The Florida Panthers are on the outside of a playoff spot looking in with a record of 15-13-4 and 34 points. They trail the New York Islanders and the Washington Capitals for the final wild-card spot by four points and the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Atlantic Division by seven points. They will look to get back to their winning ways before the Christmas break, as they’re dead even at 5-5-0 in their last 10 games. However, an injury bug plagued the team before the season began, and it’s been getting worse with a new scratch or bruise every night.
But one player has stepped up in the absence of injured players, and that is forward Carter Verhaeghe, who has picked up right where he left off from his dominant playoff performance last season.
Verhaeghe off to a Good Start
Verhaeghe has 28 points (17 goals, 11 assists) in 32 games this season, making him second on the team in points and the team leader in goals scored. He’s also tallied a point (a goal and two assists) in four of his last five games and ranks second on the Cats in power-play goals with four, one shy of the lead held by forward Sam Reinhart. In his game against the Seattle Kraken on Dec. 3, he became the fourth player in franchise history to score two goals in 26 seconds or less.
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In three seasons with the Panthers, he’s scored 59 goals and 118 points. In his career, he’s scored 68 goals and assisted on 64 others. He’s been arguably general manager Bill Zito‘s best free agent acquisition since he was hired in South Florida and it’s clear he was developed well by their cross-state rivals in the Lightning. It’s no wonder he’s on the top line with the captain Aleksander Barkov and Sam Reinhart every night.
Verhaeghe Boosts the Team Around Him
Verhaeghe’s success has given the team life and offers his teammates a chance to grab two points, even when the odds are stacked against them.
He was on that puck, hunted pucks, backchecked, worked and competed. He set a very, very high level for the rest of the group.Panthers head coach Paul Maurice on Carter Verhaeghe during a game against the Seattle Kraken on Dec. 3
He has shown no signs of slowing down. He is the type of player that any team needs for a successful season. And it’s clear he loves the team he has around him.
Everyone did a fantastic job stepping in…Everyone was making fantastic plays, and it was nice to get the win right off the hop here…I can’t say enough good things about Bob. Every game it seems like he makes a huge save. He was dialed in. He’s our backbone back there. It’s so much confidence for us as players to have him in net back there.Carter Verhaeghe after a 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Oct. 19, 2022
Will Verhaeghe’s Effort Be Enough for a Panthers Playoff Berth This Season?
There’s still time to right the ship with someone like “Swaggy” at the helm. But with every loss, it feels as if the season was lost before a real stretch of games began.
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However, the Panthers put together an impressive win over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night (Dec. 17), and this could be the turnaround the team has desperately needed. In the grand scheme of it all, with Verhaeghe in the lineup, there’s a chance they can leave any game against anyone with two points. However, if the Panthers want to turn their season around, they must find a way to get points in their next stretch of games. And with him playing at the level he’s at, anything is possible in Sunrise, Florida.