by Patrick Hoffman on 02/18/09 at 02:30 PM ET
The last time the Florida Panthers made the playoffs, they had some guy named Pavel Bure and had Mike Vernon as their goaltender. This happened during the 1999-2000 season when they were swept by the eventual Stanley Cup Champion New Jersey Devils.
Nine years later, the Panthers find themselves in unfamiliar territory as March approaches: a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Since the new year, the team is 13-4-2 and is sixth in the Eastern Conference with 66 points, just three points behind the fourth-place Philadelphia Flyers. So, you might ask, how are they doing this?
First off, they have a terrific first year coach in Pete Deboer, who has given the team a system that fits their style of play. They attack teams, they utilize their speed, they forecheck, they tighten up their defense at the right time and they get quality goaltending on almost a nightly basis. This system was executed perfectly last night in a 4-0 win over the Devils.
Secondly, while they may not produce a lot of points, the team has had relatively balanced scoring. Stephen Weiss currently leads the team with 41 points followed by David Booth (37 points), Nathan Horton (36 points….he’s not even playing to the best of his abilities), Cory Stillman (35 points), and Jay Bouwmeester (30 points). You also have pleasant surprises such as Gregory Campbell (26 points), Michael Frolik (29 points) and even Richard Zednik (25 ponts), all of whom are providing offense when the team calls upon them to.
While the team may allow a shots, they are sixth in the league in goals allowed. This is a testament to the strong play of defensemen Bouwmeester, Bryan McCabe, Keith Ballard, Nick Boynton, and Karlis Skrastins. They’re not afraid to block shots, clear rebounds, and contribute offensively.
Lastly, the club’s goaltending has been exceptional. Starter Tomas Vokoun has 19 wins with a 2.45 goals against average, .925 save percentage and five shutouts while backup netminder Craig Anderson’s numbers are just as good as he has 10 wins, a 2.29 goals against average, .929 save percentage and three shutouts. This is exactly the goaltending you need to succeed in the playoffs.
Yes, there is still a lot of hockey played but right now, the Panthers are playing great hockey and there is no reason to think that it will stop anytime soon.
Filed in: | Goal Line Report | Permalink
Tags: bryan+mccabe, cory+stillman, craig+anderson, david+booth, florida+panthers, gregory+campbell, jay+bouwmeester, karlis+skrastins, keith+ballard, michael+frolik, mike+vernon, nathan+horton, new+jersey+devils, nick+boynton, pavel+bure, pete+deboer, richard+zednik, stephen+weiss, tomas+vokoun
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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.
Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.
For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org.