The Florida Panthers suffered a massive slump in the month of March as it was riddled with injuries to top players, lineup shuffles, and even a three-game losing streak. However, they still ended up tied for first place with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Central DIvision entering April. This was in large part to their three stars that shined through last month.
3rd Star: Jonathan Huberdeau
Forward Jonathan Huberdeau played like the superstar he was supposed to be this past month and continues to show why he is one of the most underrated players in today’s NHL. Through 16 games played in March, he registered 17 points (6 goals, 11 assists). This brought his season total to 41 points (14 goals, 27 assists), making him sixth in the league in that department.
In Aleksander Barkov’s absence, Huberdeau played a big role in stepping up to get his squad points. In the five games that Barkov missed, he tallied a total of three goals and three assists, including a three-point night against Dallas on March 28. His performance is going to be key in the postseason.
2nd Star: Carter Verhaeghe
Every time he stepped on the ice this season, forward Carter Verhaeghe shows how good of an acquisition was for the Panthers.
Verhaeghe had an electric month with 16 points (10 goals, 6 assists) through 16 games. This also included a hat trick against the Dallas Stars on March 27 and a two-goal night on March 31 against the Detroit Red Wings. With that, Verhaeghe now leads the team in goals with 17, 16 of those being at even strength. Much like his teammate in Huberdeau, he played when it mattered after dealing with a shortened lineup due to injuries from Barkov and Aaron Ekblad.
As evident by his success, he was a fantastic under the radar signing by general manager Bill Zito at only $1 million per year for the next two years. Additionally, he has the same amount of goals as former Panther forwards Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov combined. During the offseason, their biggest worry was to replace them, and Zito may have done that with one guy.
1st Star: Aleksander Barkov
The captain, Aleksander Barkov, shows in every game he’s played why he’s one of the best centers in today’s NHL and now a Hart Trophy candidate.
Through 9 of the 11 games he played through the month of March, he registered at least one point. Four of those games were multi-point nights for him. In addition, through that month, he piled up 16 points (5 goals, 11 assists). Because of his success, he was recognized by the NHL as the Central Division’s Star of the Month.
Despite missing the last five games of last month, Barkov managed to make a significant impact for the team. In addition, he currently is second on the team in points with 37 and assists with 24. It is clearly evident his teammates miss him on the ice.
“He’s definitely a special player. I think he’s the best player in the world. He does so many things behind that nobody can see. He’s so valuable for us.”Sergei Bobrovsky on Aleksander Barkov
He is due back during their weekend back-to-back against the Columbus Blue Jackets starting April 3. It will be just in time for a big playoff push.
Will April Lead Them to Playoffs?
April will be arguably the Panthers’ toughest month since February. They have to take on Carolina four times, Columbus four times, Tampa twice, Nashville twice and Chicago once, all of which are fighting for playoff contention. The Cats enter this month tied for first overall the NHL in points with 50 and tied for first in the Central Division with Tampa. If they want to enter the playoffs as the top seed in the division, they must be able to handle their next tough test.
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!