The Florida Panthers were one of the worst teams in the NHL for the past two years. The Panthers finished second last in points in the NHL during the 2013-2014 season. After drafting the talented Aaron Ekblad during the off-season, the Panthers were able to finish sixth in the weak Atlantic division.
This season, the Florida-based team shook the hockey world with their recent streak of success. They are currently first in the Atlantic Division with 52 points in 40 games and are currently tied for fourth in the NHL in points with the Chicago Blackhawks and the St. Louis Blues. They have won 10 straight games and are considered to be NHL's hottest team right now.
No one expected the Panthers to outperform star-studded teams like the New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins, or the Anaheim Ducks. The Panthers' roster does not have any recognizable superstars of this generation, but yet they have been able to show the hockey world that a team does not need elite players like Sidney Crosby, Corey Perry, and Alexander Ovechkin to succeed.
So why are the Panthers so successful this season?
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The Veteran Goalies
The Panthers' success stems from the stellar performances by both their netminders, Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya.
Roberto Luongo seems to have reached his prime again with the numbers he has been putting up this season. He currently has a .930 save percentage and a spectacular 2.06 GAA. Luongo's .930 save percentage is second in all NHL goalies that have starred in at least 25 games.
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In addition, Luongo is tied for fourth in the league in wins with 18 and has three shutouts as well. The 36-year-old netminder is also a workhorse and is fourth in the league in saves with 882 saves.
Backup goalie Al Montoya has been enjoying an equally successful season with a .938 save percentage after nine games. The 30-year-old also has a 1.69 GAA and won six out of the nine games he's started in.
The Rock Solid Defense
A large part of the goalies' success in net is attributed to the rock solid play by the Florida defense. Although the Panthers do not have a superstar defense like the Nashville Predators or the New York Rangers, the gritty Florida defense gets their job done.
The Panthers have the second best GA record in the league with 86 GA in 40 games. That statistic is a great indicator as to how successful the Florida blue line has been.
In addition to stopping pucks, the Panthers' defensemen are also contributing to the offense. Aaron Ekblad, the 2015 Calder Cup winner has nine goals and 18 points in 40 games and Brian Campbell has two goals and 13 points in 40 games.
For a team that is not known for scoring many goals, these offensive statistics for Florida's defense are already amazing.
Jaromir Jagr and the Talented, Young Offense
The greatest shock to many NHL fans is the Panthers' ability to score goals this season. The Panthers scored 111 goals in 40 games and score on average about 2.78 goals per game. This is a significant increase from the 2.51 goals per game during the 2014-2015 season and the 2.39 goals per game in the 2013-2014 season.
The Panthers have three deadly lines of attackers. The first line includes veteran Jaromir Jagr, and youngsters Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau. The first line combined for 81 points in 40 games.
Jagr has been entertaining the NHL world with his cheeky tweets regarding the NHL All-Star Game and is still showing that he has the capability to score, with 14 goals and 29 points in 37 games.
Furthermore, the second and third lines are just as deadly as the first line. Jussi Jokinen and Vincent Trockeck are fourth and fifth in the Panthers' scoring with 24 and 23 points respectively. Reilly Smith and Brandon Pirri have 21 and 20 points respectively as well. Nick Bjustad has 12 points in 24 games and is also heating up after he returned from his injury.
With seven players scoring over 20 points in 40 games, the Panthers have the firepower to continue their offensive successes during the season.
The combined successes of Florida's goaltending, defense, and the offense results in the success of the team. The Panthers are no longer the same team that gets demolished by almost every team in the league.
With a great mix of veterans, rookies, and youngsters performing well together, the Panthers are primed to have a successful season.
Perhaps the Sunshine State of Florida might have another Stanley Cup contending team in their state.
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