Let's get this straight: The Florida Panthers were where before their just-completed five-game road trip? And after that treacherous swing of away games, they did what and are now where in the Atlantic Division?
On Feb. 10, Florida was ready to embark on five-city road excursion, starting in Nashville. The Panthers won the Atlantic Division a year ago, but started slowly in 2016-17 -- so much so they fired coach Gerard Gallant and were roundly criticized for the move. (Including by this reporter) Sitting in 12th place in the Eastern Conference and 15 points behind Montreal for the division lead, the chances of Florida generating much support for NHL picks was remote at best for this trip.
The Panthers offense has ranked in the 20s in the league all season but scored seven times in Nashville and six goals four days later in San Jose to start the trip 2-0. From there, GM and now head coach Tom Rowe was able to lean on his defense, and the Panthers held Anaheim, Los Angeles and St. Louis to four total goals and earned 10 points in five contests, a franchise-best, and they moved up to seventh in the conference and are only four points behind the slumping Canadiens in the Atlantic.
What happened? Credit Rowe and his staff for making defensive adjustments, both goalies doing the jobs and left wing Jussi Jokinen for igniting entire offense with four scores in six games.
Florida now has a great opportunity to really make a move beginning Wednesday, playing seven of the next eight encounters at the BB&T Center. One potential negative is 14-17 SU record on home ice vs. the NHL odds. However, seven of those defeats came beyond regulation, which seems unlucky or previously questionable coaching. The Panthers have now won eight of nine and have definite 'play on' potential for the foreseeable future.Bet On NHL Futures At SBR Forum's Top Sportsbooks