NHL News

Florida Panthers making a playoff push?

It seemed clear as day the Panthers were in no mood to start to trade some players for picks or just not doing anything. The Panthers made a move for Ryan McDonagh showing their interest in actually making a playoff push. They added some forward depth in Frank Vatrano and overall have a solid mix of players to make a push.

The Panthers currently sit three points out of a wild-card spot, yeah let’s focus on the wild card no shot they make a top three Atlantic finish. The Panthers sit three points behind the Blue Jackets, battling with the Islanders, Hurricanes and Blue Jackets for that final wild-card┬áspot. They have the Sabres, Flyers, and Lightning for their next three games. They are currently on a four-game win streak, winning 7 of their last 10 and with Thursday nights win over New Jersey, the despertation this team played with shows they must be pretty serious about making a playoff push.

A healthy top six…

They have two players right now, playing together that are on a roll, Aleksander Barkov, not to mention has totaled a career-high 60 points Thursday night. Plus Evgenii Dadonov. These two have combined for 32 points, 15 goals and 16 assists over the last month. Throw in Vincent Trocheck’s 6 goals and 5 assists, on top of Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjustad’s 4 goals and 16 assists, the Panthers top six beside Radim Vrbata have been clicking on all cylinders.

A reliable backend…

The Panthers defense even with Aaron Ekblad only totaling 24 points on the year, players like himself have picked up the play over the last month as well, adding 2 goals and 7 assists, while veterans like Keith Yandle having a very veteran-like season with 6 goals and 32 assists, adding 1 goal and 11 assists over the last month. Throw in some small time defenseman production, but every little bit helps a team making a push players lie Michael Matheson adding 3 goals and 4 assists over the last month as well as Mark Pysyk adding 19 plus minutes a game for the first time in his career, and doing just fine.

Roberto Luongo back…

Also, getting back veteran goaltender Roberto Luongo is a major help, he may not be the best goalie in the league but he knows how to play in big-time situations, although he almost blew the game Thursday night for Florida allowing that weak backhand shot from Jesper Bratt, Luongo returning healthy, is a major plus for the Panthers.

Remaining Schedule…

Anyways over the last month of play, the Panthers have played 6 playoff teams in their 12 games during the month of February. Those 6 playoff teams are Calgary, Toronto(2), Kings, Winnipeg, Washington, Pittsburgh, and playing these teams they are 4-2, but for the month they are 9-2. The Panthers have really made a push here and are starting to actually contend for a playoff spot. They had glimpses of the playoffs two and a half years ago when they won the division and went on to lose in the first round to the New York Islanders.

If you look at the four contending teams, Columbus, Panthers, Islanders, Hurricanes, the Panthers, and Blue Jackets are my two favorites. The Panthers have the schedule in their favor(sort of) as the play 8 non-playoff teams, the Islanders once late in the month, but also play the Lightning, Boston, Flyers at the beginning of the month. They also play Columbus in three weeks which will have major playoff implications. Let’s just say come late March, if this team is still in the hunt, do not be surprised if they make that push. With players performing like Barkov, Trocheck, Dadonov are, keep a healthy Roberto Luongo and top four defense they have. The Panthers are going all in, and I have a faith in this team.

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