The Florida Panthers are making a statement across the NHL why they are the defending Eastern Conference champions. They currently sit second in the Atlantic Division with a record of 14-7-2 with 30 points, just three points behind the Boston Bruins.
On Friday, Nov. 24, the Panthers suffered their second shutout loss of the season to the Winnipeg Jets by a score of 3-0. The response from head coach Paul Maurice could best be described as colorful.
“We were Horses**t”
Paul Maurice on the Florida Panthers’ performance in a 3-0 shutout loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Friday, Nov. 24.
Afterward, he started skating his team hard at practice in an effort to get the team back on track as they hit the road to Canada. It seemingly worked wonders as they beat down an up-and-coming Ottawa Senators team, shutting them out 5-0. But, it was not without 73 penalty minutes and multiple misconducts.
It seems impressive in of itself, but Maurice himself saw it as a chance to turn the page and improve.
“The positive is that when your whole group is that bad, it’s fixable. It’s not something systemic that we’ve seen for a long time.”
Paul Maurice on how to address a poor performance such as their loss to the Jets on Nov. 24.
As a result, he made the fix a reality.
Panthers Show Their Toughness With Win on Monday
As previously mentioned, the Panthers responded to the rigorous practice session with a 5-0 shutout against the Senators on Monday night. But that game was not without a few mishaps on the ice.
“Everybody on the ice has a 10-minute misconduct, among other penalties”
Garrent Rank on Monday, Nov. 27 late in the third period of a game featuring the Florida Panthers and the Ottawa Senators.
To the surprise of many, forward Matthew Tkachuk was not one of those misconducts. He did however have 11 penalty minutes on the night.
However, even though taking penalties of that magnitude can result in serious consequences, this shows that the team will not go quietly into the night. They’re willing to get physical for one another.
Panthers Even Showed That Same Mentality in a Losing Effort
The Panthers carried that swagger into a Tuesday night matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs. That night, forward Sam Bennett dropped the gloves with forward Max Domi after he punched Bennett in the face during a dustup that occurred during a stoppage of play.
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The Panthers played a hard game and forward Evan Rodrigues appeared to score the game-winner in the shootout. However, the officials ruled that the shot was doubled-tapped into the net and disallowed the goal. The following round, Noah Gregor scored to give the Leafs a 2-1 advantage in the shootout. To close the game, Nick Cousins rung his shot off of the post, almost as if it was a bell to end a boxing match. This gave them three out of a possible four points in this back-to-back.
Although there was a ton of heartbreak within the game, and some suboptimal officiating, this is another example of how the team is playing for one another. They’re willing to stick up for their teammates.
Panthers Followed Up the Loss With an Impressive Win in Montreal
The Panthers wrapped up their road trip with a victory against the Montreal Canadiens by a beatdown of 5-1. For goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, he nearly had his second-straight shutout, stopping 41 shots across those starts. Additionally, center Aleksander Barkov scored his 250th career goal, which ended up being the game winner. Furthermore, Rodrigues found the back of the net in the third period, which almost makes up for his non-goal against the Maple Leafs.
And of course, Florida did not leave without getting their hands dirty. Forward Jonah Gadjovich decided to dance with forward Josh Anderson. They finished the game with 17 penalty minutes between them. The penalty kill was excellent against the Habs, going six for six in that department.
With this victory, Florida finishes their Eastern Canadian road trip with five out of a possible six points and ten wins in the month of November. This gives them a strong lead in the standings going into December.
Can This Strong Play Carry The Panthers to the Playoffs?
The Panthers have shown they have heart and they’re willing to play hard to get the two points. But the aggression from Maurice was necessary to get the team back to their winning ways. It was the same thing fans saw last season in Toronto where he went off on the Panthers bench. Afterwards, it led the team to a trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
The only major difference is that this is early in the season and the Panthers are in a good spot in the standings, giving them some room for error. But, no one wants to commit mistakes in the NHL. If they continue to play the way they have, they will find themselves back in the dance for another shot at glory.