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The Landlubber’s Guide to the Florida Panthers

If you thought last night’s game against Tampa Bay was hard...

Stanley C Panther descends from the rafters before playoff game Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Hey you. You’re swept up in all this Seattle Kraken hype. You want to know more about hockey but don’t know where to start. Well, we want to help make these games easy and fun for you to watch.

Throughout the season, we’ll release Landlubber’s Guides designed with the new fan in mind. This includes basic need-to-know info for you to absorb before you watch Kraken games and highlights.

Let’s dive into the Florida Panthers.

Are They Any Good?

“Good” is an understatement. The Panthers are 13-3-3 on the year, tied for the league lead alongside Washington and Carolina with 31 points. On home ice the Panthers are a perfect 11-0-0, so the Kraken have their work cut out for them.

Who Should I Look Out For?

That’s a long list. The Panthers have five players performing near (or above) a point-per-game level. They include left wing Jonathan Huberdeau (#11), who you can’t let get in on your goalie by himself... captain Aleksander Barkov (#16), same story...

...defenseman Aaron Ekblad (#5)...

...winger Carter Verhaeghe (#23), who you can literally mug and it won’t do a bit of good...

...and forward Anthony Duclair (#10), who apparently is a Bobby Orr fan...

Offense is only half the problem when you play against Florida, however. The other half is goaltending, and it appears that the emergence of future number one Spencer Knight has lit a fire under the ass of Sergei Bobrovsky. Following an underwhelming season last year, Bob-O is now 9-1-2 on the season with a .936 SV%.

Now, Bobrovsky started last night against the Washington Capitals — and got yanked — so it’s highly likely that we see Knight man the pipes. This isn’t terrific news, as Knight is 5-2-1 with respectable numbers — higher than both of the Kraken netminders, to be sure.

Any Seattle Ties?

Yes, actually! Defenseman Radko Gudas played a season with the Everett Silvertips in 2009-10, putting up 37 points in 65 games (as well as 151 penalty minutes) while logging a plus-45 on the season.

NHL: Florida Panthers at Tampa Bay Lightning Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Radko Gudas Photo: Everett Silvertips

The Kraken’s selection from Florida in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft was netminder Chris Driedger, who GM Ron Francis signed to a 3-year, $3.5 million AAV contract during the draft. With Philipp Grubauer starting on Friday against the Lightning, it’s better than even money we’ll see Driedger get the start in the “revenge game” against his old club.

NHL: MAY 22 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round - Panthers at Lightning Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Additionally, one of the free agents the Kraken signed in the off-season was Alexander Wennberg, who had a career high in goals last season while playing for Florida. It’s not exactly a revenge game for him, since he was only there for a single season and then chose to leave, but it will be an opportunity to show them he’s thriving in Seattle.

Columbus Blue Jackets v Florida Panthers Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Odds & Ends

  • Late last month Florida was one of the teams affected by the scandal rocking the Chicago Blackhawks organization. In late October, Panthers coach Joel Quenneville — coach of the Blackhawks during the time of the incidents — agreed to resign amid questions of his involvement in the handling of the matter in 2010.
  • The Panthers started the year undefeated, going 7-0-0. Following Quenneville’s departure the Panthers floundered, going 3-2-3 over the next 8 games before righting the ship with a 4-0-0 winning streak. That streak came to a close last night with Florida’s loss to the Caps.
  • You would think after 7-1/2 years with Boston, 14-1/2 years (!) with San Jose, and a year in Toronto that Joe Thornton would have finally hung it up. But you’d be wrong, he plays for the Panthers. He had 10 minutes of ice time last night, he’ll be out there again today. Friggin’ unbelievable.
  • The Panthers appear to be the rare destination where players can go to get a “change of scenery” and actually have it work out. In addition to the previously wayward Duclair, two former first-round picks — annual Calgary Flames disappointment Sam Bennett and similarly under-performing Buffalo Sabres center Sam Reinhart — are now thriving while soaking up that Florida sunshine.
  • Ever heard of a Rat Trick? Well now you have...
Florida Panthers Rat Trick Photo by Al Tielemans /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

Early start time today — 3:00pm PST. Seattle area viewers can tune in on ROOT Sports NW; ESPN+ has the game streaming for out-of-market fans. Those of you who can’t be near a screen can tune in locally on 950 AM KJR; SiriusXM subscribers can listen to the play-by-play on channel 219.