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Regular Season Recap: Florida Panthers Clinch Atlantic Division

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Almost unexpectedly the Florida Panthers clinched the Atlantic Division following a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Then, the Boston Bruins fell against the Ottawa Senators, thus, the Cats overtook the lead. Winning the division is a nice feeling, however, no team ever comes into a season hopeful for a divisional title as their ultimate goal. The road ahead is what the fans are eager for. And finally, after an exhausting 82-game NHL regular season, the 2024 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs arrived. And for the fourth year in a row, the Florida Panthers will be in them.

Ups and Downs Along the Way

The 2023-24 Panthers season could be broken down into different stages. Great highs, tough stretches, but most importantly, an incredible ability to weather the storm. Even during the losing streaks (which were not many), the Cats kept their cool. In part thanks to Head Coach Paul Maurice’s skill in managing the roster. As well as the team’s experienced players. When analyzing the season, it is fitting that the Panthers finish in first place in their division. Boston made a great case for it, too. However, the Bruins learned last year that regular season accolades do not bear any weight once the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin.

Winning the division largely goes unnoticed until next season when the banner is raised to the rafters. The Panthers now earned home-ice advantage through the first two rounds. Of course, that is if they manage to advance. And their opponent will not make that any easier. Florida clinched the Atlantic Division and finished behind the New York Rangers (Presidents’ Trophy winners). Therefore, they will face the first Playoff Wild Card team. None other than their Floridian foes, the Tampa Bay Lightning. And so it begins, ‘The Battle of Florida: Chapter Three’.

All Roads Lead to Tampa

The answer may vary according to every driver. Some may recommend riding along the I-75, while others may differ and insist on taking the Florida Turnpike. One thing is for sure, you are reaching Tampa one way or another. That seems to be the case for the Florida Panthers in the Playoffs. For Sunrise’s team, Tampa is always on its way. In recent years they have become a spike strip for the cruising Cats.

The first post-season encounter was the most entertaining series during the 2020-21 playoffs. Tampa prevailed in this first round bout and, ultimately, hoisted the Cup. Next year the two franchises in Florida met again. This time around the Panthers were the Presidents’ Trophy winners and had just won their first playoff series in over 20 years. On paper, this was as close as a matchup as there could be. On the ice, the Lightning swept the Cats.

Panthers fans hope this third meeting is (finally) a charm. The Atlantic Division champs are eager for revenge on their opponents from within the state. Although most fans were expecting to clash against the Maple Leafs in the first round. The unexpected occurred (the Bruins lost two games in a row) and a new chapter will be written between the Cats and Bolts because of it. Can Florida finally get over the hump coached by Jon Cooper?

End of a Chapter

With that, the 2023-24 regular season comes to a close. The Panthers were predicted to miss the playoffs by many hockey analysts. Not only did they qualify, but they punched their ticket with time to spare. Oh, and clinched their Division title along the way. The Florida Panthers have been doing some proper work and as an organization are heading on the right path. Bill Zito has been named President of Hockey Operations and extended his contract. The Cats are definitely pleased with his work.

For many, the real season begins now. No team is ever remembered for their season achievements. Sure enough, record books will feature them. But there is only one place where every franchise wishes for their name to be written. That is on the wooden base of a 35+ inches tall silver trophy. Lord Stanley has the final say on every NHL season. And the Florida Panthers hope they can finally earn his blessing this year.

Main photo: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports


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