So much for not knowing whether the Florida Panthers were legitimate Stanley Cup contenders last season and so much for being unsure of whether they would threaten to repeat this year. The Panthers are tied for third in the NHL in points with 70 as of February 11th, and they have been a model of consistency throughout October and toward the halfway point of February.
Despite their impeccable play, they got ground to make up thanks to their division rival, the Boston Bruins, continuing their regular season dominance. While the Panthers showed us last season that they can beat Boston when it matters the most, they still wouldn’t mind snagging the top overall seed in the East this season. If a few prominent players up their respective games down the stretch, that could very well happen.
Sam Reinhart must take his dream season even further
Sam Reinhart was always a player you thought was good, possibly even in the top-tier in some seasons, but never great. He only superseded the point-per-game mark once when he scored 82 in 78 contests during his first season with the Panthers in 2021-22, but reverted into solid, but unspectacular status with 67 last season.
This year, Reinhart remains a legitimate candidate for the Hart Trophy, as he’s logging 1.23 points per game, or 64 in 52 contests. Reinhart has been especially dominant on the power play, where 22 of his 39 goals have come, and his shooting percentage is a ridiculous 27.9.
Reinhart has gotten past votes for the Selke, showing he’s one of the better defensive forwards in hockey, and that two-way style hasn’t deviated. This has made him one of the NHL’s most complete players to this point, and if he builds on what he’s done to even greater heights, the Panthers have a great chance to wreak havoc in the Eastern Conference down the stretch.