SUNRISE (CBSMiami) – They are having one of the greatest seasons in NHL history.
The Florida Panthers enter the final week of the regular season as a top 10 team of all time. They are the Atlantic division champs and the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. All that’s left is number one overall, the President’s Trophy, for the best team in the regular season. With a four-point lead on Colorado, the Panthers are in the driver’s seat.
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The Panthers enter their final three games with 57 wins, tied for the 7th most in NHL history with time to move up that list. They also have 120 points becoming just the 11th team ever to reach that mark. At home, they finished with a 34-7 record, the 3rd most wins in a season on home ice in NHL history. They are also the NHL’s highest scoring team in more than 25 years. It has been an incredible regular season to watch.
Jonathan Huberdeau will likely be a finalist for the NHL’s most valuable player. He is second in the league in scoring and has a chance to win the scoring title. He’s blown by his career best offensive season and has a chance to set the NHL record for most assists ever by a winger. Huberdeau has turned into an impact all around player with his size, strength and desire displayed this season.
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The Stanley Cup Playoffs are the most grueling in all of sports. After Friday night’s game in Montreal, the Panthers will have the same record as the team they will be playing against in the 1st round. The slate is wiped clean and everyone starts over. It truly is a brand new season in the playoffs.
That said the Panthers are the top seed for a reason. They followed up last season’s top three finish in the NHL with one of the great seasons the league has ever seen. The expectation is clear, advance to the 2nd round of the playoffs for the first time since 1996. Internally this team is not only focused on one round, it believes it has the ability to win the Stanley Cup.
With all of the conference playoff spots locked up a long time ago, the Panthers are still waiting for their 1st round opponent. It will more than likely be either Pittsburgh or Washington, two teams that in recent years won the Stanley cup each year from 2016-2018 and bolster hall of fame caliber players on the roster.
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It looks like either Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby will be coming to South Florida for games 1 and 2 next week. With their home dominance this season, opponents will be hard pressed to win one of the first two games of the series. In the regular season, the Panthers went 2-0-1 against the Penguins and 2-1 against the Capitals. Florida also finished the regular season 9-1 at home against all eastern playoff teams.