The Arizona Coyotes and Florida Panthers have long been kindred spirits. They are two teams still searching for their first Stanley Cup that get maligned by an entire country for not selling out games when they are terrible.
But what's behind Florida's surprising success this season? We asked Kevin Kraczkowski of Litter Box Cats to tell us a bit more about the Panthers.
1. What's behind the success of the Florida Panthers this season, apart from Roberto Luongo of course?
First and foremost, there's been little to no drop off from Luongo to his backup, "The Big Cubano," Al Montoya. When called on, Montoya has put up a 9-4-2 record with an all-star level 1.91 GAA and a .930 save percentage. Those are all career bests, by the way.
Outside of that, it's been a perfect meshing of senior players (Jaromir Jagr, Brian Campbell, Shawn Thornton, Willie Mitchell, Derek MacKenzie, Jussi Jokinen) to lead the way for the future of Panthers hockey (Aaron Ekblad, Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Erik Gudbranson, Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck).
Florida has balanced scoring throughout the lineup, with nine players in double digits for goals. Pay special attention to Barkov. If you haven't already heard, he's prone to making at least one eye-popping play per game, and has the potential to mature into a generational talent.
2. With the Trade Deadline coming up, is Florida in the market for any specific position, or are they thinking more long-term with asset management?
They may be buyers at the deadline. If there's something on the table that's hard to ignore, GM Dale Tallon isn't afraid to make things happen. For years, Florida's been all about their future. It seems, this season, that the future has arrived.
The only glaring deficiency that I’ve seen has been a thorn in Florida’s side, their woefully swing-and-miss power play. I’m not sure exactly why it’s not working, because it features the same bunch who are so deadly at five-on-five action, but still, their 16.4% success rate with the man-advantage ranks them only 27th in the NHL, ahead of only the Winnipeg Jets, the Calgary Flames, and the Toronto Maple Leafs, three teams who are at this moment not a factor in this season’s playoff race.
If Tallon can get his hands on another sniper or a power play quarterback, say a PK Subban type (like they’re a dime a dozen, smh), it would address Florida’s problems in that area.
3. Florida has a sky-high PDO and not particularly good possession numbers. What do they need to do to fix those and become a perennial player in the Eastern Conference playoff picture?
Florida’s PDO is deceptively high due in large part to their superb high percentage shot selection on the offensive end of the ice. The Panthers rate of shooting from "inside the house," or, the box from the two face-off dots to the end line, is high above most competitors. Our own JC Smith wrote a great article about this last month.
As far as being a perennial player, the pieces are all in place. I believe (and I may be a fool, because the road to a quick exit is paved with fans who believed the hype) that Tallon has assembled a team of players who know it’s more important to put up quality shots than quantity.
4. How nice is it to not have Canadians constantly complaining about attendance numbers?
Thank you Kevin and the rest of the LBC staff for giving us a little more information about the Panthers. Here's to a Coyotes-Panthers Stanley Cup Final in the future!