Too Early to Hit Panic Button for Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers have admittedly had a pretty abysmal past few games, but it is absolutely far too early for anybody to be hitting the proverbial panic button at this point.
Nashville Predators v Florida Panthers
Nashville Predators v Florida Panthers / Joel Auerbach/GettyImages
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The Florida Panthers are going through the mother of all rough patches at the moment, but it is far too early to be hitting the panic button at this point.

Last night, the Florida Panthers were shutout yet again this season - this time by the Nashville Predators. In the past three games, the Cats have scored exactly three goals. The offense has looked shoddy at best, the defense has left Sergei Bobrovsky - who has looked fantastic during this stretch, all things considered - hanging out to dry more than they seemingly ever have, and it appears that there is little-to-no "punch" in anyone's game lately (except maybe Jonah Gadjovich, who handily dealt with Nashville's Cole Smith in a juggernaut of a tilt last night).

Before we all continue on our downward spiral, there are several things to take into account when considering exactly why the Florida Panthers continue to backslide. For starters, the Cats are sorely missing captain Aleksander Barkov, and alternate captain Aaron Ekblad. It isn't necessarily a bad thing to say that both of these players are key to the Cats being legitimate Cup contenders, so it's not entirely shocking to see some struggles persist.

Secondly, the Panthers are currently (for whatever reason) playing away from their own game. As Head Coach Paul Maurice said last night, they were "playing like a rush team" without actually being a rush team. The system that the Panthers have all bought into has been very much a two-way system led by guys like Barkov, Ekblad (well, would you look at that), Brandon Montour, Gustav Forsling, and Sam Reinhart playing as complete a two-way game as possible.

It is no surprise that, again, this system falls apart a bit without two key players. In my humble opinion, this would be a key time to give Kyle Okposo several looks going forward, especially over guys like Nick Cousins - but, I digress. Let's move on to the next point, eh?

The Florida Panthers made several key moves at the trade deadline that were meant to both bolster depth and provide more offensive firepower, especially on the powerplay. Those moves have largely been successful. There has been no shortage of discourse about the impact that the trade deadline has on team chemistry, but I can nearly guarantee that this is simply not the case at this point in the season.

The Cats gave up no huge pieces at the deadline, and pretty much only added in terms of leadership in the locker room. Kyle Okposo is the former captain of the Buffalo Sabres, and Vladimir Tarasenko, alongside former one-time Florida Panther Claude Giroux, was one of the most influential voices of leadership in the Ottawa Senators' room during their very public hardships in the past several months.

In short, as a bit of a "TL;DR", the chemistry is not the problem. The system is not the problem. The new guys are not the problem. The Florida Panthers are currently sitting at 4th place in the league and 2nd place in the Atlantic Division with 94 points in the standings with one game in hand against New York and Vancouver (2nd and 3rd, respectively) and 2 games in hand against Boston.

Between January 21st and March 13th of this year, the Panthers had a record of 18-3-0. As Paul Maurice and the Florida Panthers have shown us all throughout this season, that kind of performance is the rule, not the exception. Sometimes, good teams just slump, and that's okay. President's Trophy be damned, I'd much rather the Cats slump now and get it out of their system than hit this kind of hurdle in the Eastern Conference Finals, wouldn't you?

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