It’s been almost a week since the Florida Panthers were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and I still can’t wrap my head around the way in which they lost.
The Cats dominated the NHL this year, winning the Presidents’ Trophy and scoring over four goals per game. Florida was led by forward Jonathan Huberdeau, who demolished his career-high in points by scoring 115 (tied for second in the league).
With a record of 58-18-6, the Panthers recorded 122 points, which was six points better than any other Eastern Conference team. Florida owned a +94 goal differential and the league’s fifth-best power play.
The Panthers started hot in October and never cooled down, yet when the playoffs arrived they looked like an entirely different group.
How do the Panthers get graded for this season?
In Round One, Florida took on the Washington Capitals, a team that I believe was among the weakest in the playoff field. Washington’s defense and goaltending had been subpar throughout the regular season, making this a great matchup for the Cats.
The Capitals shocked the Panthers by taking Game 1 in Sunrise, and although Florida came out on top in six games, the tight, relatively low-scoring series was not what many anticipated we would get.
Fast forward to Round Two and the struggles that the Panthers had against an average Capitals team were amplified against the two-time defending champions.
Florida’s offense disappeared against the Bolts, cashing in on the power play only once while scoring three total goals in the series.
The way that the season ended for the Panthers makes this season feel like a bigger letdown than it was. In reality, Florida accomplished great things and should be encouraged by this season.
2022 marked the team’s first Presidents’ Trophy, and it won its first playoff series since 1996. Yes, the organization and its fans had higher hopes for the postseason, but this was a great year for the Panthers.
Florida will now focus on re-signing/reconstructing the bottom portion of its lineup. Regardless of the approach, the 2021-2022 season should have the franchise feeling positive about the direction in which it is heading.
The Grade: B+