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From The Press Box

From The Press Box is a weekly column written by FloridaPanthers.com and NHL.com writer Alain Poupart. Poupart has been covering the Panthers and the NHL for 20 years.

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Winning Formula

Thanks to solid goaltending, timely scoring and some power-play production, the Panthers have gotten on a roll.

Wednesday, 11.20.2013 / 10:45 AM ET / From The Press Box
By Alain Poupart  - FloridaPanthers.com
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Winning Formula
Forward Jonathan Huberdeau scores the lone goal in the shootout Tuesday night to give the Panthers a 3-2 victory over the Canucks.

Now that’s more like it.

It’s taken longer than the team or their fans would have liked, but the Panthers have gotten on a little bit of a roll here lately. As has been pointed out already, the 3-2 shootout victory against the Canucks on Tuesday night was Florida’s first in Vancouver since the inaugural season of 1993-94.

More importantly, it gave the Panthers their first winning streak of the season and gave them three victories in their last four outings.

And let’s not forget that there was a certain degree of difficulty involved in those three wins. The three victories came against Anaheim, which took a five-game winning streak to the BB&T Center last week; Colorado, one of the surprise teams in the NHL early this season; and Vancouver, a perennial power in the Western Conference.

Put simply, the way the Panthers have been playing lately, they can compete with and beat any team in the league on a given night. That’s nothing new, considering the strong efforts they put forth earlier this season in tough losses against the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals.

The difference now is that the Panthers are getting rewarded for their efforts.

The Panthers have been winning lately thanks to some timely goals — Brad Boyes’ game-winner against Anaheim and Shawn Matthias’ equalizer in the third period at Vancouver come to mind — stellar goaltending from Tim Thomas and some production from the power play.

It’s the exact formula that we thought the Panthers would need heading into the season to be able to make a run at the playoffs.

Since we’re barely past the quarter mark of the regular season, it’s still too early to be worrying about the playoffs, though. In truth, this is still the time for teams to establish themselves, and that’s just what the Panthers have been doing ever since Peter Horachek took over as interim head coach.

Even though the Panthers lost their first two games under their new coach, they played well enough against both the Ottawa Senators and New York Rangers to have won either or both of those games.

It just seemed a matter of time before good things started happening, and that has materialized.

The power play has come to life — Boyes scored on the power play against Vancouver, Campbell scored with the man advantage against Colorado on a night when Boyes scored a mere eight seconds after an Avalanche penalty and Tomas Kopecky scored two seconds after the end of another. Thomas has been tremendous since returning to action after being sidelined with a lower-body injury. And the overall effort by every player on the team seems to have become more consistent.

Coaching changes early in a season usually are made to shake up a team and get them going, and that’s apparently what has happened with the Panthers. The trade of veteran forward Kris Versteeg also was a significant move, but the players obviously have responded in a positive manner considering they have won both games since Versteeg and minor-league forward Philippe Lefebvre were sent to Chicago in exchange for big-bodied forward Jimmy Hayes and promising defenseman prospect Dylan Olsen.

The Panthers now have two games remaining on their five-game road trip before they come home for their traditional Thanksgiving week home stand, which this year includes the Flyers on Monday, the Rangers on Wednesday and the Penguins on Saturday. The last two games of the road trip will be against Calgary and Edmonton, who happen to occupy the last two places in the Western Conference standings.

The opponent these days isn’t nearly as important for the Panthers as continuing to play the way they have over the past 10 days.

Simply put, they have become the team we had hoped to see from the start of the season.




1 WSH 53 40 9 4 175 120 84
2 FLA 55 32 17 6 153 127 70
3 NYR 55 31 18 6 157 140 68
4 DET 55 28 18 9 138 134 65
5 NYI 53 29 18 6 150 131 64
6 TBL 54 30 20 4 144 130 64
7 BOS 54 29 19 6 159 148 64
8 PIT 54 28 19 7 139 136 63
9 NJD 55 27 21 7 122 123 61
10 CAR 55 24 21 10 131 143 58
11 MTL 56 27 25 4 151 151 58
12 PHI 53 24 20 9 127 138 57
13 OTT 56 25 25 6 157 173 56
14 BUF 56 22 28 6 131 155 50
15 CBJ 56 22 28 6 140 173 50
16 TOR 53 19 25 9 122 149 47


J. Jagr 52 17 23 14 40
J. Huberdeau 55 11 29 12 40
J. Jokinen 55 11 27 12 38
V. Trocheck 55 17 18 3 35
A. Barkov 43 16 19 13 35
R. Smith 55 18 16 12 34
B. Pirri 51 11 13 -3 24
A. Ekblad 51 11 13 19 24
B. Campbell 55 5 18 20 23
N. Bjugstad 40 9 10 -3 19
R. Luongo 24 13 5 .927 2.23
A. Montoya 8 4 1 .926 2.06

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