Even though the Florida Panthers are not currently in a wild card spot, there is no reason to believe that they cannot get hot with some Cat-scratch fever and make the postseason. They have a few games in hand on the New York Islanders and their remaining schedule is extremely favorable.
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Coach Paul Maurice can lead this team to the NHL’s second season. If they do get there, it will be a matchup against the runaway train Boston Bruins or either the Carolina Hurricanes or New Jersey Devils. But, getting there is really what matters most, and this is what the Panthers can do to qualify for the hardest tournament to win in sports:
Play Sergei Bobrovsky and Only Bob
Typically, teams that drink from the Stanley Cup do so on the shoulder pads of a goaltender who elevates their game beyond the elite level. Sergei Bobrovsky accounts for a high percentage of the Panthers’ cap. He’s a 34-year-old goalie who plays better the more he plays.
“He looks like the guy that we remember in his prime,” Maurice said recently to AP News. “He looks young. He’s getting across the crease fast. His rebound control is right. He’s wired. He’s finding pucks through screens.”
Then play him. Every game from here on out. Forget about analytics and matchups. Forget about rest and back-to-backs. Put Bob into that crease and leave him there. He’s an ace. Push all-in. Even if the river card is not the result wanted, at least the hand was played correctly.
Stop Taking So Many Penalties
The Panthers lead the league in penalty minutes per game. Couple that with one of the league’s worst penalty-killing units and the end game is death by too many pucks in your own net. Aggressive play is welcomed and essential, but time after time, the Panthers have gone too far, which has cost them dearly.
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”We are not trying to take penalties out there but sometimes desperation and emotion can come into it — and there are some tough calls here and there,” Marc Staal said to Florida Hockey Now. “But I think we got to minimize that to give ourselves a better chance.”
In addition, they have been caught deep in the offensive zone often and their inability to play defense as a five-man unit has led to an insane number of…
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