Florida Panthers: Keith Yandle’s 2017-18 Season Recap

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 26: Keith Yandle
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 26: Keith Yandle /

Despite early season struggles, Keith Yandle made a positive impact for the Florida Panthers during the 2017-18 campaign.

The Florida Panthers had high expectations for Keith Yandle, being that it was his second season since being acquired from the New York Rangers, and at the start, it wasn’t looking so hot.

Yandle was a disaster defensively to start the year. He was often caught looking like a headless chicken, giving minimal effort in the defensive zone. He was found coasting near the net, as well as flat-footed in transition, ultimately failing to prevent goals occurring in his own end.

Yandle did make a positive impact offensively in the first half, netting four goals and tallying 25 points in the first 47 games of the season, but it was after the All-Star break where Keith Yandle made the most impact.

In his 35 games following the All-Star Game, Yandle netted another 4 goals and tallied an impressive 31 points, which was good for 2nd in the league by a defenseman, just behind South Florida’s own Shayne Gostisbehere’s 32 in that same span.

In total, Yandle recorded 8 goals and 56 points, making it the second most he’s totaled in his career, falling one point behind his 59 back in 2010-11, where the Boston native was only 24 years of age.

Keith was specifically important to the Panthers’ power play this season, collecting 18 points on the man advantage and being used as the quarterback for the first unit. Yandle’s playmaking abilities helped tremendously, as his 17 assists on the power play helped the Panthers down the stretch last season.

Yandle’s shot has been something that has helped the Cats a lot this year, and this clip showcases it very well. As you can see, Keith belts one from the blue line and catches Pekka Rinne off guard with such a powerful shot from distance, ultimately pulling the Panthers within a goal:

In addition to a fantastic offensive season, Yandle also improved defensively in the latter half of the season. While being on the Florida Panthers’ first pairing with Aaron Ekblad, Yandle recorded a +9 rating post-All-Star break. He appeared to give more effort in the defensive end, helping the Cats become a better defensive team.

Florida’s coach Bob Boughner often matched Yandle’s pairing with the opposition’s first line last year, as Yandle put in enough defensively to make this move pay off. With Keith’s stellar play, the Panthers were able to claw their way back into the playoff race, but ultimately fell short due to the lackluster start to the season.

Next year, it’d be wise to see Yandle paired with a more defensive-minded defenseman, such as Mark Pysyk or with a hopeful addition such as UFA Calvin de Haan. This would allow Yandle to stick to an offensive-minded game, which gives him a partner who can bail him out on the defensive end.

Next: Why the Panthers Should/Shouldn’t Sign Ilya Kovalchuk

If Keith Yandle plays the way he did after the All-Star break, the Florida Panthers will certainly have another shot at the Stanley Cup Playoffs next season.