The Florida Panthers have clawed their way back into the Eastern Conference wild card hunt, and they have goalkeeper Scott Clemmensen to thank for it.
Florida is on a four-game winning streak, part of a six out of eight run, since the calendar turned to December. They now sit just six points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs–the team the Panthers beat tonight 3-1–for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 47 games left on their schedule.
A big part of the reason for the Panther’s resurgence has been the resurgence of Clemmensen in goal. Clemmensen was a key part of the 2011-12 Southeast Division championship, but struggled last year and spent some time in the minor leagues.
Clemmensen started out the season roughly. His last bad outing was in Chicago on Dec. 8, where he allowed the Blackhawks to push the puck by him six times. In three starts and two relief appearances, including that Chicago game, he had allowed 14 goals to be scored.
Since then, he’s been stingy with allowing room in the net. In three starts, he has stopped 68 of 72 shots for a save percentage of .945. Needless to say, Florida won all three games.
There remains the issue of veteran goalie Tim Thomas, brought in this season with the perceived intention of being the top guy in the net for Florida this year. The new ownership and coaching of the Panthers has shown only one loyalty this season and that is to winning. The firing of former head coach Kevin Dineen and the trade of star player Kris Versteeg are proof of that.
It’s difficult to say how long this run for Clemmensen–and the Panthers–will continue. Neither have proven themselves to be consistent winners… yet. As long as Clemmensen, Florida’s defense, special teams and offense are all producing, there is no reason why the winning can’t continue.
Until the points stop coming for the Panthers and the pucks start escaping Clemmensen’s grasp, he should continue to start in the net for Florida.