Florida Panthers: Barkov Looks to Make the Playoffs & Join 100-Point Club

SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 21: Aleksander Barkov #16 of the Florida Panthers skates with the puck against the Carolina Hurricanes at the BB&T Center on February 21, 2019 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 21: Aleksander Barkov #16 of the Florida Panthers skates with the puck against the Carolina Hurricanes at the BB&T Center on February 21, 2019 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Heading into this year, Florida Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov is looking to accomplish two things: join the 100-point club and get his team inside the playoffs.

There’s no question that Aleksander Barkov is insanely talented. To sum it up in a few words: he does it all. It’s quite scary when you think about deeper, especially when you’re not a fan of the Florida Panthers.

Whether it’s driving play up the ice at a high rate or defending against the toughest opponents at an elite rate, Barkov simply does it all. The Panthers don’t shy away from overusing their superstar, evident by his 22:21 of ice time throughout the 2018-19 season.

His minutes add up when you consider all the playing time he gets through even strength, power play, and penalty kill. But the question still remains: despite shouldering a ton of the heavy minutes, can Barkov still hit the 100-point mark? The answer to this is yes, yes he can!

Last season, while being overused by former coach Bob Boughner, Barkov still managed to reach 96 points, breaking the franchise record of 94 points (held by Pavel Bure) at just 23 years of age.

Taking into account all the times Barkov had to step onto the ice to kill a penalty, protect a lead, score a goal, play the man advantage, or even simply play at even strength with his linemates, the minutes just never stopped coming, yet he still managed to break through and succeed.

Part of that is in direct relation to the service he received from his linemates Jonathan Huberdeau and Evgenii Dadonov, while at other times, it was pure sheer brilliance from the man himself.

There were times (like against Toronto on Saturday Night) where Barkov completely took over, taking it upon himself to shoulder all of the weight to ensure that his team would get the result they needed.

Against Toronto that night, Barkov closed out the game with a hat trick (and the game-winner in extra time), propelling the Panthers to a 4-3 overtime win.

Without Barkov, I can safely admit that Florida wouldn’t have received the win, let alone the loser point. Among all things that went on in that game, Barkov took it upon himself to dig deep and display his game-changing abilities, despite most of his teammates failing to provide and produce.

Now with less time being thrown into unfavorable situations, Barkov will be given more breathers, which means more time to rest and play in favorable situations. The days of him being gassed nightly are over, especially with Quenneville managing the bench.

Barkov can step out with his linemates or on the power play with more fuel in his tank, which should give him the necessary energy to operate at 110% while playing in these situations. As well, if he can start the season off in red-hot form, that should give him a head start that he wouldn’t be getting mid-season.

More importantly, though, while Barkov looks to join the 100-point club, that isn’t the hardest task he faces. Getting his team inside the playoffs this year is what remains his toughest roadblock.

Per NHL.com, Barkov laid out honestly what he expects from him and his teammates this year:

"“No more excuses. I think we’re not going to need them. We’re going to do some damage in the regular season and hopefully make the playoffs and go deep there. Even before, I think we had a pretty good team that we should have been in the playoffs at least and did some damage there. But with a new season coming up, you don’t want to think about the past. You want to think about the new season. We have a couple of pretty good players and a new coach.”"

No more excuses indeed! The Panthers have finally found their new starter in Sergei Bobrovsky, and have also hired a proven head coach in Joel Quenneville. Not to mention, the Cats have also added in other areas like defense (Anton Stralman) and even-strength scoring (Brett Connolly).

In the past, the Panthers have had the talent to get to the playoffs, but they never had the healthy/consistent netminder to lead them or the proper coach to guide them. Now with those areas filled, the Panthers have the necessary tools to not only get in but to make some noise.

It’s also worth noting that while the Panthers have gotten stronger, others in the East (and even the Atlantic) have also added to their rosters. Needless to say, there will be a dogfight, and one where Florida may have to hang around until the very last day of the regular season.

Any slip up could cost the Cats a playoff spot, and Aleksander Barkov (among others) know very well that completing this task won’t be easy.

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But the time has been long overdue; the Panthers need to make the playoffs this year for the sake of the organization and their fans. If the Cats are going to book their spot for the Stanley Cup dance, then Barkov is going to have to guide this ship through some heavy storms.