When the season started back in January many sport analysts and fans were saying the Panthers would probably end the season somewhere between fourth and sixth place by the end of the season. I had high hopes for my team, but even I wondered how well they would do after the disappointing 2019-2020 season and play in round for the playoffs. Now here we are at the end of the regular season and the Panthers have secured home ice advantage fro the first round against Tampa and ended the season second in the Central Division. Proud is an understatement for the feelings I have towards this tea. They went from underrated and overlooked to a true contender for Lord Stanley’s Cup. Let’s look at how they got here.
The Panthers started hot out of the gate; with a franchise best starting record of 11-2-2. The team hasn’t sopped there either. They continued to play at an exceedingly high level keeping themselves in the top 3 spots of the division. An aggressive new edge on both offense and defensive have helped the Panthers overwhelm and overcome opponents night after night. They ended the season with a record of 56-37-14; putting them in third place in the entire league. The recorded 188 goal for the team standing second in that category as well.
Jonathan Huberdeau sits in the top 10 for points and assists in the league; while Aleksander Barkov is also in the top 10 for assists. Aaron Ekblad ranks fourth in the league for goals for defensemen and would probably be higher had he not been injured. MacKenzie Weegar is also in the top 10 for assist by defensemen. Chris Driedger has had a standout year posting a 2.07 GAA and a .927 save percentage; putting him in the top 10 in both categories. Driedger has also been nominated for the Bill Masterson Memorial Trophy; given to the player “who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey Other standouts include Patrick Hornqvist, Carter Verhaeghe, Anthony Duclair, and the hard hitting Radko Gudas; who along with the rest of the team have come together to create a true force to be reckoned with on the ice.
So how does the post season look for the Cats? With the Panthers shutting out the Lightning on Monday to secure home ice and taking the Governor’s Cup for the season, I am confident in saying that Florida will be taking round 1 of the playoffs. They seem to have Tampa’s number and with two dominating wins back to back I think they are in the heads of the Lightning and will ride the momentum into the post season. Will it be a sweep? No, Tampa will fight tooth and nail, but will ultimately come up short. From there I think we’ll face Carolina and they are team that have me more worried. They are a team that is hungry for the Cup and will everything they can to get to the Finals. I have faith in the Panthers, but it will be a good series. From there we will see how the rest of the Finals seed and hopefully we will see the Stanley Cup stay in Florida, but down south this time!
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