Panthers Need Their Bark Back

The Florida Panthers without Aleksander Barkov just doesn’t feel right. It also certainly doesn’t look right on the ice either. They just need their Bark back.

Without their number one center and glue to that potent first line, the Panthers went on a five game skid until last night’s choppy win over the Calgary Flames at home.

Clearly they miss Barkov, and which team wouldn’t?

This guy is going to be a serious star in the NHL sooner than later, and is one of the key cornerstones to the Panthers organization already at age 20.

Before going down with his wrist injury, Barkov was no doubt playing some of his best hockey to date. With the 2nd overall selection of the 2013 NHL draft putting up 6 points in 7 games.

Since losing Barkov, the Panthers have gone 3-5-2, collecting only eight out of twenty possible points.

The effects of having your number one center go down for an extended period of time are felt throughout the entire lineup. As a coach you then have to shuffle almost every single forward line.

That’s why organizational depth is so very important in today’s NHL. You need players like Rocco Grimaldi(who should make the team full-time pretty soon) in your system for example, to step up into your lineup when something like this happens.

Stepping Up

Coming home from a dreadful road trip, the Panthers got the winning feeling back last night with a victory over the Flames, putting them back even at the .500 mark.

Hopefully they won’t have to do that again.

With Barkov out, everyone else has had to pull some extra weight. Several names immediately come to mind who have done just that. Young players like Grimaldi, Reilly Smith, Vincent Trocheck, and Nick Bjugstad, all have had to raise their level of play substantially in the absence of the talented Finn.

Nick Bjugstad has assumed the first line center role, and is doing a fine job between Jonathan Huberdeau and Jaromir Jagr in Barkov’s absence. While Trocheck continues to light the lamp and turn heads on a nightly basis with his impressive start to the season.

Along with the young Cats, veterans Jagr and Jussi Jokinen seem revitalized as they are consistently playing hard and putting up solid numbers.

This kind of production will need to continue and improve in order for the Panthers to start another winning streak, and not allow another skid to happen again.

Barkov is still recovering, and while the Panthers can win without him, they’ll all be damn happy when he does return, as will the fans. It will be a huge and welcome boost to a team that plans on competing for a playoff spot this season.

UPDATE – Good news, Barkov will begin practicing with the team, getting closer!