Everything seemed to be perfect for the Florida Panthers on opening night of the 2013 season. The Cats handily defeated their division rival, the Carolina Hurricanes, by a count of 5-1. Rookie sensation Jonathan Huberdeau scored the first goal of the season just 3:37 into the contest. The Saint-Jerome, Quebec native also notched his first two assists for a banner first National Hockey League game. Add to that free agent pickups Alex Kovalev and Peter Mueller each grabbing points of their own alongside Huberdeau on what is allegedly the Panthers’ second line and blue line production via Brian Campbell. Sounds like a steller season in the making, right?
Apparently not. Since then, the Cats have dropped five straight. Two days afte their opening night heroics, Florida was shut out 4-0 at the hands of the Ottawa Senators and followed up by scoring just one goal in their next three games, all losses. In total, the Panthers have been outscored by a combined 23-5 during the losing streak. Things are obviously spiraling out of control in South Florida. Or so it seems.
The current streak the Panthers are on is not one to just ignore, especially in a shortened season where the season already 12.5% completed (Florida has played 6 of 48 games), but it is also not one to sound the panic alarm on either. Consider these facts:
- The Panthers went 12-8-4 against their Southeast Division brethren last season.
- They went 34-22-8 against the Eastern Conference.
- 41.67% of the games this season will be against division opponents (20 out of 48) as opposed to 29.26% (20 out of 82 game), and all 48 regular games are interconference this season.
If the Panthers are as productive against their conference and division in 2013 as they were in 2011-2012, they stand to earn a division record of 12-8-4 and overall finish 26-17-5 and 57 points. Winning 54% of your games in an NHL season usually gets you solidly in the playoffs as shown by eighth-seeded Los Angeles, who got in to last year’s post season with 40 wins in 82 games. We all know how that story turned out.
An additional positive is that the Panthers are undefeated in division play so far this season. You can’t draw much from a sample size of one, but the other southeast division team undefeated with in the conference is the 1st place Lightning. Starting tonight (7:30 EST) the Panthers resume division play against the Winnipeg Jets and being in BB&T Center against a division rival just might be what the Cats need to snap their losing streak.