The Florida Panthers and the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are set to meet Tuesday night in Sunrise, Fla., both added superstars in the offseason.
Both of those players — Matthew Tkachuk in Florida and Johnny Gaudreau for Columbus — lead their respective squads in assists and points. Tkachuk has 24 assists and 37 points, while Gaudreau has 21 assists and 31 points.
But despite their individual success, their teams have struggled for large stretches this season.
Columbus, despite winning its past two games, is last in the Eastern Conference standings.
Florida, which has been outscored 9-3 during a two-game losing streak, is 4-6-3 in its past 13 games. That’s an alarming slump for a squad that was the best team in the 2021-22 regular season.
Worse, if the season ended today, the Panthers would not have enough points to qualify for the playoffs.
“We have to reset, regroup and get back to work. The biggest games are ahead of us, not behind us,” Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky said.
The Blue Jackets, meanwhile, should enter Tuesday in a good mood considering they beat the visiting Los Angeles Kings 6-5 on Sunday, thanks to an overtime goal credited to Gaudreau.
“I think it hit my pants,” Gaudreau said of his winning goal.
Lucky or not, Gaudreau has 13 points — including 10 assists — in his past eight games.
Gaudreau’s performance has helped the Blue Jackets fill a gaping hole left by Artemi Panarin when he exited as a free agent in July 2019.
Known as “Johnny Hockey,” Gaudreau got a seven-year, $68.3-million contract. The Blue Jackets also gave defenseman Erik Gudbranson — who gives the team toughness and snarl — a four-year, $16-million contract.
The other big improvement for Columbus this season has been the play of rookie center Kent Johnson, 20, who ranks tied for third on the team with 14 points. Veteran Boone Jenner is second on the squad with 21 points.
However, the Blue Jackets have allowed the most goals of any team in the Eastern Conference (111). It’s the third-worst mark in the NHL.
The Panthers started this week 11th in the league in goals scored per game (3.34) and 21st in goals allowed (3.35).
Florida leads the NHL with 37.8 shots per game. However, the Panthers’ power play is only clicking at a rate of 19.3 percent, and only six teams have performed worse.
Carter Verhaeghe, who leads the Panthers with 15 goals, has not scored in three games, although he hit the post in Sunday’s 5-2 loss to the visiting Seattle Kraken.
With goaltender Spencer Knight out for the past three games due to an illness, the Panthers have started the slumping Bobrovsky, who allowed a total of nine goals during that span.
For the season, Bobrovsky is 5-8-1 with a 3.58 goals-against average. Last season, he tied for the league lead with 39 wins.
The Blue Jackets have also struggled in net, splitting their goalie duties between Joonas Korpisalo (4-5-1, 3.53 GAA) and Elvis Merzlikins (4-7-0, 4.83 GAA).
–Field Level Media