The Florida Panthers had the longest winning streak so far this 2015-16 NHL season. Their 12-game run was ended by the most unlikely of creatures Monday, Jan. 11.
The Vancouver Canucks came into the game with three more regulation/overtime wins (13 ROW) all 2015-16 NHL season as Florida had in its streak. Even in the loss, a point was earned as this one went more than two minutes past regulation.
Vancouver is struggling to win games this 2015-16 NHL season, but are currently considered to be in the Stanley Cup playoffs because the ridiculous way the league does its standings put them in third place in the incredibly weak Pacific Division at this point. (The San Jose Sharks would be considered half a game up in any other sport, with two fewer points in three games in a league that averages over a .560 point percentage all three seasons since realignment.)
The Canucks deserve credit for fighting back in this one. Jussi Jokinen put the Panthers up 1-0 from Reilly Smith 80 seconds into the game and 44-year old Jaromir Jagr got a secondary assist 33 seconds before intermission when Jonathan Huberdeau scored from Aleksander Barkov.
The Sedins (Henrik to Daniel with a secondary assist to Radim Vrbata) collaborated on a goal 5:41 into the second period, but that was it for scoring for over 30 minutes. Vancouver got even on a team effort capped off with an individual highlight-reel play: Bo Horvat got the puck to line-mate Sven Baertschi in a faceoff battle and Jake Virtanen tapped the puck to an open space where he could shoot it past Roberto Luongo with 2:38 to go.
The same Sedin combination produced the overtime goal, except that the secondary assist belonged to Alexander Edler and it came on a power play. Florida won most of the event summary statistics (exceptions in italics): 40-26 faceoffs, 3-10 giveaways, 2-6 takeaways, 20-18 hits, 28-30 shots, 45-47 attempts and 12-9 blocks but ultimately paid for being shorthanded three more times with the one extra goal.
Yet no matter where preseason predictions had them, the Panthers have earned a right to be called among the league’s elite. They have a point in their last 13 games of the 2015-16 NHL season even with seven of them on the road and seven against teams currently qualifying for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Florida was competitive before the streak (two points over .500) by playing to its strengths, riding solid goalie and blue-line talent to the fewest goals allowed per game to compensate for a lack of forward studs that results in average scoring. Even if the reality for this team is closer to the first 30 games, returning to that pace over the final 39 would result in 99 points at the end of the 2015-16 NHL season; that should be good enough to reach the Stanley Cup playoffs.