Florida Panthers Playoff Preview; First Round vs. NY Islanders
With the 2016 NHL Playoffs underway, let’s take a look at this year’s Florida Panthers playoff preview.
The Florida Panthers, 1st in the Atlantic Division, finished with a record of 47-26-9 when they won their last game of the season against the Carolina Hurricanes with a score of 5-2. The Panthers are a strong team with quality depth at center and defense. The also show strength with their size, speed, and grit at every position, including a high-end goaltender.
Key Players for the Panthers
Aleksander Barkov, center, led the team with 28 goals, and ranked 3rd on the team with 59 points. Jussi Jokinen, left wing, led the team with 42 assists, ranked 2nd on the team with 60 points and had a 25 plus-minus rating. Jaromir Jagr, right wing, led the team with 66 points, ranked 2nd with 27 goals, 39 assists and 3rd with a 23 plus-minus rating.
The Jagr Phenomenon has elevated the team in the same way he elevated the Rangers 10 years ago. For those who don’t remember, he helped carry a team expected to finish in the NHL’s bottom five to it’s first playoff berth after seven straight misses. Not only is he worthy of admiration, he is in fact worthy of the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP, 17 years after he won it for the first and only time.
Brian Campbell, defenseman, led the team with a 31 plus-minus rating.
Roberto Luongo, goaltender, led the team with 35 wins, 4 shutouts, a .922 save percentage and ranked 2nd with a ‘goals against average’ of 2.35. Al Montoya, goaltender, scored 12 wins, a .919 save percentage and leads the team with a ‘goals against average’ of 2.18.
Luongo has been considered to be one of the best goaltenders to have played in the NHL over the last 10 years. Statistically, in every goaltending category, he has achieved success at all levels and the fact that he plays for the Florida Panthers, overshadows his greatness in some respects. In addition to the Mike Bossy Award, the Presidents Cup, the Mark Messier Leadership Award, the William M. Jennings Award and the World Junior Best Goalie Award, he has finally achieved the Vezina Award.
The Panthers winning the playoffs seems unrealistic to some, due to their lack of a superstar who can propel the team into the Stanley Cup. The team is filled with NHL veterans, young stars and hard-working role players. They possess enough skill and determination to make it into the playoffs, but compared to a team like the Capitals, who possess perennial NHL stars such as Braden Holtby, Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and TJ Oshie, it is very difficult to see them come out on top.
Ranked seventh-worst on the penalty kill at 80 percent and seventh-worst on the power play at 16.9 percent, the Panthers are in need of a boost in both areas to make a difference in the standings.
Offensively, the Panthers could use improvement. They scored the sixth-fewest goals in the league, and are much better defensively. However, they could take pressure off Luongo to deal with that workload. Their lack of a true top-end offensive defenseman and uncertainty of depth at the RW could be an issue for progression.
However, the Panthers demonstrated resilience, fortitude and skill in the 2014-15 season when they were legitimate playoff contenders. They fought hard all the way to the end of the season, and it is always expected of them to continuing do so.
(Florida Panthers Playoff Preview)