1. Second-half success
The Panthers gained momentum as the 2017-18 season progressed and hope to carry that into 2018-19.
Florida had 40 points in its first 41 games (17-18-6), 25th in the NHL, and 56 points in its final 41 games (27-12-2), the fourth most in the NHL in that span. That difference of plus-16 points in the second half of the season compared to the first half was second to the Arizona Coyotes' plus-24.
The Panthers also led the NHL with 1,414 shots on goal, were seventh with 134 goals and tied for sixth with a goal differential of plus-21 in their final 41 games.
2. Four who can score
The Panthers were the only NHL team with four players who scored at least 27 goals and had at least 65 points last season: Aleksander Barkov (27 goals, 78 points), Vincent Trocheck (31 goals, 75 points), Jonathan Huberdeau (27 goals, 69 points), and Evgenii Dadonov (28 goals, 65 points).
The only other teams with four players who scored at least 27 goals were the Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs, and no other team had four forwards who had at least 65 points.
Florida's top forwards are versatile players who contribute in a number of ways beyond scoring. The best example last season was Trocheck, who was tied for sixth in the NHL with 35 penalties drawn and four shorthanded points, tied for 33rd among forwards with 145 hits, and tied for 44th among forwards with 55 blocked shots.
3. Shift in usage
In his first season as coach, former NHL defenseman Bob Boughner used an NHL-low seven defensemen and shifted his top two, Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle, into more defensive roles.
At 5-on-5, Ekblad's offensive zone start percentage decreased from 58.93 in 2016-17 to 41.60 in 2017-18, and Yandle's dropped from 54.39 to 41.26. This might have had an impact on the number of shots the two of them blocked, which increased from a combined 138 in all situations in 2016-17 to 222 in 2017-18. Florida went from an NHL-low 919 blocked shots in 2016-17 to 1,172 in 2017-18 (23rd).
The greater defensive responsibilities didn't adversely affect Ekblad and Yandle's scoring, which went from a combined total of 62 points (15 goals, 47 assists) in 2016-17 to 94 points (24 goals, 70 assists) in 2017-18. However, this new deployment did impact their shot-based metrics, which went from a combined shot attempts differential at 5-on-5 of plus-100 in 2016-17 to minus-235 in 2017-18.