Panthers Need to Fix Anemic Special Teams

The Florida Panthers are off to a good start to their 2022-23 season. They have points in all but three games, going 5-3-1. This is great considering their injuries have been piling up on them on the defensive side of the puck and some of their top forwards are struggling to find the back of the net.

Speaking of which, there’s an elephant in the room that needs to be addressed and it’s cost the Panthers a couple of games already. That is the performance of their special teams, as it’s been anemic through the first few weeks of the season.

The Panthers’ Power Play Is Pitiful

It’s as if the power play from last season’s playoff run was never fixed for the Panthers. Through seven games this season, they’ve only scored five power play goals out of 41 chances. This includes a double minor and a 5-on-3 that they did not score against the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 25. Dating back to the 2022 postseason, they’ve only scored five power play goals on a grand total of 72 opportunities. As a result, their power play percentage (PP%) is a 9.8 percent conversion rate, making it the fourth worst in the NHL behind the Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators who both share an 8.3 percent success rate and the Columbus Blue Jackets who have yet to score on the man advantage.

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This is in large part due to their main goal scorers not being able to find the back of the net when given the opportunity and getting too cute with their puck movement instead of taking a shot. It also does not help that Aaron Ekblad, who holds one of the five power play goals the Panthers have scored, is on long-term injured reserve (LTIR).

Penalty Kill Is Killing the Panthers

The Panthers’ penalty kill is a little better than their power play, but it is hurting them just as badly. They have allowed at least one power play goal in seven of their first nine games. Including two against the Tampa Bay Lightning that would ultimately lead to an overtime defeat. As of now, their kill rate is at 74.3 percent, which makes for 25th in the NHL.

Aleksander Barkov Florida Panthers
Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The simple solution to prevent goals a man down is to stay out of the box. But, it is hard sometimes to do so as some calls can be drawn and emotional outbursts from certain plays can lead to costly mistakes. A big solution is to utilize their two-way centers in Aleksander Barkov, Anton Lundel, and Eetu Luostarinen, who have shown they can handle the load.

There Is Time to Right the Ship

The silver lighting behind all of this is that the players are still learning a new system under head coach Paul Maurice and it’s still very early in the season. As a result, there’s plenty of time to work out all the kinks within the special teams and find something that makes it click.

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As previously mentioned, injuries have not helped this team in that capacity as there have been games without defenseman Brandon Montour and a ton more without Ekblad in which they’ve had to run five forwards on the power play.

Will it Be Enough?

Only time will tell if getting healthy and trying something new will work for this squad. On the bright side, it looks like it may be on the upswing as they now have a power play goal in two straight games. But of course, the team continues to allow power play goals on their end as well. Additionally, Ekblad is projected to return to the lineup by next month, which will hopefully give the man advantage some new life.

However, there are still over 70 games left to go in the regular season for the Panthers and they’re sitting in a pretty good spot. They currently sit second in the Atlantic Division behind only the Boston Bruins, who have 16 points and a record of 8-1-0. This is a great time to get the problems out early so that they’re ready for real hockey after the All-Star Break. This team has to walk before they can start running. Once they do, they should get back to their dominant ways of old.


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