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The NHL’s Anomaly: The Florida Panthers’ Rise to the Top

Courtesy of The Miami Herald

Most people associate hockey with a place with colder weather, such as Canada or states like Michigan, Minnesota, New York, or Massachusetts. It is an anomaly for many that a hockey team would have much success in the south, especially in South Florida, where cooler weather is rare. However, for the past two seasons, the Florida Panthers have made it to the top of the standings in the National Hockey League.

Last season, they shocked the league by coming into the Stanley Cup Playoffs as a wildcard team; taking teams ranked ahead of them and making it all the way to the final, where their incredible run came to an end when they lost to the Vegas Golden Knights. This season, the Panthers are ranked first overall in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference, second overall in the Eastern Conference as a whole, and third overall in the entire league. What has made the Florida Panthers so successful?

Courtesy of D.A. Varela/The Miami Herald

The first factor that has made the Florida Panthers so successful is their grit. Prior to last season, they had not made the Stanley Cup Finals since 1996. In other seasons, they had been eliminated in the early rounds. At the beginning of this season, the Panthers were ranked pretty low, despite their phenomenal postseason run last year. However, if there is one thing that the Panthers have that a lot of teams lack, it is resilience. The Cats know what it is like to be on the bottom, but they do not let it stop them. They know how to show up and show out when it matters, making them a respected team in the league.

Courtesy of TNS via Getty Images

Another thing that makes the Florida Panthers so successful is the steadiness of their leadership, especially their captain, Aleksander Barkov. Barkov was drafted by the Panthers in 2013, and he has been loyal to the team ever since. He is soft-spoken and humble, willing to give others the spotlight. However, it is evident that he is the backbone of the team, working hard on and off the ice so the team can succeed. His work ethic has set an example to his teammates, as he pushes them to play to the best of their abilities.

Courtesy of The Miami Herald

One of the other things that has made the Panthers a standout team is their underrated talent. Sure, their roster has star players such as Matthew Tkachuk and Sergei Bobrovsky, but it is the players who are lesser known that end up stepping up when the team needs it. One such example is Sam Reinhart. Before this season, Reinhart was a lesser known name in the league. At the end of last season, he rounded out the Cats’ top line making huge contributions to their success. However, he has had a breakout year, becoming the team’s star player and demolishing franchise records in the process. He holds the franchise record for power play goals this season and the franchise record for consecutive games with a goal. Additionally, he has become one of the most lethal shooters in the NHL. This season, he is third in the league for most goals, leads the league in power play goals, and is tied for the most game-winning goals. Reinhart has the best shot percentage this season, at 24.8 percent. Though this is the last year of his contract, Reinhart states that his “Option A” is to stay in Florida.

Courtesy of ESPN

If there is one thing that the Florida Panthers have enumerated this season, it is that they have the grit to be a top level team. Time and time again, they have defied the odds by coming out of nowhere to sweep higher ranked teams. Their resilience has only helped them in becoming one of the top teams again this year. The spirit of not giving up and defying the odds has captivated hockey fans from all over. They say that the Panthers are one of the most “fascinating teams to watch.”

It is the spirit of persevering through all odds that make the Cats such an inspiring team to watch. From bottom feeders to successors, the Florida Panthers will be one of the league’s favorite teams for years to come.

Edited by Giana Robertaccio

Social Media Content Created by Caroline McGuinness

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