Florida Panthers, Mackie Samoskevich, Matthew Tkachuk, Panthers Prospects, Sergei Bobrovsky, Spencer Knight

Panthers Improved, But Can They Repeat Their Cup Run? 

Last season, the Florida Panthers had their greatest playoff run in franchise history. They went into the playoffs as a massive underdog against the best regular season team in NHL history in the Boston Bruins. This was thanks to the Pittsburgh Penguins losing a crucial game to the Chicago Blackhawks that snuck Florida into the dance. Not only did they take them down in seven games, but they did it after being down three games to one in the series.

In the second round, the Panthers beat a hungry Toronto Maple Leafs team in five games after they made history by winning a playoff series for the first time since 2004. To cap off the Eastern Conference Final, they claimed the Prince of Whales Trophy by sweeping a Stanley Cup favorite in the Carolina Hurricanes, giving them their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1996.

Unfortunately, the magic faded in the Final. While they did claim their first Cup Final win in franchise history in Game 3, they ultimately fell in five games to the Vegas Golden Knights. With that bitter taste in their mouth, they look to get back to the Final for a potential mulligan to win hockey’s holy grail for the first time in franchise history.

The team this season has made some significant changes but looks to stay competitive in the East.

Offense is Still Lethal

The offense is almost no question for the Cats this upcoming season. Forward Matthew Tkachuk is fully recovered from the sternum injury he suffered in the Cup Final that caused him to miss Game 5. In addition, their top scorers in Carter Verhaeghe, Aleksander Barkov and Sam Reinhart are all back into the fray for another go-around.

Related: Panthers Will Benefit From Patric Hornqvist Joining the Front Office

But even then, the forward core looks different from years past. Anthony Duclair was dealt to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for Steven Lorentz. In addition, they signed Evan Rodrigues to a three-year deal to fill the top role.

Will the New Defensive Pieces Step Up?

Defensemen Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour are expected to miss some extra time due to injury. As a result, general manager Bill Zito decided to load up on defensive free agents.

Latest News & Highlights

This includes Niko Mikkola, Mike Reily, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and the return of Dmitry Kulikov. In their preseason debuts, they combined for a total of seven points (two goals, five assists). In addition, they only gave up two goals in two games.

Related: Panthers Should Benefit With Return of Sports Betting

Preseason is not a good indicator, but it gives the coaching staff hope for the new guys to hold down the fort until reinforcements arrive.

Are Prospects Going to Get Their Chance?

With the way it’s going, the young guns in the pipeline may have a good shot at getting their call to play NHL minutes this season. This preseason, forward Mackie Samoskevich was electric in his debut, scoring two goals and tallying an assist.

“I really like playing with him. He’s a fast, shifty guy. He can shoot the puck.”

Panthers forward Eetu Luostarinen on Macke Samosekvich, NHL.com

But with the major additions to the roster, it is unknown how much playing time they’ll receive. Despite that, some of the players have earned a shot at the roster. This includes not only Samoskevich, but players like Lucas Carlsson. They could be brought on as extra roster pieces, but ultimately, they need to see some sort of playing time.

Can Goaltending Be Strong?

One of the biggest pieces of the Cats’ most recent playoff run was their veteran goalkeeper in two-time Vezina Trophy winner, Sergei Bobrovsky. But, he’s been Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde during his time in Broward County. In that span, he’s averaged a .905 save percentage (SV%) and a goals-against average (GAA) of 2.97. He’s shown he can be an elite goalie in his time here and he has to tap into that potential again to give Florida a chance at the postseason.

Sergei Bobrovsky Florida Panthers
Sergei Bobrovsky has spent the last four seasons with the Florida Panthers (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

On the backup side of things, Spencer Knight made his triumphant return to the ice on Sept. 25 after entering the player assistance program late last season. In his nearly 30 minutes of playtime, he shut out the Nashville Predators and made six saves. It’s not a ton, but it’s enough to get him back into the swing of things.

“I think after a while practices kind of get repetative. You need to play the game, competative games, to actually get a feel. I think practice is good to develop skills, habits and work hard, but the game action is where you’ll really get better.”

Spencer Knight

The duo is expected to be on the opening night roster on Oct. 12 when they take on the Minnesota Wild in St. Paul.

Will They Make the Cut?

Like last season, the Eastern Conference is stacked and everyone around them has gotten better. Toronto went out and grabbed Tyler Bertuzzi while Carolina went out and grabbed Dmitry Orlov. In addition, the Ottawa Senators will look to make a splash in the Atlantic as they added Vladimir Tarasenko.

This proves to be a bigger challenge on paper for the Cats. But even then, they took on some of the toughest in the league and made it to the Cup Final. If this team is a legitimate contender, they will brush this off as they did last season.

Substack The Hockey Writers Florida Panthers Banner

Articles You May Like

Blues Have Some Big Offseason Questions That Need Answers
4 Former Chicago Mission Players’ Paths to the Coyotes
A behind-the-scenes look at the Oilers dressing room after a game
Canadiens’ Fans Shouldn’t Expect to See Oliver Kapanen in the NHL Next Season
Panthers vs. Oilers Game 4 – Pre-Game Stats, Facts & Notes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *