The Florida Panthers have opened the season with a rocky start on both sides of the puck.
They currently have a 2-2-2 record, with 6 points, with four of the six games being played against some of the toughest teams in the league. Two against in-state rival and last year’s Presidents Trophy winner, Tampa Bay Lightning, and against the high-flying Carolina Hurricanes and surprising Buffalo Sabres.
Has this been the start fans have been expecting? Absolutely not! Not just from a record standpoint, but visually as well.
At times, the Florida Panthers have looked stagnant and slow. The chemistry would disappear and the pressure to win seemed too daunting a task.
The only bright spot so far has been the reassurance in the value of Sergei Bobrovsky. He has been nothing short of spectacular, especially in moments that the team has left him out to dry.
While the start was less than desired, it appears the team is heading toward the right track. The last three games saw the Panthers rally back from behind to claim two points from shootout losses and a regulation win over the Devils.
While the results could be better, the visual intensity and potential of the team brought a humbling excitement back to the fan base.
A few things to look for as the team continues through its first month.
At times, the team lacked any flow and offensive threat throughout their opening games and it started with their first line, particularly Aleksander Barkov.
Barkov, while very good on his worse days, still had a notable lag through his first 6 games. His passes weren’t sharp, his defensive play wasn’t obvious as normal, and he lacked all offensive prowess we have grown accustomed too.
However, Jonathan Huberdeau and Evgenii Dadonov haven’t missed a beat from last season. The question for when (not if) Barkov gets to full speed is on Coach Q’s mind, and it appears it may be sooner than later from the recent outing he provided against the Devils.
Defensively, the team finds themselves scrambling more often than expected, even with a new coach and system.
The team looks paralyzed defensively on many occasions and then caught running around to play catch up.
Again, over the last three outings, the team has looked much more composed (save for a 14 minute stretch against the Devils) and with chemistry building within the d-pairings and system, the team should find it easier playing defensively with more confidence.
Lastly, the team must keep up the shots and shot attempts. Currently placed 1st in that category amongst peers, the Panthers will begin to capitalize more on their shots.
The easiest way to break scoring slumps is by increasing the opportunity with more shots. If the shot count continues nearing 40 for the remainder of the month, the Panthers will definitely see players in need confidence scoring some goals, such as Henrik Borgstrom, Frank Vatrano, Brett Connolly, Barkov, and Aaron Ekblad.
The first line looks to be near full throttle, the D-pairings are close to finding symmetry and stability, and depth is rounding out their chemistry on offense as well. If the team can find their stride, this should be a very promising season for the cats.
Especially if the goalie tandem of Bobrovsky and Sam Montembeault play as well as they did over the first six games.