After a concerning start to the season, the Florida Panthers’ star man is starting to settle into a groove as November begins.
Florida Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov’s start to this season has perplexed. Barkov has been at a point per game average throughout the first month of the season, yet failed to score a goal for his first twelve games.
Barkov is coming off a season where he emerged from “most underrated” to a clear star in the NHL. His performances were masterful, his hat trick versus Toronto, the through-the-legs wonder goal on star goalie Carey Price, breaking the Panthers’ franchise record for points in a season showed his emergence from a young two-way center to top-tier talent.
It’s safe to say that fans all expected Barkov to follow where he left off last season. His 96 points (35 goals, 61 assists) made him a clear household name across the hockey world. Yet, to start the new campaign under a much better head coach with a better roster, Barkov struggled to hit his heights.
In fact, Barkov proved ineffective in a lot of games in the first month of the season. After an okay first three games, his next three were appalling for his standards. He was held scoreless and missed two shootout goals in two shootout losses to the Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders, two games that Florida really could have won if Barkov was at his best.
Even when his point tallies continued to grow, including a stretch where he had seven assists in three games versus Pittsburgh, Calgary, and Edmonton, Barkov still failed to find the net. It wasn’t like Barkov wasn’t shooting the puck either, he’s logged two or more shots in eight of his first fourteen games. The goals just wouldn’t come for the captain.
The other confusing thing was that his line was still playing well. Jonathan Huberdeau has been on an absolute tear all season even with Barkov’s lack of lethal offensive play. Huberdeau already has 18 points, including 9 goals, looking to build on that this November, already scoring 2 versus Detroit. Evgenii Dadonov has also been stellar, with 11 points in 14 games.
Barkov, in his last two games, is finally looking like the player he was last season. His two goals and two assists have him emerging as the player he was last season. After suffering multiple lower-body injuries, Barkov finally looks healthy and is delivering as such.
You can tell with Barkov because his agility looks so much better on the ice. At the start of the season, Barkov looked sluggish at times, not dropping back as smoothly and not driving the net as swiftly. If you watched Barkov’s display in OT against Colorado, you could tell how agile he looked.
Barkov also looked very encouraging on the first goal by Huberdeau on Saturday Night. While he only got an assist, he logged a shot on goal and got to two loose pucks on the play.
For the Panthers to be where they are in the standings with Barkov far from his best is a very encouraging sign. Now, Barkov looks to return to his ideal play, and it could take Barkov over the top.