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New Year, New Power Play: Florida Panthers turn a corner

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Before the Florida Panthers had a pause to their season due to the combination of a Covid-19 outbreak and the NHL holiday break, their power play was one of the worst in the league.

Granted, it was a team that was shorthanded at that point.

Florida had been missing both Sasha Barkov and Anthony Duclair for a large chunk of games during the stretch leading up to the pause.

From the time Florida lost Barkov to a lower-body injury on Nov. 16 up until their season was put on pause on Dec. 17, the Panthers’ power play was tied for 29th in the league in power play percentage, scoring on only 12.5 percent of their man-advantage opportunities.

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Only the Montreal Canadiens (9.4) and the New Jersey Devils (8.4) scored less often on the power play than the Panthers.

Since returning to play on Dec. 29, Florida’s power play is tied for seventh in the league with the stark improvement to a 28.6 percent clip through their last seven games.

You might be asking yourself: What changed?

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For starters, the Panthers gained back all of their top contributors from injury.

Barkov, who missed 12 of Florida’s last 13 games before the break, and Duclair, who missed eight games in a row with a lower-body injury of his own, were both 100 percent healthy when the team resumed play.

“I’d say for the last two months, we just seemed to have different guys in and out a little bit,” Brunette said prior to Florida’s Dec. 29 game against the New York Rangers.

“Barkov is a huge spoke in the wheel that keeps that moving. He was out a lot, and then we had protocol guys, but we’ve had all kinds of different movements. We’re just trying to get familiarity back.”

With Florida’s captain back in the lineup and on the power play, it has been moving a lot more fluidly and has been churning out goals since his return.

Barkov activates play and distributes the puck from his role as the power play quarterback, but he hasn’t been afraid to shoot from that position, which makes him a dynamic player on the man advantage.

Through the first two weeks following the holiday break, Barkov is tied for fourth in the league in power play goals with two.

Anthony Duclair was also a new addition to Florida’s power play following the holiday break.

Prior to his return to injury, he was mainly slotted in on the second power play unit in a limited role, but he was thrust in a bigger role as soon as he got back.

Duclair led all players in the NHL in goals through Florida’s first three games back from the holiday break, which led Brunette to giving him more responsibility on the power play.

“These are really good opportunities and he deserves every inch he’s gotten here,” Florida’s interim coach said of Duclair. “He’s a pretty dynamic player and he deserves to be playing on the power play.”

Duclair added an element to the Panthers power play that was sorely needed: someone who will shoot the puck when they get the opportunity to do so.

While it hasn’t resulted in any power play goals for Duclair yet since returning from the break, it has activated the power play by causing more rebound opportunities for the net-front players Florida has at its disposal.

Of the five players who have a power play goal in that seven-game span, three of them (Sam Reinhart, Joe Thornton, and Patric Hornqvist) play in a net-front role, cleaning up rebounds and finishing up those second-chance opportunities.

“I don’t think we’re doing anything special,” Reinhart said. “I think we’re playing a simple game offensively and getting the puck there at the right time. I think we’re all on the same page there and it has been effective.”

Simple has gotten the job done for the Panthers every since they returned from the break.

In the team’s run prior to the break, a lot of scoring opportunities were passed up on via an attempted pass instead of a shot, but with more pucks being put on net, they have recovered from that.

“I think at times we get a little cute at times where we don’t put pucks on net,” Brunette said.

“It was good to see us being hungrier on the puck and putting pucks on net and winning those little battles in that area.”

FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK

DALLAS STARS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS 

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3 moves the Miami Marlins could make to contend in 2022

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SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 24: Base runner Bryan Reynolds #10 of the Pittsburgh Pirates looks on from second base against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on July 24, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – JULY 24: Base runner Bryan Reynolds #10 of the Pittsburgh Pirates looks on from second base against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on July 24, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

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Miami Marlins

Miami Marlins second baseman Jazz Chisholm (Photo by Bryan Cereijo/Getty Images)

For a team that has only made the postseason three times in the franchise’s 28-year history (won World Series in two – 1997 & 2003), the Miami Marlins are in an interesting place entering the 2022 season.

After making the postseason during the shortened 2020 season, Miami had a disappointing 2021 campaign that concluded with a fourth place finish in the NL East at 67-95 overall. Despite struggling last season, there is no denying that the club does have pieces up-and-down the roster ready to contend going forward, and have only increased those chances so far this offseason through multiple additions.

Joining an already talented and deep rotation are exciting young pieces such as Jazz Chisholm, Jesus Sanchez, and Lewin Diaz, while the club also displays a nice mix of proven veterans. Joining those names are the previously mentioned additions such as Avisail Garcia, Jacob Stallings, and Joey Wendle, each of whom will play massive roles in 2022.

With an already talented roster, the Marlins as-is you could certainly argue will already be in the mix for a playoff spot in 2022. However, could they possibly contend for more next season?

The Marlins already have a talented roster, and have shown through their additions so far this offseason that the club is serious about contending in the very near future, and are likely not done adding this offseason either.

So, how about we accelerate that “in the very near future” to “in 2022” shall we? Here are three moves the Miami Marlins could make this offseason to contend in 2022.

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Miami Dolphins: 15 Playoff Players to target

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Oct 10, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette (7) runs with the ball during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 10, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette (7) runs with the ball during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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The Miami Dolphins may not have made the playoffs but there are multiple players that the team could target still playing in the Divisional playoff round.

Eight teams still remain fighting for the right to call themselves Super Bowl champions. In the NFC those teams are the Green Bay Packers, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Los Angeles Rams, and the San Francisco 49ers. While in the AFC the remaining teams are the Tennessee Titans, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Buffalo Bills, and the Cincinnati Bengals.

Among those teams, there are multiple high-caliber players and solid pieces that can contribute. These teams do currently feature high-level coaching and quarterbacks that have been able to put their teams in positions to win.

Miami currently still seems to not fully trust Tua Tagovailoa and is now in the hunt for a head coach. The team will need to find out in 2022 if Tagovailoa is the answer for the team’s future, or if they will need to find another option.

With all the issues the Dolphins were out of the playoffs by a game in back-to-back seasons and need improvements at multiple positions. Among them are running back, offensive line, another wideout, a nickel corner, and an EDGE rusher. Miami could find solutions at all those positions from players still playing in the playoffs.

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GameDay Caterwaul: Florida Panthers at Edmonton Oilers

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Panthers (26-8-5 57P) at Oilers (18-15-2 38P)

  • WHEN: 9:00 p.m. ET
  • WHERE: Rogers Place, Edmonton, AB
  • ON THE TUBE: Bally Sports Florida, Sportsnet
  • ON THE DIAL: 560 WQAM (D/B), 640 WMEN (PB), Thunder 100.3 (Keys)
  • SOCIALS: #TimeToHunt, #LetsGoOilers, #FLAvsEDM, @LitterBoxCats, LBC FaceBook
  • ENEMY INTEL: Copper and Blue
  • FLA IN SEASON SERIES: Game 1 of 2
  • LAST MEETING: EDM 4, @FLA 1 – (Recap) 2/15/2020
  • NEXT MEETING: February 26, 2022
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Bobrovsky (19-3-3 .921 / 2.47 0SO) vs Koskinen (12-7-1 .900 / 3.19 0SO)
  • PLAYER STATS: Florida / Edmonton

Scouting Report (Full preview @ Winners & Whiners)

Thursday evening on the NHL ice, and we will see the Atlantic Division square off with the Pacific Division as the Florida Panthers grapple with the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta. The Panthers come in at 26-13 on the year while the Oilers are 18-17 so far.

Thursday in the Atlantic (Standings/Panthers Playoff Chances):

  • Washington (22-9-9 53P) at BOSTON (22-12-2 46P) 7 p.m. (ESPN+/Hulu)
  • Dallas (18-16-2 38P) at BUFFALO (11-20-7 29P) 7 p.m.
  • OTTAWA (11-19-2 24P) at Pittsburgh (23-10-5 51P) 7 p.m.
  • MONTREAL (8-25-5 21P) at Vegas (23-15-2 48P) 10 p.m.

Idle: TBL (59P), TOR (51P), DET (41P)

Panthers, SoFla Media & Loyal Opposition on the Tweets

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