Friday, April 19, 2024

The Florida Panthers are getting began early this 12 months


Cat Scratch Fever has shifted up the calendar a pair months this time round. Final 12 months, the Florida Panthers spent the primary half of the season searching for a sign on their cellphone earlier than closing the second half with a flourish to make the playoffs. That carried over into the postseason as they chased down the Boston Bruins, taking seven video games within the first spherical to kneecap the league’s greatest regular-season groups (and among the best regular-season groups ever). That propelled them to a run to the Ultimate after they completely clobbered the Leafs and Canes.

The Cats aren’t ready round this time, as for the reason that calendar has flipped to 2024, they’re 16-4-2, have the perfect factors proportion within the NHL, and are sitting only one level behind the Bruins for the highest of the Atlantic Division with a recreation in hand. You’ll discover lots of people saying they’re the Jap Convention favourite to as soon as once more get to the Stanley Cup Finals, and it could be onerous to discover a extra full group within the East than Florida.

In each class that could possibly be used to measure groups, the Panthers are high 5.

  • Corsi proportion: Second
  • Anticipated objectives proportion: Third
  • Energy Play: Fifth
  • Penalty Kill: Sixth
  • Targets towards per recreation: Second

If something, the Panthers have been unfortunate. They’re fifth within the league in xGF per 60 minutes at even-strength with a 2.85 mark, however they’re solely capturing 7.24 %, good for twenty ninth within the league. So their objectives per recreation of two.38 solely ranks twenty fourth. There’s really room to develop for this squad.

That isn’t all that stunning contemplating they could have the perfect 1-2 middle combo round. Sasha Barkov carried the “Most Underrated Participant” label for thus lengthy that most individuals obtained sick of him, however contemplating the Panthers nonetheless don’t get plenty of nationwide consideration and he nonetheless stays one of many three greatest 200-foot facilities within the recreation, he in all probability remains to be underrated. Barkov’s possession numbers rival Connor McDavid’s, besides McDavid begins 65 % of his shifts within the offensive zone, whereas Barkov begins solely about half of his. And but he creates the identical makes an attempt and probability disparity for the Panthers that McJesus does for the Oilers.

Barkov can be nearly the perfect forechecker within the league:

Image for article titled The Florida Panthers are getting started early this year

Graphic: from AllThreeZones.com

Behind him is Sam Bennett, who has related possession numbers and has offered the platform for Sam Reinhart to be on a 55-goal tempo this season. You’ll see from that chart that Matthew Tkachuk can be among the best forwards within the league off the cycle or forecheck, which is available in awfully useful within the playoffs as opponents look to shrink the ice. And Tkachuk and Barkov play on separate strains, divvying up the Panthers menace over 30-40 minutes per recreation.

The Cats may additionally have the deepest blue line, 1-6, within the NHL. Aaron Ekblad returned from most of his organs falling out throughout final 12 months’s playoff run to be one of many higher d-men within the NHL, with possession numbers round 60 % though he begins lower than half his shifts within the offensive zone. Gustav Forsling, whom I bear in mind being totally helpless when his profession began in Chicago, held the fort down whereas Montour and Ekblad have been out to start out the season. The Panthers have benefitted from a real renaissance from Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who seemed like a rotisserie rooster in Vancouver.

The Panthers use that defensive depth to be maybe the league’s most aggressive group defending their blue line, as no group denies clear entry into their zone as a lot as Florida does.

Image for article titled The Florida Panthers are getting started early this year

Graphic: from AllThreeZones.com

Groups simply don’t get into the Panthers zone in any respect, which will get them the puck again, which suggests they’re turning round their super-charged offense shortly and getting the puck deep on their opponents the place Barkov and Tkachuk make life hell.

Florida additionally has the luxurious of two goalies taking part in effectively with none type of controversy about it. Sergei Bobrovsky was ok to get the Panthers to the Ultimate final season and can take the wheel come April. He’s having his greatest common season in a while this marketing campaign, with a .916 save proportion. And he can get all the remaining he wants as a result of Anthony Stolarz has rocked a .925 whereas backing him up, and possibly needs to be used extra to maintain Bob contemporary for what issues. Stolarz has the fifth-best goals-saved-above-average-per-game amongst goalies. There simply aren’t too many holes right here.

Trying over the competitors within the East, the Bruins are weak down the center. The Canes don’t have a goalie or a pedigree of not swallowing their very own tongue within the playoffs. The Leafs’ protection is sluggish and so they even have goalie questions. The Rangers stay an iffy even-strength group leaning method too closely on their energy play, although the Cats are simply red-assed sufficient to boil over and make that matter far more than it ought to, ought to they need to go to Broadway in Might.

The Panthers have been the Presidents’ Trophy winner two seasons in the past. They represented the East within the Ultimate final 12 months. They could simply mix each this one.

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