The Florida Panthers have had a great season with little time left to go. Right now, they are a top-5 team in the NHL and they currently hold the third spot in the Discover Central Division. For the most part, the Panthers have handled all of their opponents within their realigned division as they have a .500 record or better against all opponents. But there’s been one that hasn’t followed that story line. That team is the Carolina Hurricanes, which has had the upper hand on Florida all season long. Through six total games, the Hurricanes have a astonishing 5-0-1 record against the Cats. In addition, they still are set to play them two more times on April 22 and 24. But what factors have ultimately led to their struggles against the Canes? Furthermore, is it too late to try and bounce back?
Trocheck Gets His Revenge
Hurricanes center Vincent Trocheck is making Florida regret the day they even considered dealing him out of Sunrise. Through all six of their meetings, the former Panther has scored one goal; however, he is currently second on the team in goals with 16 and second in points with 34.
Originally drafted by Florida in the third round of the 2011 NHL Draft, “Troch” became a face of the franchise. With 282 total points (111 goals, 171 assists) during his 7-year tenure as a Panther, he established himself as the No. 2 center on the team. He even got his first taste of playoff action in the 2015-16 season, registering one assist through two games. On Feb. 24, 2020, former Panthers general manager Dale Talon dealt him to Carolina in exchange for forwards Lucas Wallmark, Erik Haula, Eetu Luostarinen, and defenseman Chase Priske. While his time there is over, fans still remember the impact he had on the team.
Special Teams Faulter
Florida’s man-advantage and shorthanded moments look strong some nights as they are currently 13th in the NHL in both power play and penalty kill success rate. But when they play the Hurricanes, it seems that magic fizzles out in the end. Through all five meetings, the Hurricanes have scored at least one power-play goal. Through 22 total man-advantage opportunities, they have capitalized on a total of eight chances, which is a 27.5 percent success rate against Florida.
On the other hand, Florida’s special teams have suffered drastically against their divisional rival. Their power play only cashed in twice in 22 opportunities through six games. That makes up for an abysmal 2 percent conversion rate. Furthermore, in their last four meetings, the Panthers have scored zero power-play goals. Florida has to be better on their man-advantage, not only against the Hurricanes, but as a whole as it has been lacking as of late.
History Repeats Itself
Unfortunately, this is not the only season where the Panthers have failed to steal two points from Carolina as they have been their recent boogeyman. Through their last 16 meetings, Carolina has won 13 of those matchups. Furthermore, Florida has not beat Carolina at home since April 3, 2018. Overall, the Panthers are 27-32-8 in franchise history against them during the regular season.
The Panthers need to be able to tame their demons if they want to be a future playoff contender, not only this season, but for years to come.
Is it Too Late to Beat Them?
While there are two games left against them and the season has not been favorable towards Florida, they have shown they can play them hard. They have one win against the Hurricanes all season and have forced them to extra minutes in three of their last six meetings.
In addition, they have to keep strength against them as there is a possibility that they could meet up in Round 1 of the upcoming playoffs. This sample size of the regular season is not a good look for the Panthers. However, the NHL deadline is soon to pass and general manager Bill Zito picked up some help for the team in the form of forwards Lucas Wallmark, Nikita Gusev, defensemen Brandon Montour and Lucas Carlsson. Also, the Panthers still have some play money to work with. Maybe another big piece will be on its way to Sunrise.
Florida clearly has what it takes to hang with the big guns as shown by their record. As of right now, Florida is two points behind both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina for the top spot in the Discover Central Division. With only 14 games left in the regular season, there is time to catch ground. However, they need to make every game count.
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!