The Florida Panthers ended their 2021 in a pretty good spot. With only four months left in the season, They sit in second in the Atlantic Division with a record of 20-7-4 with 44 points. Although the team is still performing very well, the team needs to fix a series of issues if they want to survive the rest of the regular season and the playoffs. They should be seen as their new year’s resolutions as they turn the page into 2022.
The Power Play and Penalty Kill Are Lackluster
Despite the amount of two-way forwards, elite defensemen, good goaltending and offensive firepower they obtain, the Panthers have struggled most of the season on both ends of their special teams.
On the man advantage, they are ranked 24th in the league at a 17% conversion rate. For a team that ranks second in the league in goals per game at 3.78, that power play is abysmal. They need to work on this if they want a chance to compete in the postseason as most teams will make you pay for missed opportunities.
Shorthanded, the team is a little bit better but still in the bottom half of the NHL at 18th. They currently hone an 80.2% kill rate on the penalty kill. The team has strength on shorthanded defense with great two-way forwards such as Aleksander Barkov and Anton Lundell along with elite defensemen such as Aaron Ekblad and MacKenzie Weeger. With that in mind, the talent should be enough to propel that stat as the season progresses.
Start Winning on the Road
At home, Florida has the best record in the NHL at 17-3-0. However, how they play on the road is nearly the exact opposite. Away from home, the team is 4-4-4 in 12 road appearances. In addition, only two of their road wins this year came against teams that are currently in a playoff spot in the Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings. Furthermore, they’ve been outscored in all road games this season 37-35, giving them a minus-2 goal differential on the road. This is a drastic difference from their home goal differential, beating out their opponents 97-58 for a plus-39 goal differential
While it’s great to win at home, a good hockey team needs to be able to win in any barn, regardless of how hostile it seems. If the Panthers want to get far in the playoffs, they need to learn how to win away from home.
Win the Puck at the Faceoff Dot
Despite the amount of talent and depth the Cats have at the center position, they have struggled mightily in the faceoff circle this season. As of now, Florida ranks 29th in the NHL in faceoff winning percentage with a 46.2% win rate. This can also attribute to some of their previous problems they have in terms of special teams. Their best center in the circle this season has been their captain in Barkov with a 54.1% win rate.
Winning a faceoff is extremely important as it can swing momentum in their teams both offensively and defensively. The Panthers need to find a way to win their battles at the dot for this season.
Trade for a Defenseman
While Florida does have defensive talent in their top two pairings. The door in their third pairing continues to revolve open as they’ve dressed five different defensemen for that role.
Unfortunately, desperate times should call for desperate measures. Panthers general manager Bill Zito has been great at bringing in good trade acquisitions around the deadline. With rumors swirling around about Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jacob Chychrun being on the trade market, Zito should at the very least listen to the potential asking price.
Panthers Need to Enact These Resolutions for a Better Tomorrow
It ultimately comes down to the Cats following through on their plans. With the impressive win streak that started the year, along with the phenomenal home record, the Panthers gave themselves enough of a cushion to be able to have small slip-ups and remain in a playoff spot. However, true playoff teams will search for an opponent’s weakness and make them pay for it. If Florida can enact and continue their resolutions, they can instantly be a potential Stanley Cup contender.
My name is Joey. I’ve been writing about the NHL for about 3 years with my experience spread out between TSJ 101 Sports and Panther Parkway. I look forward to you reading my articles!