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres at home. The Panthers then have the Tampa Bay Lightning to face at home on Sunday as well.

It has been brought up many times this season, but the Panthers severely lack offense and that has been a key reason of their inconsistency in the standings. They still remain 25th in the NHL in goals scored with 143. 27% of their goals scored this season have been by forwards Nick Bjugstad with 21 goals and Jimmy Hayes with 17 goals. Forward Brad Boyes is the only other player on the team that broke the double digit mark at this rate in goals with 10.

While players such as forward Jonathan Huberdeau and defenseman Aaron Ekblad have only scored 9 goals each, Huberdeau has 24 assists and Ekblad with 23. Forward Jussi Jokinen leads the team with 25 assists, but has just 5 goals.

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Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon has been rumored to be semi-active before March 2nd’s trade deadline as forward Sean Bergenheim has requested a trade after being a healthy scratch for multiple games. Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel has been the biggest name mentioned over the last week or two as the Leafs have started their rebuild for the future.

However, Tallon has stated that he does not want to break up the current young core of Ekblad, Bjugstad, Barkov, and Huberdeau. It has been a hot topic on social media and through message boards as Kessel would be a great asset to solve the Panthers offensive woes and should give them a much better chance at getting into the playoffs. However, Tallon in my opinion is smart to be careful on a deal that could involve any of those players listed above as each one plays a key role currently on the team. While a player such as Kessel would fill a huge need, trading away one of those in return would create a new hole.

Tallon has been known to make trades happen without any recent rumor prior. One example is how goaltender Roberto Luongo made the miraculous return to Florida last season from Vancouver after rumors flew for quite a few years, but cooled down to almost non-existent very recently prior to the trade. Possibly, with Bergenheim definitely being dealt, Tallon will acquire a well-known offensive player in return, but not within the caliber of a name like Kessel. Some analysts and fans believe that a deal for a top-notch player like him could go down at this summer’s draft or during the off-season with the free agent crop being poor this year.

Needless to say, the Panthers as a whole need to understand the importance of these remaining games as each one is key to win down the stretch. Too many times all season, fans have seen two different teams show up. The one that can have an offensive explosion against one of the league’s best as they beat the Anaheim Ducks twice 6-2 or the one that lost twice to the New Jersey Devils by a combined 8-2 score. The younger players that are part of the future core are doing most of the scoring. While that is a great thing for the future, the veterans need to step up and complete a total team effort in order to win these important games left.

As a gut feeling, as much as I hate to say it, Panthers fans, this team may not be overall talented enough just yet to earn that playoff spot. On the bright side, they will possibly be competing for a playoff spot during the last week of the season. After finishing 29th overall in the NHL last season and 30th the season prior, this season is a huge step up in the right direction.

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