The Panthers fly back home from California with four more points. Injuries and individual outings among the Florida Panthers takeaways. The Cats are back in Sunrise following an important trip to Cali, where they secured four points of the six in play. However, new concerns have shown up for Paul Maurice’s team. Lots of positives, too. Some great news, some good, and, most importantly, one that could define its sourness in the upcoming days.
Good News First: Ekblad and Montour Are Back
Coming into this season one main concern among the Panthers organization was the team’s performance when missing their two best defencemen. Brandon Montour and Aaron Ekblad underwent surgeries over the summer and their expected timeline had them returning somewhere around Christmas. Christmas arrived early for Cats fans as both defenders returned to the ice against the Anaheim Ducks. Five weeks ahead of the holidays. Neither defencemen showed signs of discomfort or need for acclimatization as both were on the ice for over 20 minutes.
With their return, the Panthers add more depth and star power to their defence, as well as to their power play and penalty kill. Both Montour and Ekblad are capable of commanding the speciality team units, with a knack for scoring on the man advantage. Their addition could be just what the Cats need to turn around the current state of their special teams.
Wins are Wins
It is never easy to win on the road in the NHL. So whenever a team can secure the two points they will take them anyway they come. Blowouts and tight-grinding wins are both worth two points. Some main Florida Panthers takeaways from their visit to the Golden State are centred on their ability to hold onto leads. This was mainly evidenced in their last match. Bearing the fact it was a back-to-back at Anaheim following a loss against the Los Angeles Kings. Visits to Crypto.com Arena remain a bad omen for the Cats. The Ducks, on the other hand, remain a good matchup for the Panthers. Florida owns a seven-game win streak when facing Anaheim.
Friday night’s game was a close one, as matches between both franchises have been in recent times. And the Panthers jumped onto a 2-0 lead thanks to two beautiful setups from Anton Lundell. However, Florida stepped away from the accelerator and the Ducks controlled the pace of the game during the third period. The Panthers fell back onto their goaltender, Anthony Stolarz, who managed to secure the win. Stolarz faced 35 shots and, despite what the Ducks social media may tell you, saved 34 of them en route to his third win of the season. The substitute goalie started in net against the Sharks and Ducks on the road and won both games. Add that to the list of positive takeaways for the Panthers. As they seem to have a reliable goalie to come in relief for Sergei Bobrovsky.
Officials determined this was not a goal. We still trail 2-1. pic.twitter.com/vtN6bFAcN1
— Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucks) November 18, 2023
Onto the Bad News: Captain Barkov Injury
Although some fans may not be satisfied with their team’s play throughout the road trip, no one can be mad at the results obtained. Nevertheless, there is one big issue that fans are scared of. That is injuries. The injury bug seems to be around the facilities and has already shaped this team’s goals and limitations. Barely a month into the season and the Panthers have already been without Montour, Ekblad, Sam Bennett, and now possibly Aleksander Barkov. The Captain left the Ducks game after a knee-to-knee collision with Jackson LaCombe. As Barkov exited the game in a world of pain the Panthers have fallen victim once again to injuries on star players.
Barkov has gone to the locker room after a knee-to-knee collision with LaCombe pic.twitter.com/XtN3ogn3zl
— B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) November 18, 2023
The seriousness of the injury is yet to be defined, but on tape, it does not look good. Panthers were visibly upset by the officials’ decision to call a minor penalty on the hit to the knee, which added insult to injury. Barkov was on pace for a spectacular season and may now be sidelined from the ice for some time. The Panthers will have to bite the bullet during the Captain’s possible absence as they will host Edmonton, Boston, and Ottawa. Unfortunately, Barkov may miss games on a season for the fifth consecutive season. His last 82-game season was in 2018-19. Luckily the Panthers seem more than capable of riding the storm and have proven their ability to fight back when up against the ropes.
Florida Panthers Takeaways: Individual Performances
Despite the injuries and rough stretches of play, the Panthers have plenty of positives to build on from. Anton Lundell has stepped up and is playing at his best. Both assists on Eetu Luostarinen‘s and Oliver Ekman-Larsson‘s goals were superb and a thrill to watch. If Barkov happens to miss significant time, Lundell (often referred to as Barkov Jr.) could fill in for his Finnish comrade. Sam Reinhart continues his fantastic season and remains the team’s biggest threat in front of the net. What else can be said about Matthew Tkachuk and Carter Verhaeghe that has not been said so far? They tear up defencemen in transition and their play from the slot is second to none on this roster.
Players such as Kevin Stenlund and Ryan Lomberg remain big factors on the bottom-six lines. Their physical play is what every coach wishes from their players and have recently been on a hot streak finding the back of the net.
The Florida Panthers takeaways from this road trip should not be too harsh, despite their bad game at LA and 3rd period at Anaheim. They keep finding ways to win, even without their franchise players, and that is not an easy task. One could look at the glass half full or half empty. Anyway, it is looked at, the Panthers remain among the league’s best. Attention now shifts towards Barkov’s left knee as hope remains it was not as bad as it seemed on the replay. With or without their main leader, this team will not be an easy game for any team in the NHL. The Panthers have the league on notice, what they may lack on their lineup they make up for it with their heart and grind.
Main photo: Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports