SUNRISE (CBSMiami) – While it was uncomfortable, the Panthers' recent three-game losing streak was an opportunity for the team to reset, show resilience and prove they can fight through adversity.
They'd already done those things earlier in the season when hitting a few road bumps and had some injuries. But it never hurts to be reminded again.
The Cats are now on yet another winning streak while sitting in first place.
Barkov Leads The Way
The captain has been dominant during the current four-game winning streak. Aleksander Barkov posted back-to-back three-point games for the third time in his career and had two points in the big win in Pittsburgh Tuesday night.
Besides the points Barkov has been dominant, as usual, defensively. His size and strength along with his stick strength makes it nearly impossible to take the puck from him. Add in relentless work ethic, defensive desire and passion to win and Barkov one of the game's most dominant all around players.
Many players are setting career highs in many offensive categories.
Aaron Ekblad already has his highest point total of his career and is two goals away from his most of his eight-year career.
It's a matter of time until his defense partner MacKenzie Weegar does the same.
At forward, Jonathan Huberdeau will not only break his own team record for assists in a season, but will break the NHL record for assists by a left winger. His play making ability and vision is a marvel to watch. Huberdeau is a legitimate MVP candidate.
Players like Carter Verhaeghe, Sam Bennett, Anthony Duclair and Mason Marchment are blowing by their previous best seasons.
It's all systems go for the league's best offensive team.
Goaltender Spencer Knight returned from a solid minor league stint to play one of his best games of his young career. Monday in Buffalo, Knight played a flawless positional game in a 29-save win. He came close to his first shutout, but a deflected puck got behind him in the third period in a 6-1 win.
Knight is back in the AHL this week to get play games this weekend as the Panthers only play one game over the next five days.
The schedule has back-to-back games basically every week until the end of the season. Knight will be back up with the Panthers shortly.
Bruno Plays Chess
Well into his first season as head coach now, Andrew Brunette continues to push the right buttons. From managing his bench in game to line changes, the Panthers coach is making the right calls.
The two-game road trip was a good example. With the game in Buffalo well in hand halfway though, Brunette already was looking ahead to the next night in Pittsburgh. He rested the Ekblad-Weegar top defensive pair while Barkov and Huberdeau only got a handful of shifts in the third period.
All four had big games against the Penguins, combining for a goal and three assists. Ekblad and Weegar each played more than 27 minutes.
Rookie sensation Anton Lundell was out with an injury, so Maxim Mamin got back in the lineup for the first time in two weeks. Brunette showed full confidence in Mamin, putting him on Barkov's line. Mamin responded with a strong game, helping to set up two goals.
The line change also moved Marchment to the third line, giving the Panthers a more balance against the tough Penguins.
It all worked and ended up in two wins.
Brunette will get serious consideration for coach of the year with a 32-13-5 record.
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