It’s time to consider the Florida Panthers a Stanley Cup contender. Coming off a playoff appearance last season, the team is determined to exceed last season’s results. And when it comes to achieving success the Panthers need to rely heavily on veteran goalie Roberto Luongo.
The Florida Panthers have had a great relationship with Luongo over the years. He’s a two-time member of the team, playing for them from 2000-06. But it’s his current tenure that might be his greatest achievement of a long career.
Serving as the Panthers starting goalie, Luongo has played some great hockey and has been a huge reason for the Panthers string of success. Ever since his return to South Beach at the mid point of the 2013 season, Luongo has posted better than a .920 save percentage for the year.
It’s also his leadership that has been a big plus for the Panthers. At the age of 37, Luongo is no spring chicken. He’s got a ton to offer a relatively young Panthers team and a vast amount of experience that will serve the team well come playoff crunch time.
That same experience helped Luongo save some of his best hockey for the playoffs. While his season numbers were mighty impressive, his second season numbers were that much better.
For the Panthers matchup against the New York Islanders in Round 1 of the playoffs, Luongo posted a .934 save percentage. And while the Panthers lost the series, the play of Luongo showed many that he could indeed be the guy for the Panthers going into this season.
There could be one hiccup with Luongo though. He is recovering from offseason hip surgery. And while the 37-year-old expects to be ready for the start of the season, it’s certainly something to keep an eye on.
It’s also worth nothing that the Panthers did in the offseason. The team acquired James Reimer to be their backup goaltender. He will serve as an insurance policy for Luongo in the event he misses time due to injury.
Reimer will be one of the better backups in the league. He posted a .922 save percentage over the 2015-16 campaign but was very ineffective during the playoffs. And make no mistake about it, the Panthers need someone to step up in those clutch situations and games, making Luongo’s health that much more important.
Roberto Luongo is a vital piece to the Florida Panthers playoff push this season. He’s sneakily been one of the NHL’s best goalies. The Panthers need him to continue his play from the 2016 playoffs to have a chance at reaching the ultimate goal of the Stanley Cup. That’s going to require an entirely healthy season. And while that isn’t a guarantee, it’s certainly needed to make a deep run
Follow Daniel James Gentile on Twitter @dgentleman9288