Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers closed October on a high note, but there’s still work to be done

The Florida Panthers closed out the first month of the Joel Quenneville era in fitting fashion.

Another rally. Another set of late heroics. Another comeback win.

Jonathan Huberdeau’s goal with 90 seconds left in regulation against the Colorado Avalanche forced the Panthers into overtime once again. The top-line winger then sealed the win with a second goal 29 seconds into the extra five-minute period to seal the 4-3 victory that allowed the Panthers to pick up five out of eight points on their four-game trip through western Canada and Denver.

It capped a productive first month of the season. The Panthers went 6-3-4 in October, earning 16 of a possible 26 points in their first 13 games.

They rattled off an eight-game point streak in that stretch to begin the year and, heading into Friday, are in a three-way tie for the third spot in the Atlantic Division.

As the Panthers open November with a pair of home games — Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings and Thursday against the Washington Capitals — here are four takeaways from Florida’s first month of the season.

Big wins against big teams

Want an idea of how tough the Panthers’ schedule was to start the season? Consider this: 10 of Florida’s first 13 games came against teams who entered Friday in playoff positioning.

The Panthers have gone 4-2-4 in those games, picking up 12 of a possible 20 points. They have outright wins over the Nashville Predators (3-2 shootout win on Oct. 19), Pittsburgh Penguins (4-2 on Oct. 22), Edmonton Oilers (6-2 on Sunday), and Avalanche (4-3 overtime win on Wednesday). They picked up three more points in shootout losses against the Buffalo Sabers, New York Islanders and Calgary Flames — all on the road — and a fourth in their home overtime loss to the Avalanche on Oct. 18.

The two regulation losses: 6-3 at home against the Carolina Hurricanes on Oct. 8 and 7-2 on the road against the Canucks on Monday.

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Everyone scores...

The Panthers are averaging 3.54 goals per game so far this season — the sixth-best mark in the league — and 17 players have scored at least one goal.

Huberdeau’s team-leading seven goals are tied for ninth in the NHL. Huberdeau, who also has eight assists this year, and Barkov (one goal, 14 assists) are tied for 14th in the league with 15 points each.

The Panthers’ 20 third-period goals are second only to the Nashville Predators (26).

...And that goes for the opponents, too

While the Panthers are putting together yet another high-octane offense, their defense has taken its lumps early.

Florida is allowing the third-most goals in NHL (3.69 goals per game) despite holding holding opponents to the ninth-fewest shots on goal (30 per game). Put another way: Opponents are scoring on Florida about once every eight times they have a shot at the net

Star goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, the two-time Vezina Trophy winner who has a tendency to struggle in October, allowed 36 goals and posted just a .873 save percentage over the first month of the season. Only one other goaltender out of 27 who faced at least 200 shots — the Los Angeles Kings’ Jonathan Quick — has a lower save percentage so far this season.

Special teams

The Panthers have gotten mixed results from their special teams so far this year. After being one of the top power play teams in the league last year, Florida has converted on just 20.5 percent of its opportunities with an extra skater so far, which ranks 16th in the NHL. However, they are also one of just six teams to not allow opponents to score a short-handed goal so far.

On the other side, the Panthers have an 84.8 percent penalty kill efficiency, which is seventh best in the league. The Panthers also have two short-handed goals to their name.

Jordan McPherson covers the Miami Marlins and high school sports for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and covered the Gators athletic program for five years before joining the Herald staff in December 2017.
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