This is not a drill. The Florida Panthers are in first place in the Southeast Division.
It’s still early, but the Panthers are looking very much like a team that is going to make some noise in the Eastern Conference. If their recent play is any indication, it looks as if they will do just that.
After trouncing the Toronto Maple Leafs earlier in the week, on the road, the Cats did a number on the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday, winning by a 5-2 count.
Taking center stage in the victory was Kris Versteeg, one of the several new Panthers acquired by Dale Tallon this summer. Those moves look to be paying off, as each has played a role in the Panthers’ hot start this season.
On Thursday, though, Versteeg led the way with four points, including the first hat trick of his career. The quartet of points for Versteeg ran his team-leading total up to 17, and he’s a plus-7 for the year.
Brian Campbell also had another fantastic showing for the Panthers on Thursday. The former Blackhawk added three assists to the effort, giving him 15 points on the year, which is second in the league among defensemen.
Between the pipes, Jose Theodore pieced together another solid performance for Florida. The veteran goaltender has six of the team’s eight wins, while posting a GAA of 2.39. On Thursday, Theodore stopped 25 of 27 shots in the win.
But the story of the night was Kris Versteeg, who is enjoying a great deal of success with his fourth team in the last calender year. Thursday’s win over the Jets was Versteeg’s second four-point game of the season, and third multi-point effort this year.
With the win, the Panthers now stand atop the Southeast Division, with 19 points on the year. Obviously it’s still very early in the season, but their performance so far, on top of the offseason moves made by Tallon, have turned the Panthers into a team that people are paying attention to.