NEWARK, N.J. – The Florida Panthers are off to the team’s best start in franchise history.
With a 10-2-1 record and 21 points in the bank, no other Panthers team has come off the blocks so well.
But those two losses, coming on consecutive nights in New York and New Jersey, must be a sign that things are reverting back to the old ways, right?
Because surely the team that picked up 21 out of a possible 22 points to open their schedule was just a fluke.
Can you hear that sound? It’s my eyes rolling.
There is no denying that Tuesday night’s game against the Devils in Newark was the worst that Florida has looked all season.
The fact that it came on the heels of a tough loss the night before, one in which the Panthers outplayed and outmatched a younger Rangers team that got a stellar effort from their 25-year-old goaltending phenom, only adds to the anguish.
Alas, they are two games out of an 82-game schedule.
To assume that it’s some kind of sign that things are suddenly going to fall apart is just silly.
The Panthers know how they want to play, and they’ll get back doing it on short order.
This team has worked too hard and built too much for a couple tough road games to derail the train.
“We want to keep the games tight,” Panthers captain Sasha Barkov explained after the loss to New Jersey. “We want to control the game and play with the puck. We don’t want to trade goals back and forth. That’s not us.”
Florida got away from doing the things that have made them one of the best teams in the NHL this season.
They forced passes. They were sloppy in the neutral zone. They covered poorly in front of their goaltender.
When seeking perfection in an imperfect game, these things will happen.
Now the Panthers get to use this week as a learning experience, finding ways to bounce back and refocus when things suddenly go sideways.
Those momentum swings can come much faster and far more intensely once the playoffs arrive, so a little experience in how to navigate these situations could and should come in handy further down the road.
Bottom line, there is no reason to overreact to a couple of early season road losses.
Monday was tough and Tuesday was bad.
Why was it bad?
Panthers center Sam Bennett said after the game that he felt the team didn’t play desperate enough against the Devils.
Bennett explained the drop in overall play allowed New Jersey to trap Florida in the neutral zone, something that led directly to multiple Devils goals.
At the end of the day, it was just a bad game. A stinker.
They’re going to happen.
Even the absolute best teams are still going to lose around 20 or 30 games over the course of an 82-game season.
The NHL record for wins in a season is 62. The Detroit Red Wings went 62-13-7 in 1995-96. Is that the bar that this Panthers team should be striving to reach?
Are two losses out of 13 games not an acceptable result, especially for a team that has been one of the least successful in the NHL, you know, this millennium?
Team’s struggle. They go on losing streaks. It happens.
This Panthers team is good.
Maybe the best one ever.
They’re stacked with talent and have incredibly efficient and sustainable systems in place, ones that the players have been learning and committing to muscle memory for the past several seasons.
Yes, there was a significant change on the coaching staff, but the differences in the aftermath have been minute.
Florida went from one head coach who had great relationships with his players to another head coach who has great relationships with his players.
There is no reason to think the Panthers are not the team that jumped out to a 10-0-1 record. The one that has dominated possession metrics, that plays above-average special teams and has received excellent goaltending.
It’s going to be okay.
Teams have bounced back from bad losses in the swamps of New Jersey before.
“That’s a game we’ll just move on from,” Bennett said.
Yes, they will.
And they’ll be just fine.