What a rollercoaster ride the Florida Panthers have been on in 2023.
Last year’s Presidents’ Trophy winners barely clawed their way into the postseason before going on a remarkable run that saw them win the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately, their series against the Vegas Golden Knights did not go as they had hoped.
A victory in Game 3 cut the series deficit to 2-1, which helped the Cats forget all about two ugly games in Sin City to start the Cup Final. However, the Golden Knights proved to be the better (and healthier) team, eliminating Florida in five games to win the Stanley Cup.
How will this season be remembered for the Panthers?
The rollercoaster began long before the playoff push for the Cats. The offseason saw key players leave and new key players like Matthew Tkachuk come in. A coaching change also gave this Florida team a drastically different look than last year’s version.
When the spring rolled around, the Panthers needed some help from other teams to even reach the playoffs, but when they did, the playoff-style hockey that they had been playing for a while turned out to be a great asset to them.
Having their backs against the wall did not prevent them from dismissing the best regular season team in NHL history from the playoffs. All the Panthers did after that was go 8-1 against two of the other top teams in the East in truly remarkable fashion.
No, this season did not end with a championship parade, but Florida should feel great about what it accomplished. 2023 will go down as one of the best seasons in franchise history.
This club will need to be healthier than it was in the Stanley Cup Final in order to win, but injuries happen this time of year. More depth could also help this team moving forward, but given the hand they were dealt, I’d say this Panthers team found the best end result it possibly could.
Overall, the Panthers were 42-32-8 (92 points) in the regular season. They beat the Boston Bruins in seven games, eliminated the Toronto Maple Leafs in five games, and swept the Carolina Hurricanes before falling in the Cup Final, four games to one.
I’m not sure that anyone expected Florida to make the type of run that it did this season. This team deserves all the credit in the world.