Florida Panthers: Looking at the last stretch of the season

SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 22: Vincent Trocheck
SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 22: Vincent Trocheck /

The Florida Panthers are surging at the right time and are looking to keep it up. Will they be able to do that as they close out the 2017-18 regular season?

It’s pretty safe to say that nobody expected the Panthers to be heading into an extremely exciting and meaningful last six weeks of the regular season. Just a month ago, the wheels had completely fallen off for the Cats, and they were staring at a second straight season that would not continue on past the 82 game mark. But, against all the odds, here we are. The Panthers are right in the mix of things, and have an extremely good shot at cracking into the postseason.

As the road to the regular season nears, the Panthers will have to put their best foot forward and continue their strong play. Yes, they have played extremely well over the last month, but that will mean nothing if they cannot keep that same type of play up. The Panthers need to continue their consistency if they want to be able to participate in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

With that said, let’s look at the road ahead for the Florida Panthers!

There are exactly 20 games left in the season, and none of them are going to be easy. Since the Panthers have played the fewest games in the NHL so far, they have all these games bunched up into just six weeks.

While 20 may not seem like a lot, it will be a lot considering that the Panthers will be basically playing every other night. This will wear down the players, and it’s going to take every single drop of energy that they have in the tank to survive this last push.

As of now, the Panthers will play a playoff team nine out of the last 20 games. These games will be extremely hard to navigate through, but if the Cats can play like they have in over this last month, the Panthers should be fine.

The rest of the 11 games will be played against teams who are on the outside looking in. While some may classify these as “for sure wins,” there is no for sure win in the NHL. These teams who are not headed to the postseason may not have much to play for, but they can surely spoil somebody else’s dreams of competing in the playoffs. The Panthers will have to make sure they wrap up these games against lesser competition by playing the same way they would play against a more talented team.

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There are a couple really notable games that the Panthers will play in these last 20 games, let’s dive in and have a look:

The Panthers will play the Presidents’ trophy chasing Boston Bruins four times over the last 20 games! The Cats have never played well against the Bruins over the past few years, and if Florida want to keep chasing after a playoff spot, they are going to need to go for a 2-2 record against the Bruins at the very least.

Plus, the Panthers last three games? Two of them will be against the Bruins. Hopefully by then, the Panthers will have already wrapped up a playoff spot. Regardless, these four dates with the Bruins will be pivotal for both teams.

If, the Columbus Blue Jackets do not completely deconstruct on their road trip out west, there will be a pivotal final game between the Panthers and the Jackets on March 22nd. Whoever wins this game will get a huge boost in their playoff push. This is a game that all fans should keep an eye out especially if the standings stay close.

Like I stated in my last article, the last wild card spot is going to go to the team who can play the most consistently over the last stretch. So far, the Panthers are that team as they’re only one point out of a spot with 3 games in hand.

Next: Florida Panthers win their fifth straight, defeating the Buffalo Sabres 4-1

If the Florida Panthers can continue to play the same way they have played recently, they should have no problem wrapping up one of the last two wild card spots. This last stretch of hockey will be fun, but it will be even better if the Panthers can continue their season into the postseason.