Panthers Fall Into Post All-Star Break Slump

Things are not looking good for the Florida Panthers with only 24 games remaining in the 2019-20 regular season. The club owns a record of 4-5-1 in their last 10 games and currently sits on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture looking, with 66 points. They’re five points out of the last wild card spot, which is occupied by the Philadelphia Flyers.

This team is clearly past the rebuilding years and is heading into the deadline as buyers instead of sellers. This team is built for making a postseason appearance, and are hopeful in making Joel Quenneville’s first season as Panthers head coach a step in the right direction for the franchise.

Florida Panthers Joel Quenneville
Florida Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville (AP Photo/Jim Rassol)

The NHL trade deadline is approaching rapidly, and with the situation the Panthers are in, it’s almost inevitable that general manager Dale Tallon will be making moves before the Feb. 24 deadline.

The Panthers have allowed 198 goals against this season, which is the fifth-most in the league, so adding a defenseman before next Monday is something likely to happen for the team from Sunrise, Florida.

Panthers’ Brutal February

It’s been nothing short of a month to forget so far for the Cats, as they have recorded just two wins over their last nine games. One would expect better from this Panthers team coming out of the All-Star break, especially with the way they arrived, with wins in seven out of their last eight heading into it.

The Panthers have won just one of their last seven games, with four of the losses coming to Eastern Conference opponents in playoff spots, and an Edmonton Oilers team without Connor McDavid and other regulars. Sergei Bobrovsky’s inconsistencies have also continued, as he’s been pulled twice during the skid.

Sergei Bobrovsky Florida Panthers
Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida Panthers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

When he was a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Bobrovsky showed, year after year, that he’s capable of getting hot in the latter stages of the season. He’ll need to do so again in 2020, but Florida’s defense has to help their goaltender out by reducing the number of shots allowed, as they are in the bottom-10 in the league in that area.

Florida’s offense was no problem before the All-Star Game, as they were one of the highest-scoring teams heading into the break, but inconsistencies have seemed to appear in every part of the lineup as the Panthers have scored the third-fewest goals since then.

There’s too much talent on this roster for Florida to be in this position. They acquired some big names in the offseason with some heavy spending – they brought in one of the summer’s top free agents in Bobrovsky, and hired the second-winningest coach in NHL history in Quenneville.  (from ‘Hyde: Time for Panthers to wake up — or suffer their most disappointing season ever | Commentary,’ Florida Sun-Sentinel, 02/16/2020)

Tight Playoff Race

What also doesn’t make it easier for the Panthers is that other playoff hopefuls, like the Philadelphia Flyers and Blue Jackets, have been gaining ground on Florida in the standings. The two Metropolitan Division teams currently are holding onto the two wild-card spots.

The Panthers are also keeping an eye on the Toronto Maple Leafs as they are currently occupying the third spot in the Atlantic Division, four points above the Panthers, but with two more games played.

The Panthers will now embark on their Southwestern road trip, with the hopes of getting things going for the final quarter of the season. This is the perfect opportunity for Florida to start picking up points, as they will face other teams currently outside a playoff spot.

This is where you expect your leaders to step up – it’s on Aleksander Barkov, who has recently returned from injury, and other leaders, including Aaron Ekblad and Jonathan Huberdeau, to turn things around.