The NHL hasn’t seen a home start like the one by the Florida Panthers in more than 90 years.
Florida, which is set to host the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night, is 17-3-0 at home this season. That’s the league’s second-most wins ever through 20 games. Only the 1929-1930 Boston Bruins had a better home record (18-2-0) at this stage of a season.
In 11 of those 20 Panthers games, Florida has at least five goals, and that sizzling offense comes from all four lines.
“I think the way we want to play is infectious,” Panthers forward Sam Reinhart said. “When you see one line playing with speed … it translates well to the next line.”
The Panthers rank second in the NHL in goals per game (3.78), but they will face the league’s top-ranked defense. Calgary is allowing an average of just 2.23 goals per game, and the Flames have a .923 save percentage.
Winger Jonathan Huberdeau leads the Panthers in points (41) and assists (30) and has impressed Reinhart, who spent his first six-plus NHL seasons with the Buffalo Sabres.
“I’ve always known what he’s capable of,” Reinhart said of Huberdeau. “But to watch it on a nightly basis is exciting.”
Meanwhile, due to COVID-19 protocol, the Flames have played only two games in the past three weeks.
The Flames actually have won both of those games, including Sunday’s 5-1 victory over the host Chicago Blackhawks.
In Sunday’s game, the score was 1-1 after one period, but then the Flames took over. Calgary scored twice in the second period, when they owned a 26-9 advantage in shots on goals. Those 26 shots tied a record for the most prolific period in franchise history.
Flames coach Darryl Sutter is happy with how his team has played since getting shut down from Dec. 12-29 due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
The Flames have outscored their opponents 11-5 in these past two games.
“Everyone has reacted differently to the virus,” Sutter said. “You have to manage your way through it and play smart. We’re just trying to get everyone back up to speed, and it’s not easy.”
Matthew Tkachuk seems to be up to speed. He has one goal in three straight games and three assists during that span.
Tkachuk ranks second on the Flames in goals (14) and is tied for second in points (28). Elias Lindholm also has 28 points.
Johnny Gaudreau leads Calgary in assists (23) and points (36). Andrew Mangiapane leads the team with 18 goals.
Two Flames players who started their careers with the Panthers are leaders of Calgary’s defense. That would be goalie Jacob Markstrom and defenseman Erik Gudbranson.
Markstrom, who has won these past two Flames games, is 12-6-5 with an excellent 1.99 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage.
In his career against the Panthers, Markstrom is 2-3-1 with a 2.77 GAA and a .918 SP.
Markstrom, if he plays on Tuesday, would be the second straight goalie who started his career with the Panthers to face Florida. The Panthers beat Canadiens goalie Sam Montembeault 5-2 on Saturday.
Gudbranson said he and his teammates have taken all the uncertainty over COVID-19 postponements in stride.
“We’re focusing on next game, next shift,” Gudbranson said. “Just like we’ve done all year.”
–Field Level Media