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CBS4's Steve Goldstein Takes A Look At The Panthers Atop The NHL Standings

SUNRISE (CBSMiami) - The Panthers are finally back from frozen western Canada. It was a long road trip that saw them go 3-2.

Now they return to where they have dominated the league, FLA Live Arena. The Panthers are 21-3 at home and don't just beat the opposition, they throttle them with a relentless offensive attack.

This is a quick two game homestand as the Panthers host the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday and then the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night. Often, the first game back from a long road trip is a tough one and Vegas is a very good defensive team so it will be a match-up to keep an eye on, Florida's offense against the Vegas defense.

After the two game homestand, the Panthers will go on the road next week for games in Columbus and Madison Square Garden to end their schedule before the All-Star break. Jonathan Huberdeau will be headed to Vegas for All-Star weekend and Andrew Brunette will be the coach of the Atlantic Division team.

Halfway Report
The Cats hit the mid-way point of their season playing at an incredible 122 point pace. To put that in perspective, only six teams in the more than a century old NHL have finished the season with more points than 122. Of course, it will not be easy to keep up that pace for a full 82 game season but the Panthers have a chance.

Halfway MVP Jonathan Huberdeau
In his 10th NHL season, Huberdeau is having the best year of his career and it may not really be close. He has been at the top of the NHL's assists list most of the season and near the overall scoring lead. He was not only this team's MVP in the first half, he is a serious candidate for the league MVP.

Halfway Unsung Hero
This was a tough call because there are so many stars on this team that get a lot of attention. But there are numerous players under the radar that supply major contributions. I will go with defenseman Gustav Forsling. He is the Panthers third best defenseman, plays in tough situations, moves the puck very well, and picks up points. His absence was evident on the road trip when he was in COVID protocol. Forsling is a major part of the Panthers' ability to get out of their defensive zone quickly. They are one of the best teams in the NHL at not spending time on their own end of the ice.

Most Deserved of Success
Panthers fans! This loyal fan base has literally waited decades for a team that plays the way this one does. They are hard nosed, talented, can score, and dominate at home. The players often say the fans spur them on during home games and play a role in the success.

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