Panthers struggle to handle bumps in the road

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The Florida Panthers aren’t hopeless in their push to earn a playoff spot, but the Bruins beating them 5-1 in Boston served as a savage blow on Saturday.

As of this writing, the Panthers sit outside of the wild-card ranks with 86 standings points and only five games remaining. They’ll finish with a game in hand on the New Jersey Devils once they finish up against the Islanders tonight, but Taylor Hall & Co. could really beef up their lead being that they’re at 89 points in 77 games played.

Update: Hall and the Devils took care of business against the Isles, winning 4-3, so they’re now at 91 points with four games remaining.

If the Panthers end up falling out of the picture altogether – which is highly likely – many will wonder where it all went wrong, or at least wrong enough to fall behind the Blue Jackets, Devils, and Flyers.

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

The quick answer is that their dreams died on the road. As of this writing, here are the standings points and road records for each team:

Columbus (third in Metro): 94 points, 79 games played, 19-17-4 on the road

Philadelphia (first WC): 92 points, 78 GP, 20-12-8 on the road
NJ (second WC): 91 points, 78 GP, 20-14-5 on the road

Panthers: 86 points, 77 GP, 16-19-5 on the road

As you can see, the Blue Jackets have generated 42 points on the road, the Flyers 48, and the Devils 45. Meanwhile, Florida’s managed 37, so it’s probably good news that they only have one more away contest remaining during the regular season.

If the full season is too broad a view for you, the Panthers also stumbled during challenging stretches while others did a better job rolling with the punches.

  • The Devils faced a rough stretch pretty much since March 10, with a six-game road trip against playoff-caliber teams and some other tough matchups. They went 6-2-1 during what could have been a ruinous run.
  • It hasn’t always been pretty, yet the Flyers have managed at least one standings point in every road game since March 17 (2-0-2) and every game in general during that span (4-0-3).
  • The Blue Jackets have been on another plane, going 12-1-1 in their last 14 games.

Contrast those hearty runs with some stumbles from the Panthers, as they’ve lost three games in a row (0-2-1) and squandered much of the games in hand advantage that provided them optimism against the Devils and other teams in their range.

In the grander view, the Panthers have been fantastic lately, going 13-5-2 since Feb. 22, but perhaps they dug themselves simply too deep a pothole to navigate around and into the postseason.

At minimum, they’ll need to make the most of a four-game homestand that begins on Monday, hope for some help, and maybe even cross their fingers that the Bruins won’t have a ton to play for (as they face Boston on April 5 and 8.)

Ultimately, they’ll have to hope their game travels better if they make the playoffs, or failing that, in 2018-19.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.