GDHQNHL15_2pg-Florida Panthers 2

St Louis Blues Gameday HQ

he has the size to help him jump from junior hockey to the NHL. Campbell is still the unquestioned leader of the Panthers defense. He has played in every game over the last three seasons and averaged over 26 minutes per game over that time. The former Norris Trophy contender could be rejuvenated by the influx of talent. Young Erik Gudbranson is in his third season with the Panthers since being picked No. 3 overall in 2010 and will be paired with the veteran Campbell on the team’s top line. And the train of number one draft picks continues with Dmitry Kulikov, who will start his sixth season with the team. The Panthers clearly have faith in the Russian defender, as they gave him a three-year, $13 million contract in the offseason. He has been with the team longer than any other player. The forwards will also get a boost on the defensive end of the ice thanks to free agency. Center Dave Bolland and winger Shawn Thornton are physical players that will help slow teams in transition. Bolland and Thornton have two Stanley Cup titles on their resumes, just like Mitchell. Thornton won with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007 and the Boston Bruins in 2011. Bolland did so with the Chicago Blackhawks in both 2010 and 2013. Goaltending The one player whose bounce back performance could propel the Florida Panthers further than any other is goaltender Roberto Luongo. He was traded from the Vancouver Canucks at the trade deadline after a contentious end to his tenure with the team. But just three years ago, Luongo was a Vezina finalist and he was solid over the 14 games he played as a Panther, posting a 2.46 GAA and a .924 save percentage. Luongo’s playoff failures have been well documented and seemingly followed him into the regular season. If he can lead the Panthers to the postseason , he’ll have a chance at redemption and could make a name for himself with a new fan base. Backup Al Montoya has moved around the league but he is coming off of his beast season. He played to a 2.30 GAA and .920 save percentage in 28 games for the Winnipeg Jets. Power Play The Panthers were at their worst on special teams. The power-play unit was far and away the worst unit in the league. They finished in dead last after scoring on just 10 percent of their man advantages, more than 4 percent poorer than the next worst team. The drop was surprising considering that they converted 20.4 percent of their power-plays the previous season. Fixing this unit will be the main concern of new head coach Gerard Gallant. Jokinen was brought in as a major piece to this puzzle. As a member of the Pittsburgh Penuins’ league leading power-play Jokinen score six goals, three more than any Panthers, and 21 points. But this year he will be paired with youngsters Barkov and Huberdeau instead of MVPs Sydney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Both Campbell and Fleischmann saw their power play numbers drop sharply from the previous season and they hope to have a better season under a new regime. Penalty Kill The penalty kill fared no better last year. It was also the worst in the league at 76 percent, over 6 percent worse than the league average. Mitchell and Campbell give the Panthers two veteran defensemen to rebuild the unit around. Along with Thornton and Bollard, the team will have a strong influx of talent on the penalty kill. Of course, a shorthanded team’s best friend is a solid goalie between the pipes. Former twotime Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas struggled in the role last season after returning from a self-imposed retirement. The Panthers hope that Luongo will elevate a group that can only go up. Prediction The Panthers have filled some holes in the offseason and they have the potential, but it is a long climb up the standings from where they have been two years in a row. But the team is a prime candidate to make a rapid rise to the postseason like the franchise has done in the past. Scoreboard 2013-14 2012-13 2011-12 2010-11 2009-10 PLAYOFF FINISH DNQ DNQ Conf QF DNQ DNQ REGULAR SEASON 29-45-8 15-27-6 38-26-18 30-40-12 32-37-13 POINT TOTAL 66 36 94 72 77 SHOOTOUT RECORD 8-6 3-1 6-11 4-7 6-10 GOALS SCORED 196 112 203 195 208 GOALS ALLOWED 268 171 227 229 244 POWER-PLAY % 10.6 20.4 18.6 13.1 14.2 PENALTY KILL % 76.0 74.2 79.5 84.6 79.4 Brian Campbell Patrick McDermott/NHL/Getty Images


St Louis Blues Gameday HQ
To see the actual publication please follow the link above