Over the past month, the Florida Panthers showed they are arguably the strongest team in the NHL as they finished their month of October with a record of 8-0-1, which is their best start in franchise history. In addition, they start next month on a positive note, a nine-game point streak as they enter America’s capital to take on the Washington Capitals on Nov 4. However, their month of October was not exactly rainbows and sunshine.
Just a couple of weeks into the 2021-22 season, the Panthers would see their fourth coaching change since the 2016-17 season. On Oct 28, after a meeting with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, head coach Joel Quenneville resigned as Florida’s head coach. The resignation is in connection with the investigation into the Chicago Blackhawks scandal as he was their head coach in 2010. As a result, assistant coach Andrew Brunette would take the mantle as the Panthers’ interim head coach. He is currently 1-0-1 in his head coaching career.
The Top Line Executes
The top line of forwards Aleksander Barkov, Anthony Duclair, and Carter Verhaeghe has continued to show why it’s one of the strongest in the NHL. The line has combined for a total of 23 points (14 goals, nine assists). Speaking of Duclair, after being snake-bitten last season, he has emerged as the top goal scorer for Florida with six goals on the campaign. That also ties nine other players for third in the league. Furthermore, he already has more than half the goals he scored last year (10 through 43 games played) through nine games.
Even last season, the top line was a huge problem for opposing offenses as they combined last year for a whopping 126 points (54 goals, 72 assists). It seems that their production has not slowed down and are playing with just as much ambition as they were the previous year.
Lundell Rises Up and Performs
After signing his entry-level contract this offseason, Finnish forward Anton Lundell has shown that he’s the real deal so far this regular season. Through all five games he’s played this season, he has five points (three goals, two assists). Furthermore, he’s been entrusted with a lot of ice time both at even strength and on the penalty kill as he averaged a little over 16 minutes per game. For comparison, he is just a little under six minutes behind his captain in Barkov’s average time on ice (TOI) of over 22 minutes.
With that being noted, it shows that the coaching staff has confidence in the rookie, which should, in turn, raise his spirits and push him to his fullest potential. In addition, he more than likely honed his two-way game from his captain as he was rooming with him during training camp. Unfortunately, he did end the month on injured reserve. However, he should be coming back at some point in the month of November.
Reinhart Emerges After Slow Start
After a shaky start with his new team, forward Sam Reinhart finally got the ball rolling on his 2021-22 campaign after finding success on the third line with Lundell and Mason Marchment. Currently, he has amassed a total of seven points (two goals, five assists) through nine appearances. In addition, he currently hones a plus-5 rating, which is currently higher than any rating he’s had during his time as a Buffalo Sabre. He may finally get his shot at the postseason this year after being on a struggling Buffalo team throughout his career.
Bobrovsky and Knight Slam the Door
Goaltenders Sergei Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight have emerged as one of the top goalie tandems in the NHL and their respective records and stats tell the story. Bobrovsky is currently undefeated, going 6-0-0 in all six starts. Furthermore, he has a goals-against average (GAA) of 1.81 and a save percentage (SV%) of .944. After his first few years with Florida being rocky, he has finally bounced back to his Vezina form.
Even though he’s only had three starts, their “Knight” in shining armor has been playing extremely well. Through his three appearances, he’s acclimated a 2-0-1 record, a 1.95 GAA and a .929 SV%. That brings his career stat line to 6-0-1, a 2.15 GAA and a .924 SV%. The success of both goaltenders has helped propel the Panthers to third in the league in goals against per game with 1.81. A true goalie tandem is necessary for a big playoff run, and Florida has a great one in their hands.
What’s in Store for November?
With their recent success, it’s clear that the Panthers are having way too much fun.
“It gets more and more fun every game,” Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov said. “We just keep working and find a way to get better and we’re having a lot of fun, and I don’t think anybody wants to stop.”Aleksander Barkov after Florida’s seventh straight victory against the Boston Bruins on October 27
While this month was surely a strong test, next month is not that much different. They open up their first week of November against two of the top three teams in the Metropolitan Division. But as we’ve seen from last month, the Cats are clearly up for the challenge. Even in the face of adversity, the team has shown they can emerge victorious and have a little fun along the way.