The Florida Panthers, for a few years now, have been knocking on the door to being a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
They might now be there, and that’s a problem for the Boston Bruins.
The Panthers, thanks to Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, among others, have boasted elite offense for some time now. However, the goaltending and defense has been shaky, which has prevented them from really reaching their full potential.
But they retooled at the blue line, added even more depth up front and if Sergei Bobrovsky craters, like he seems to do annually, youngster Spencer Knight seems like he could be the real deal behind him.
The Bruins, after falling 4-1 to Florida on Wednesday in the two sides’ first matchup since March of 2020, were impressed with the Panthers.
“They’ve got a good team, we know that,” Bruins defenseman Connor Clifton told reporters after the game. “That’s why they’re 6-0, undefeated, now 7-0.”
Over the last few years (save for the 2021 season when the divisions were changed), it usually was the Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs and Bruins jostling atop the Atlantic Division. Florida’s hot start doesn’t seem like it will be a flash in the pan, and the Cats should be right in the mix with the Bruins, Bolts and the like. Maybe not just in the Atlantic, but in the Eastern Conference and NHL as a whole.
“I watched them last year, obviously because of the interest in the Tampa series,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “You know they’re going to be good, they’ve put pieces in place here, they’ve got a proven coaching staff, they’ve got a goaltender who has had a lot of success, won a Vezina, with a young kid right behind him. Their pieces are in place.”
Time will tell how long the Panthers keep crushing opponents, and it shouldn’t be forgotten that their coach, Joel Quenneville, was named in the investigation into the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks and shouldn’t have even been coaching Wednesday night. It’s possible he’s ousted from his position, or at the very least, it will be a cloud that deservedly follows him and, by extension, the Panthers.
From a pure talent standpoint though, the Panthers could prove to be one of the NHL’s top dogs this season, and that could be a headache for the Bruins, who will face Florida again Saturday.