When the Florida Panthers took the ice in Vancouver, B.C. on Monday night it wasn’t without some sour feelings amongst Canucks fans. Unfortunately those sour feelings were directed at John Tortorella, Mike Gillis and the rest of the previous management team that happened to run one of the all-time great goaltenders Roberto Luongo out of town. Luongo was sporting a .931 save percentage and a 2.06 goals against average going into the matchup. He’d already notched 19 wins, three of which have been shutouts. It’s safe to say that Luongo is lights out for the Panthers this year. The Panthers unbeaten streak was stretched to 13 games on Monday night. It’s been 13 games since they’ve lost in regulation. Even more impressive is that the first twelve of those were consecutive wins. No surprise though, it’s just two more notches on Luongo’s already stunning resumé.
As the Canucks continue to skid out of control (they’ve won just eleven of their last 30 games) the Panthers are cruising with twelve straight wins going into Monday night’s match-up with the Canucks which ended with an overtime loss for the Cats. That Panthers winning streak has surely been a product of the combination of many factors within the Panthers organization but the fundamental reason why the Panthers are tearing through the league right now on a 13 game unbeaten streak is Roberto Luongo.
At 37-years-old Luongo isn’t a young buck anymore. In fact he’s probably nearing the final few years of being a truly competitive NHL goalie. But that’s not stopping him from performing, not even close. Luongo has been responsible for nine of the team’s wins in their current twelve game run including six in a row where Luongo let in just eight goals in six games. Unreal doesn’t even come close to describing what’s happening in South Florida right now. The twelve game Panthers win streak is the longest in NHL history for a team that failed to qualify for the playoffs the year prior.
Panthers Unbeaten Streak Means Open Door Policy For Bandwagon Fans
There’s been some hilarious media about how South Florida is flocking to the Panthers in a suspicious manner. As the team becomes more competitive and looks like they might contend for a championship their fan base has miraculously grown. Especially during the Panthers win streak of recent.
In addition to their attendance seeing a sizable increase they’ve also caught the attention of some of their regional sports allies.
The Miami Marlins and Miami Dolphins have also expressed their pride for the team’s current twelve game streak and resulting Atlantic Division leading record but some fans aren’t so keen on the company those franchises might give.
It’s funny right? But the point is really that Panthers fans are getting involved and showing pride in their organization. Sure bandwagon fans are frustrating sometimes, but if you hadn’t of grown up watching your team but instead become a new-age hockey fan only to watch your team make the playoffs just once in a span of twelve years, wouldn’t you be looking for a new sport to watch also?
Great news! That era might be over and its thanks in large part to Roberto Luongo who came back to South Florida with the goal of building a playoff team before his time was up in the NHL. He seems to have done it…and more. The twelve game win streak and current thirteen game regulation unbeaten streak has Florida in solitary company. No other team has surged like the Panthers have this year.
Attendance is up considerably at the BB&T Center and fans are engaged with players. The lovable Jaromir Jagr has the whole league rooting for him, Roberto Luongo’s twitter page is worthy of it’s own Comedy Central special and fans are even flocking back to the plastic rat-throwing tradition, something that signals a celebration for the team’s winning ways.
Rats on the ice as the #FlaPanthers sweep their six-game homestand! pic.twitter.com/J0J4hYTI3R
— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) January 4, 2016
All in all things are looking pretty good for the once-sure-to-be-relocated Florida Panthers. GM Dale Tallon has worked his magic on this club by employing long time professionals like Luongo and Jagr and filling the rest of his lines with young, slowly developed players. The way the Panthers are built they should be a force for years to come.
So even if you’ve been watching the Panthers for their entire existence be happy that the Panthers are finally making noise in South Florida. The more people that guys with media presence like Luongo and Jagr can bring in the better. The more the team wins…the better. The more fans buying tickets for a home game and purchasing merchandise…well… the longer you’ll be able to be a Florida Panthers fan.
Back to Lu
Nothing could be worse as a professional athlete than losing the Stanley Cup Final in game seven and on home ice. Roberto Luongo felt that exact pain and then for the next three years took the brunt of it for a collapsing team. Finally Luongo was reunited with his former club the Florida Panthers. From that point on Luongo has returned to being one of the top goalies in the league, both active and inactive.
His .931 save percentage is good for fifth in the league and he’s set to make an appearance at the 2016 NHL All-Star Game. He has a 9-0-1 record in his last ten games played and a roughly .950 save percentage in that same span. His team currently sits comfortable atop the Atlantic Division with 26 wins and 56 points good for a four point lead over the Detroit Red Wings. That’s right. A four point lead over the team that has the longest running playoff streak in professional sports.
So while the Panthers successes this year should chalked up to many different things, their success began to build into a sustainable system the day that Dale Tallon brought the Panthers goalie, Roberto Luongo, back into town.