Having Best Season in Their Franchise’s History, Can Panthers Keep It Going?


Photo courtesy of puckprose.com

Left wing Jonathan Huberdeau led the Panthers in points this season, and he should continue to be an important part of the team’s success this year.

Evan Liberman, Managing Editor

Here in South Florida, the flowers are blooming, the sun is shining, and the area is lucky to see a day where the weather is under 80 degrees. Nevertheless, NHL playoff hockey has returned to Sunrise and the Florida Panthers have wasted no time, eliminating the eighth seed Washington Capitals in six games. For the first time in 26 years, the Panthers are advancing to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against in-state rival the Tampa Bay Lightning

This was not the first record-breaking moment this season, though. The cats were the first team in the NHL to clinch a playoff spot (nearly a month before the playoffs began on May 2) and won both the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference. Perhaps most importantly, for the first time in franchise history, they won the President’s Trophy–an award given to the team with the most points at the end of the regular season. 

Despite these successes and a near-perfect regular season, the NHL playoffs are a different beast. What a team accomplished in the regular season has no effect on the postseason. The cats will need to keep this in mind in the second round and not rest on their laurels.

As the Panthers-Lightning series progresses, here are The Pharcyde’s “Keys to Victory” for the Panthers as they look to extend their best season in history:


  1. Sergei Bobrovsky Must Remain Rock Solid in Net:

Bobrovsky put up a phenomenal 39-7-3 record through the first 82 games and was nearly perfect in the first round. Encountering a hot goalie in the playoffs is an almost sure-fire way to get eliminated. He needs to continue to play at a high level to support the team as it looks ahead into the second round. 


  1. ‘Girouxberdeau’ Pairing Needs to Remain Productive

On Mar. 19, the Panthers acquired long-time Flyers captain Claude Giroux, who was immediately paired with superstar winger Jonathan Huberdeau. Initially, the two had “no chemistry whatsoever,” as Giroux quipped at an early April press conference. But, soon enough, the two (along with recent pickup Sam Bennett) found each other. Only eight lines in the NHL have more expected goals per game than them–a surprising feat for a line that was only formed two months ago. The Giroux-Huberdeau pairing has been jokingly described as ‘Girouxberdeau,’ but, joke or not, it must continue to put up amazing numbers if the Panthers want a chance at making a deep cup run this year. 


  1. Mackenzie Weegar Needs to Do Better

Weegar was noticeably lackluster for a first-pairing defenseman against the Capitals. And while his statistics may not reflect his poor play (in part because of the Panthers’ success in the first round), it seemed like whenever Weegar had the puck he was making mistakes. This included several errant passes, turnovers, and spills onto the ice. Now that he is back to playing with star defenseman Aaron Ekblad–who was injured at the tail end of the regular season–Weegar needs to tighten his play if the Panthers want to win against the back-to-back Stanely Cup Champion, the Tampa Bay Lightning.