They won’t be taking anyone by surprise any longer. This Florida Panthers team is good. It’s safe to say, the cats outta the bag.
They are now the first place Panthers as well, enjoying a 7-game winning streak. The last victory of which, was against the previous Atlantic Division leaders, the Montreal Canadiens.
The Canadiens have done the opposite, going 2 and 8 in their last 10, which has created quite the log jam in the Atlantic Division standings.
As of last night, the Cats are sitting atop the Atlantic, one point ahead of Montreal at 46 points, as well as having two games in hand on them.
The Canadiens aren’t the only team breathing down the Panthers’ necks however.
Within the division, the Boston Bruins sit in third place with 44 points, while the Detroit Red Wings(43) and Ottawa Senators(42) occupy the two wild card spots.
Don’t forget the Tampa Bay Lightning either, who are not far behind at all, with 40 points.
That’s six teams separated by only 6 points, this is going to be a dog fight until the very end, and the Panthers should be extremely excited and proud for what lies ahead.
The Cat’s Bark
Aleksander Barkov has been nothing short of brilliant for the Cats. The Finnish center currently has 23 points in 27 games, having missed some time with a hand injury.
There’s no doubt about it, the former 2nd overall pick in the 2013 draft, is the Panthers’ most valuable player, and will be for the foreseeable future.
Without him, the Panthers are just simply not as good. Barkov is a shootout wiz, a great playmaker and scorer, with very solid defensive play along with a high hockey IQ. That’s the complete package, and a huge reason why the Cats are a team no one wants to face.
Alexsander Barkov is ridiculous in the shootout ?? pic.twitter.com/IZTk4q3V28
— Gino Hard (@Ginohard_) December 21, 2015
Let’s hope he stays healthy for the remainder of the season, if so, the Panthers will be seeing playoff action more likely than not.
The Most Underrated Defense
I said it before, and yeah, I’ll say it again. Florida has the most underrated defense in the NHL.
Starting with young phenom Aaron Ekblad, along with Dmitry Kulikov, Brian Campbell, Erik Gudbranson, veteran Willie Mitchell, and Alex Petrovic, the Panthers’ defensive line is the best they’ve had in their franchise history.
Florida is the 3rd best defensive team in the NHL, when looking at their goals against for the season.
Florida has turned its fortunes around ever since the acquisition of NHL legend Jaromir Jagr. He’s just not slowing down, proving to the world that age is just a number.
And at his age of 43 years young, he is leading the team with 26 pints in 34 games. Climbing up the all-time NHL scorers list, having recently passed Marcel Dionne for 4th all-time.
— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) December 20, 2015
With Jagr, there’s a new attitude within team, one which the players believe they can win any game. Jagr has brought so much more than his skill on the ice. He’s brought determination, work ethic, and plain fun to the Panthers organization.
There’s no hiding or playing underdog any longer, the cats outta the bag and rats are on the ice.
Sebastian Noble is currently in his third year with The Hockey Writers covering the Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers. Liverpool, England, and of course Colorado Avalanche & Florida Panthers supporter. You can follow him on Twitter @SebastianHNoble