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The Florida Panthers had the lowest point total of any division winner last season. They were also owners of the fourth-lowest goal total for the season. To put that into perspective, they were one ahead of the New York Islanders and one behind the Columbus Blue Jackets.
They did have the seventh-ranked power play unit in terms of conversion, but they were the definition of middle-of-the-road in terms of opportunities.
The reason the Panthers won their division was because of the points they gained from overtime losses, with a whopping 18. Chances are they won’t be able to match that mark when play resumes.
The Panthers also have the Capitals breathing down their necks. Now that the goalie situation is figured out with Braden Holtby taking over full-time, their biggest uncertainty is gone.
In Tampa Bay, Steven Stamkos still has a reign of terror on opposing goalies. Many consider the Lightning to be underachievers, so if they do live up to their potential, it won’t be unlikely to see them vault up the standings.
The Winnipeg Jets are the opposite of the Panthers in that they can score, but their goaltending has let them down at times. Either way, they enter their second season back in Winnipeg and it is still one of the tougher places to play. They have the chance to climb the the standings as well if they can take advantage of home ice.
Carolina made big moves by acquiring Jordan Staal on draft day and signing Alexander Semin. The Hurricanes definitely made major improvements and still have Cam Ward in net. There is no doubt they will be moving up and pressuring for a division crown as well.
The upgraded competition will make it really tough for the Panthers to stay out of the basement in the Southeast Division, let alone repeat as winners.