Power Rankings: Defense and goaltending have Panthers flying high

Ken Campbell
Roberto Luongo  (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

The fact the Florida Panthers have won each of their past 10 games is impressive enough. The fact that they’ve given up one or zero goals in eight of those games is downright mind-boggling.

The Panthers are scoring plenty, led by their 43-year-old wunderkind Jaromir Jagr, but their underpinning of their success over the past three weeks has been defense and goaltending. The Panthers have outscored their opponents 33-12 9 in regulation time during the streak, meaning they’ve averaged just over a goal a game against during their run.

So it should come as no surprise that the Panthers are at the top of thn.com’s weekly Power Rankings for the first time this season. After all, is there any team in the league you’d rather face than the Panthers at the moment? (Rankings from Dec. 23 are in parentheses.)

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Is Jaromir Jagr the best 43-year-old in pro team sports history?

Matt Larkin
Jaromir Jagr, Nolan Ryan, Vinny Testaverde, Robert Parish. (Getty Images)

Face it: the Jaromir Jagr love train has been awfully crowded this season. But rightfully so. He’s not just the apple of our eye because he passed Marcel Dionne in goals and has a strong chance to overtake Gordie Howe in points before the year is up. We don’t just fawn over Jagr because he smites blackmailers and fires off candid quotes like bullets from a six-shooter after every game.

Jagr has earned all the buzz this year because he’s played legitimately excellent hockey at a whopping 43 years old. He had an amazing 24 goals and 67 points with the New Jersey Devils in 2013-14, then regressed to 11 goals and 29 points in 57 games with them last season. The decline finally appeared imminent at age 42. Then came the reinvigorating trade to Florida. As the Panthers’ first-line right winger, No. 68 has amassed 19 goals and 46 points in 56 games.

It got me wondering…where does Jagr’s age-43 season rank, not just in hockey lore, but in major North American team sports lore? Let’s see how he stacks up with the big four.

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Rats! Red hot Florida Panthers bring back post-win tradition

Jared Clinton
Panthers Rat Trick

The Florida Panthers are officially the hottest team in the entire NHL. The Cats are sitting atop the Atlantic Division, are red hot with a nine-game winning streak and are being led by the remarkable Jaromir Jagr, who scored twice in the Panthers’ 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild Sunday. So, how are Florida fans celebrating? By bringing an old tradition back.

Following Sunday’s win, Panthers fans celebrated with a tradition that dates back 20 seasons to Florida’s remarkable Stanley Cup final run in 1995-96: they threw rubber rats on the ice. As the final horn sounded, fans in attendance — of which there were 15,426, the sixth-best attendance of the season — threw rats on the ice. Check it out: Read more

Division-leading Panthers reward GM Tallon with contract extension

Jared Clinton
Dale Tallon (Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

Panthers GM Dale Tallon has taken Florida from a basement team to the current leaders of the Atlantic Division — a division that includes the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens — in six seasons. And now he will have closer to a decade to see what he can turn the Cats into.

The Florida Panthers announced Friday they have signed Tallon to a multi-year extension that will kick in following the 2015-16 season. According to the Miami Herald’s George Richards, Tallon’s new deal is a three-year pact, meaning the Panthers GM will be in his ninth season with the team should he remain in Florida for the length of the extension.

“I want to thank Vinnie Viola and his partner Doug Cifu for the opportunity to continue to build what our hockey operations department has started here in Florida,” Tallon said in a release. “I’m excited for what the future holds for our team with an exciting nucleus of young players along with our mix of veterans.” Read more

Watch Jaromir Jagr shows off his great hands with beauty against Canadiens

Jared Clinton
Jaromir Jagr (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

The Florida Panthers had a chance Tuesday night to beat the Montreal Canadiens and head into 2016 in a style few would have predicted: sitting atop the Atlantic Division. So in a tie game, who did the Panthers turn to? Ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr.

Jagr stepped on the ice for the second shift of the second period and his timing couldn’t have been better. Shortly after hitting the ice, Jagr picked the puck up in the Panthers’ zone and started a breakout. In seconds, the Panthers were cleanly entering the Canadiens’ zone which was followed by Jagr taking a beautiful cross-ice feed from Jonathan Huberdeau and walking in alone on Montreal netminder Ben Scrivens.

