The Florida Panthers did quite well during the last Stanley Cup and fans have been watching each game this season with bated breath. While the team is by no way a favorite in the league, they did manage to pull off a stunning history-defining victory in 2008 against the Vegas Golden Knights.
The last Stanley Cup pitted these two historical rivals against one another, where unfortunately for the Panthers, the Golden Knights came up on top, with amazing offense by players like Jack Eichel. However, the start to the current season for the Panthers has been anything but glorious, and the team has suffered a number of injuries recently that could set the odds against them further in upcoming games.
Although these injuries have certainly put the team on the backfoot during this season, many fans and sports bettors alike are casting their predictions for this team’s chance of success throughout the season, and the Panthers aren’t completely being written off. So far, most of the best sports betting apps in Florida are putting them at around +2000 for this year’s Stanley Cup, perhaps due to their near victory last season. While they’re not the favorites (that’s the Colorado Avalanche at +800 currently), they’re still more favored than over 20 other NHL teams for this year’s title. And, the Panthers are ahead of state rivals the Tampa Bay Lightning at +2200, too.
This makes them very hard to predict as they’ve come up against the odds before to make it to the finals, although they’ve yet to go all the way and lift the cup. So, the odds are suggesting that they could perform well. However, the recent injuries have put an enormous amount of strain on the team as they’re missing a few key players and will have to reshape their game dynamic on the fly now in order to compensate.
First off, let’s talk about Aaron Ekblad. Ekblad is known for being a strong defensive player for the Panthers, and is widely seen as a crucial element in their defense line because of his high-skilled and aggressive offensive tactics. Putting truth to the saying, ‘the best defensive is a good offense’, Ekblad was knocked out in June due to a severe shoulder injury.
While the exact nature of his injury hasn’t been detailed, it’s likely due to wear and tear, as hockey is a sport known for causing severe shoulder damage. In fact, his injuries were so severe that he is reported to have undergone shoulder surgery, which means any chances of him returning this season are very low. Right now, it seems like the Panthers are holding the line with recent wins against the Kraken and the Sharks, but only time will tell what impact this missing link will have on the team’s overall moral and dynamic.
Next, we should address the loss of yet another defender in the team’s original lineup, Brandon Montour. Now, much like Ekblad, the nature of Montour’s injury is also an off-season mystery and likely due to wear and tear according to news reports. The injury seems to have led to a shoulder op as well, which also means that this key defense player is out of action for a good while.
Now, while the Panthers have seemed to adjust to the differences in their original lineup quite well, learning to adapt and overcome, there is a reason why a coach like Paul Maurice selected these players as his first choices for the main lineup. Right now, there’s a lot of pressure on the team to play cohesively and while there are talks of both players partaking in team practice, it would be quite risky for Maurice to put them on again and risk further and more serious damage.
Jonah Gadjovich is another player on the team’s roster that has suffered a recent upper body injury and has been placed on the bench until at least November in order to recover. Gadjovich is an important player in the lineup and is a dynamic left wing known for his aggressive play style and unselfish strategy, enabling a lot of passes. While he hasn’t been that active this year, his presence will still be sorely missed throughout future games.
Finally, we have Sam Bennet who plays center. He suffered a lower body injury during October of this year and has been placed on the injured reserve list until he heals enough to get back into the action. As a center, he is a focal point in the team’s game dynamic and strategy making as each game unfolds. While his injury isn’t as severe as the others in this lineup, it’s still yet another weak spot for the team and coach Maurice to contend with against much stronger teams in upcoming fixtures.
The Panthers will really have to spend some time rethinking their offensive strategies without Ekblad and Montour, as they were some of the key goalscorers and often led the attack, creating the opportunity for points to be made. Right now, most analysts agree that Maurice has to rethink a few ways to make the power play as effective as it once was with these two players on the ice, or they could be bleeding out points and missed opportunities.