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Florida Panthers season snapshot

Bobrovsky's struggles, eight-game home skid have team outside playoff position

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

With the NHL pausing the 2019-20 regular season on March 12 due to the concerns surrounding the coronavirus, NHL.com is taking stock of each of the League's 31 teams.

Today, a snapshot of the Florida Panthers at the pause:

 

Florida Panthers

Record: 35-26-8, 78 points

Playoff position: Three points behind Toronto Maple Leafs for third place in Atlantic Division; three points behind Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets for first wild card into Stanley Cup Playoffs from Eastern Conference

After missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third straight season, the Panthers believed they significantly bolstered their chances of qualifying for the postseason for the first time since 2015-16 by hiring coach Joel Quenneville and signing goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.

Quenneville, hired April 8, 2019, won the Stanley Cup three times as coach of the Chicago Blackhawks (2010, 2013, 2015) and entered the season with 890 wins, trailing only Scotty Bowman (1,244) for most in NHL history.

Bobrovsky, who agreed to a seven-year contract with Florida on July 1, 2019, left Columbus as its all-time leader in wins (213) and shutouts (33), winning the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the top goalie in the NHL, on two occasions (2012-13, 2016-17).

 

More Panthers season snapshot coverage: Awards | Fantasy honors | Memorable moments

 

The Panthers also brought in free agent defenseman Anton Stralman (three years) and forwards Brett Connolly (four years) and Noel Acciari (three years).

It took some time, but Florida started to find its groove in January. The Panthers won six in a row leading into the All-Star break, capped by a 4-3 victory against the Blackhawks on Jan. 22 in Quenneville's first game back at United Center. Florida was 28-16-5 after the win, one point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for second place in the Atlantic Division.

But the Panthers struggled after the All-Star break and went 6-9-3 in the final 18 games before the pause, leaving them outside the playoff picture. From Feb. 6 to March 7, a span of eight games, Florida did not win at home (0-6-2), the longest such skid in its history.

Bobrovsky has struggled too; he is 23-19-6 with a 3.23 goals-against average and .900 save percentage. It's the highest GAA of his NHL career.

Video: Top 10 Panthers Plays ... Thus Far

 

Breakout player

Noel Acciari: He had a hat trick in consecutive games (Dec. 16 and 20) and entered the pause with 20 goals; the undrafted forward had six in 72 games with the Boston Bruins last season. His 20 goals and 27 points are NHL career highs.

Video: TOR@FLA: Acciari snaps puck past Andersen

 

Statement win

Panthers 2, St. Louis Blues 1, March 9: Connolly broke a tie at 4:29 of the third period, and the Panthers moved within a point of third place in the Atlantic Division and the second wild card from the Eastern Conference with a win at Enterprise Center. Chris Driedger made 26 saves in his third straight start.

Video: Connolly, Driedger help Panthers edge Blues

 

Most compelling game

Panthers 5, Boston Bruins 4 (SO), Nov. 12: Florida trailed 4-0 entering the third period at TD Garden but rallied with four straight goals (Aaron Ekblad, Frank Vatrano, Mike Hoffman and Keith Yandle), with Yandle tying the game with 1:39 remaining. Hoffman scored the deciding goal in the shootout.

Video: FLA@BOS: Panthers erase 4-0 deficit, win in SO

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