Panthers Getting Hot After Slow Start

Going into the this season, there were high expectations for the Florida Panthers.

They had a healthy Roberto Luongo, a pretty stacked offensive lineup, and were coming off a year in which they barely missed the playoffs. Sure, they are in an extremely tough division, but nevertheless, a playoff spot was very realistic.

However, when they season started, the team struggled. Luongo got hurt, they weren’t scoring, and their defense was suspect. The slow start put the team behind the eight ball early, and their fans probably wondered whether or not their team’s playoff dreams would go down the toilet just one month into the season.

Fast forward to now, and things are certainly on the upswing for the Panthers. As of this writing, the team has won five straight games and currently finds themselves at 7-5-3 and just four points out of the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

So, how did things turnaround, you ask? Well, for starters, their offense started clicking.

This season, their offense starts with the strong play of both Evgenii Dadonov and newcomer Mike Hoffman. As of this writing, both are riding long point streaks and have helped bring this team back to life.

Dadonov currently leads the team with with 17 points (8 goals and 9 assists). Going into the team’s November 15th tilt against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Dadonov has at least a point in 12 straight games, a stretch in which he has compiled 14 points (seven goals and seven assists).

Hoffman also has an impressive point streak going into their game against the Blue Jackets. Hoffman’s streak has hit 13 games (seven goals and eight assists), which ties him with Hall of Famer Pavel Bure, who set the streak during the 1999-2000 season.

Another reason why the Panthers are on the right track is because of the play of Luongo. He suffered a knee injury earlier in the season, but since returning, he has been phenomenal for his hockey club.

He’s been so phenomenal that it can be said that he has been one of the league’s top goaltenders. Since coming back from his injury, Luongo is 4-0 with a .951 save percentage.

On the season, he has started five games and has once again posted pretty impressive numbers for his team after being great last year. He is currently 4-0 with a 1.33 goals against average and a .956 save percentage.

Lastly, the team is playing well defensively. They are currently fourth in the league in goals allowed. Not only are they not giving up a lot of goals, but they are not giving up a lot of shots as they are fifth in the league in shots allowed per game (about 30 shots against per game).

The one thing that could hold the Panthers back is the division they play in. With teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Boston Bruins all playing well, they will be tough to catch throughout the season.

With that said, if the team’s offense continues to shine, their defense remains steady, and Luongo plays like a world beater, the playoffs will be a more than reachable goal for this hockey club.

*Photo: Sun-Sentinel

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