From one Florida based NHL team to another, the Florida Panthers are the most surprising team in hockey this season. After last seasons 10th place finish in the Eastern Conference, expectations weren’t the highest. But what the Panthers have done this year is absolutely remarkable, especially as of late. Florida has won a franchise record 11 straight, with their last loss coming to… the Boston Bruins. But they’re doing this the way no other team is doing it.. With defense and goaltending.If I asked you which team allowed the least goals per game who you say? The Los Angeles Kings with Jonathan Quick? Or the Washington Capitals with Braden Holtby? Well it turns out that it’s the dynamic duo of Al Montoya and the seemingly washed-up Roberto Luongo. The two of them combined allow just 2.1 goals per game. Luongo has especially enjoyed a career renaissance since returning to Florida two years ago. The defense in front of the two goalies has been absolutely stellar as well.
Led by Calder Memorial Award winner Aaron Ekblad, Erik Gudbranson and elder statesmen Brian Campbell and Willie Mitchell, the Panthers have one of the best penalty kills in the NHL, killing off 82% of penalties. Ekblad is one of the brightest young stars in the NHL and was named an All-Star for this season. The help of Campbell and Mitchell have helped him develop and will help him develop as he becomes a star. The offense has been a work in progress, but the young guns up front have the potential to be great.
The leading scorer for the Panthers is the oldest player in the entire NHL. Jaromir Jagr has just 30 points, but he’s been playing his best hockey in five seasons. Outside of Jaromir Jagr, the Panthers are extremely young on the front end. Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trocheck are all under 25 and are right behind Jagr in points. Even former Boston Bruin Reilly Smith has had a nice bounce back season. If those young guys can continue to develop, the core of the Florida Panthers could explode into one of the best around.
The Panthers are on a historic run. They’ve blown it open in the Atlantic Division and are how second in the Eastern Conference. Looking around the league, teams like Chicago and Dallas are doing it with offense, but this Panthers team has done it the old fashion way. Playing good defense, having a good goaltender, and getting timely scoring from every line. The Panthers have an intriguing mix of young and old talent, and it’s evident to see the young guys are learning from the old. But once it’s there time, the Panthers could become a force in the Eastern Conference for a long time.