Jan 14, 2014; Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov (16) skates with the puck against the New York Islanders in the first period at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Florida Panthers: Behind Enemy Lines

As one reader put it earlier today, this game is a must lose one for the Buffalo Sabres!  All this winning is making me a little nervous, fellas . . .

Jan 20, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) passes the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Panthers won 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight’s Opponent: The Florida Panthers

Record: 23-32-7, 53 pts.

Standings: Fifteenth in the Eastern Conference

Current Streak: Lost one

The Florida Panthers were on the brink of becoming a team that possessed possibly the most eclectic, and one of the more intimidating, 1-2 punch of goaltenders that the NHL has ever seen.

By bringing back netminder Roberto Luongo, the Panthers appeared to be ready to go all-in for setting a new NHL shutout streak – hey, why not, when there’s nothing else to play for this season?  Start Tim Thomas one night, Luongo the next night, and see if the club can accomplish something noteworthy in 2013-2014.

Alas, the Thomas-Luongo show was cancelled before it even got a chance to air, as Thomas was traded to the Dallas Stars the day after Luongo was brought back into the fold.

Boring!

Obviously, the Panthers were always looking ahead to next year when they began this game of revolving-door-goaltenders, as the Panthers are second-to-last in the Eastern Conference and have about as good a chance of making the playoffs as I do of meeting Jennifer Lawrence.  Florida is a team that kind of had a head start on the rebuilding process, compared to the Buffalo Sabres, having already landed last year’s Calder Trophy-winning Jonathan Huberdeau (24 pts.) and a solid young center, Nick Bjugstad (26 pts.), before drafting an absolute stud in last year’s draft, Aleksander Barkov (24 pts.).  This is a team with some really exciting young talent, and the thought of Florida landing another top five pick in this year’s draft should strike a bit of fear in the hearts of Eastern Conference GMs.  The Panthers should seriously be a team to watch for down the road . . . but for now, they are still a few years and a few picks or free agents away from striking fear in the hearts of anyone besides their season ticket holders, who still have to a lot of losses to sit through before Florida returns to the promised land.

 

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