Chicago Blackhawks: Eye on the Enemy-Florida Panthers

By Sean Fitzgerald
Nov 29, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) makes a save on a shot from Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad (5) during the overtime period at the United Center. Chicago won 2-1 in a shoot out. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 29, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) makes a save on a shot from Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad (5) during the overtime period at the United Center. Chicago won 2-1 in a shoot out. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Chicago Blackhawks will take on an Eastern Conference Foe the Florida Panthers on Saturday 3/25/17, and it’s their second and Final meeting of the season with the Panthers. The first meeting resulted in a Blackhawks victory on November 29th 2016. It was a 2-1 victory with goals being scored by Richard Panik and Jaromir Jagr. The game would end in a shootout victory for the Hawks, but since that meeting a lot has changed with the Panthers.

Florida Head Coach Tom Rowe

In case you forgot Gerald Gallant was the Panthers head coach to start this NHL season. He was fired on November 27th, he  was 11-10-1 in his tenure. His replacement Tom Rowe first game

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was against the Blackhawks, and since losing to Blackhawks his record is 20-21-9. Rowe had never been NHL head coach before being named the Panthers Head Coach. He was an assistant with the Carolina Hurricanes from 2008-2011.

Leading Scorer

The leading Scorer for the Panthers is Vincent Trocheck with 50 points. He has 22 goals and 28 assists on the year. That should come close to the 25 goals and 28 assists he scored for the Panthers last season when he was the fifth best scorer. This shows how far the Panthers have fallen this season compared to last season.

Free Agent Losses and Injuries Tell The Story

Last season the Florida Panthers won the Atlantic Division, but lost to the New York Islanders in the Divisional Round. In the off-season the Panthers lost two key free agents in Jiri Hudler, Dmitry Kulikov and Brian Campbell. Hudler was a trade deadline pickup, but he never really panned out. Kulikov was with the Panthers his entire career until this season. Campbell was a huge loss as he spent the majority of his time paired with Aaron Ekblad. Ekblad has regressed this season because of Campbell not playing with on a regular basis, and Ekblad also had an injury that had him out for several games.

Dave Bolland was traded away to Arizona to free up Cap Space. Brandon Pirri who scored 11 goals for the Panthers was traded last year to Anaheim during the season and was not replaced.

The Panthers also had their fair share of injuries.  Aleksander Barkov missed time from January 19th to 2/3/17. He appeared in 57 of 72 games this season. Nick Bjugstad has only appeared in 44 games this season due to injury. He has 9 points this season as opposed to 34 last season. Jonathan Huberdeau was also bitten by the injury bug this season, with him missing  50 games due to  injury and only has 16 points as compared to 59 from a year ago.

Free Agent Add: Keith Yandle

Keith Yandle was the big free agent add this off-season, instead of replacing forwards they added a defenseman. Yandle has not a huge success in Florida. He currently has 36 points on the season and 1 point in his last five games. If you like the plus minus stat, Yandle is a minus 3 on the season.

Future Prospects

The Panthers have a lot of decision facing their club next season. Do they resign Thomas Vanek who was acquired at the deadline? Does Roberto Luongo retire? Does Jaromir Jagr keep playing at the age of 46.

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