The Florida Panthers came one goal short of their first playoff series win in ages, but for the first time in more than a decade, they can enter the summer with their heads held high. They showed a lot of heart in a seven-game series with the New Jersey Devils, overcoming a 2-0 third period deficit to push the game to double overtime before Adam Henrique ended their surprisingly successful season 3-2.
It seemed as if the Devils were the better team when they absolutely had to be. They generated a 42-16 shot disparity in a 3-2 OT win in Game 6 and while they almost coughed up the lead in Game 7, New Jersey still prevailed.
Who takes the blame?
Sure there was instability in net, but the Panthers got pretty good to great goaltending for most of the series. In fact, it’s kind of tough to truly blame anyone, although Florida’s depth scorers didn’t come through – which pretty much matches their regular season. Players like Kris Versteeg and Stephen Weiss were productive, but the drop-off was steep.
What will they do about it?
Depending upon whom you ask, Florida wasn’t really supposed to get this far so soon. The Panthers have an increasingly rich pool of prospects, particularly goalie of the future Jacob Markstrom and 2011 first-rounder Jonathan Huberdeau.
The biggest areas of change will come in those prospects taking the spots of marginal players such as Wojtek Wolski. Scott Clemmensen is likely to leave but with Jose Theodore under contract for one more season, Florida doesn’t have to add a free agent goalie.
Consider the 2011-12 season laying down the foundation for what the Panthers hope will be bigger things in the not-too-distant future.