With a quick move Jagr faked like he was going wide on Scrivens before shovelling the puck up and over Scrivens’ glove for a gorgeous tally: Read more

Advanced stats show Panthers, Penguins trending up, Capitals, Canucks trending down

Florida Panthers (Getty Images)

As the month winds down, it’s time to look at which teams have been hot (or not) going into the New Year. Most people would take that to mean who got the most points during December, but with the NHL’s new numbers movement we can dig a little deeper than that. What’s more interesting is which teams actively improved (or degraded) their game regardless of results and identifying which teams are trending in the right or wrong direction.

Most people generally use shot rates to measure the direction a team is going as they can be good indicators of a team’s true talent level. Shot rates fluctuate throughout the year and that movement is worth keeping an eye on. That’s what this trend report is all about because how a team is playing lately is usually a good indication of what’s to come in the future.

Here are three teams going in the right direction and three teams trending the other way: Read more

Rumor Roundup: Canadiens could be after scoring punch on trade market

Wayne Simmonds. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

With the Montreal Canadiens struggling to score and tumbling in the standings, there’s considerable speculation another trade could be in the works after the recent holiday freeze ended at midnight on Dec. 27.

The reported trade of Zack Kassian to the Edmonton Oilers happened early Monday morning, and the Canadiens received goaltender Ben Scrivens in return which could help shore up the goaltending situation. That doesn’t help the Canadiens acquire more offensive punch, though.

Le Journal de Montreal’s Pierre Durocher claims Habs forward Alex Galchenyuk surfaced in the rumor mill. It could take a promising youngster like the 21-year-old Galchenyuk to attract an established offensive player. Gagnon reports GM Marc Bergevin is rumored to have interest in Philadelphia Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds. However, there’s little indication the Flyers are keen to ship out Simmonds.

Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer suggests the Flyers should move backup goalie Michal Neuvirth while his trade value is high. He believes it’ll be worthwhile if the Flyers can get “a high draft pick, a backup goalie” and someone to take the fading Vincent Lecavalier’s contract off their hands.

He feels Montreal could be a prime destination, but the Habs primary issue is their lack of scoring and Scrivens fills the goaltending spot the Canadiens were looking to fill. Bergevin won’t take on Lecavalier’s $4.5-million cap hit through 2017-18 unless he’s getting someone like Simmonds as part of the return. Even then, the Habs GM could balk at that asking price.

KOMAROV POTENTIAL TRADE CHIP?

TSN’s Darren Dreger created a bit of a buzz before Christmas by suggesting Toronto Maple Leafs forward Leo Komarov could fetch a late first-round pick if he’s put on the trade block. Komarov, 28, is playing the best hockey of his brief NHL career, on pace for a 36-goal, 58-point campaign.

The Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons, however, quickly dismissed that notion. He claims the Leafs have no intention of moving Komarov unless they get a mind-blowing offer.

Even if the Leafs decide to move Komarov, it won’t happen until near the trade deadline. While he’s always been a solid checking forward with a decent offensive touch, it remains to be seen if he can maintain his current production over a full season. He’s also seeing top-six minutes on a talent-thin roster this season.

For a rebuilding club like the Leafs, it would be wiser to retain a character player like Komarov. He could provide leadership for promising young forwards like William Nylander and Mitch Marner when they make their anticipated jump to the Leafs lineup next season.

PANTHERS SEEKING GOALTENDER?

The New York Post’s Larry Brooks recently reported the Florida Panthers had interest in goaltender Cam Talbot prior to the New York Rangers shipping him to the Edmonton Oilers last June. Brooks suggested it would be unsurprising if they took another run at landing the 27-year-old netminder to bolster their depth between the pipes.

Goaltending, however, is among the Panthers’ strengths this season. Starter Roberto Luongo continues to put up solid numbers, while 30-year-old backup Al Montoya has better stats than Talbot. Indeed, Panthers coach Gerard Gallant recently praised his current tandem for their strong play.

The Panthers could be busy leading up to the NHL trade deadline. Earlier this month, GM Dale Tallon acknowledged he’ll be in the market for a scorer. Adding a goaltender, however, is the least of his concerns.

Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

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