The Florida Panthers continue to stumble to start the season. A strong finish to the end of the month is needed if they want to stay in the hunt.
The Florida Panthers‘ season so far has been a mirror image of the previous two seasons they had. Two years ago, after they had stunned the hockey world and won the Atlantic Division, the Panthers sputtered out of the gate.
Struggling to get anything going, they fired their coach, Gerard Gallant (who would go on to make the Stanley Cup Finals with an expansion team) as a way to shake things up.
In a move that was highly criticized, the Panthers continued the season constantly keeping their heads above water at the .500 mark.
Later on, in that season, the Panthers embarked on a five-game winning streak that propelled them into a playoff spot.
But, when the playoff rolled around, the Panthers were out of a spot and had failed to make the playoffs after what was considered a golden year the season before.
Last year, the Cats weren’t expected to do much. As predicted, they struggled early on in the season, often dipping below the .500 mark.
It was obvious that they lacked forward depth and suffered from injuries to their goaltenders. However, the Panthers made an even more impressive surge to compete for the postseason compared to the year before and likely should’ve made it.
Unfortunately, they fell just one point shy of sneaking in and causing havoc to whoever they had to face in the first round.
This year, however, the Panthers are doing the exact same thing. In fact, it’s quite laughable to think about it.
It almost seems like the Panthers are playing the same thing over and over again. Except, this year, they entered the season with extremely high expectations of at least being a solid playoff team, while shooting to upset a team or two.
Although, they look like the complete opposite of that. You would think that if they rushed to fire Gallant after he led the team to an Atlantic Division crown, that they would do the same to Boughner, right?
Instead, the Panthers continue to waddle around and keep throwing the same formula on the ice hoping that it will somehow improve. The Cats stand at a dismal 11-12-6 record and sit 7 points out of the final wild-card spot with two games in hand.
It’s been frustrating to watch as the Panthers have found ways to leave points out on the ice at least once or twice a week.
If they had just cleaned up some of their mistakes, they could either be sitting in a playoff spot right now or at least be much closer than they currently are.
Luckily, they’ve still only played 29 out of 82 games, and can still turn this sinking ship around if they want to. This is why these last 9 games in the month of December could determine if they are in a position to at least make a push.
The teams that Florida will play over the rest of this month aren’t too hard. Though they will face the Toronto Maple Leafs twice to conclude the year, the Panthers can beat them if they play the right way.
For some reason, it seems as if the Panthers seem to play better when they play the toughest teams, and then completely implode when they play the teams they should beat. That’s a result of playing to your opponent’s level, which is mainly why they sit a game under .500.
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If the Panthers want to turn this season around, they need to get at least 13 points out of the 18 final points to conclude the month of December. This means, that they’ll be sitting at 17-14-7.
While this record is still far from being great, it will give the Panthers a huge momentum boost as they head into the new year. The Cats must be able to turn the corner over the .500 mark before the end of the year comes.
All season long the Panthers have played with the fans’ emotion. For some stretches of hockey, they look like the team that everyone thought they would be, while at other times, they look like the team that should be pursuing the 1st pick in next year’s draft.
Ultimately, the Panthers have the potential to turn around this season; however, it needs to start tomorrow and carry on through the end of the month.
Because if they delay it any longer, they could be staring at another season of missed playoff hockey.