Panther Set Record

On Monday April 4th the Florida Panthers beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 for their 45th victory of the season. The win further solidifies their position atop the Atlantic while continuing the slow, tortuous death of the Leaf’s 2015-16 season. But another win and another step closer to the playoffs weren’t the only reason for celebration in Panther country Monday night. Florida also racked up its 99th point for a new franchise record.

The Panther franchise officially began with the 1993-94 season and the team’s ability to win was established right away. With stars like John Vanbiesbrouck, Rob Niedermayer, and Scott Mellanby the Panthers had one of the most successful inaugural seasons of any expansion team ever. With a near .500 finish they barely missed a spot in the 1994 playoffs.  Then in the 1999-2000 season the franchise record was set at 98 points, an achievement that held for 15 years.

With goals by Bjugstad, Rocco Grimaldi, and Aleksander Barkov, not to mention 22 saves by netminder Al Montoya, the Panthers held on to win after jumping to a 3-0 lead in the second period. The team hopes that surpassing the previous team record sends a clear statement that this isn’t the same team who found themselves at the bottom of the league during the 2013 season. ''Those are some tough times,'' Bjugstad said. ''Losing a lot of games and it's not fun coming to the rink a lot of times because it's a tough environment.''

With only four playoff appearances in franchise history nobody is feeling overconfident moving into the post season though. According to right-winger Jaromir Jagr, "It's something new for a lot of guys to make the playoffs. We'll see how we're going to react. It can scare us away or the other way around." The team’s last visit was during the 2011-2012 season where they lost to the New Jersey Devils in the Quarterfinals. ''We're at step one,'' said center Nick Bjugstad. ''We keep saying step one, keep moving on, we don't want to be satisfied.''

The Florida team does have some reason to feel confident going into the post-season though. Monday’s victory clinches home-ice advantage in the first round, which should go a long way towards helping them find their way into the later rounds. "It's good to get the home-ice clinched tonight and the next goal is to try and get first in the division,” Florida head coach Gerard Gallant said.

In the meantime the team continues to build momentum and prepare themselves for the post season. No matter what happens though, they can honestly say that this was their best year in franchise history.