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Reassembled Top Line Making Massive Difference for the Panthers

With the top five teams in the Atlantic all now separated by just five points, the next team to get hot could easily find itself atop the tumultuous division. Right now, that team is the Florida Panthers. The South Florida squad has won eight of its last 10 games and has gone 6-1 with Jonathan Huberdeau finally back from an Achilles injury that kept him out of the lineup for the first 51 games of the 2016-17 season.

During this surge up the Atlantic Division standings, the Panthers have accumulated $699.44 of profit for $100 bettors and they’ve outscored their opponents by eight goals. Before their current 10-game stretch, the Panthers had a -21 goal differential for the season and things were looking grim.

Their top line, however, is back intact and is making them one of the best five-on-five teams in the National Hockey League. Since the return of Johnny Hubby, the combination of he, Aleksander Barkov and 45-year-old Jaromir Jagr has accounted for 21 points in seven games and drawn plenty of defensive focus from opponents – taking the pressure off a highly talented second line centered by Vincent Trocheck, whose 45 points leads the team.

Nine of their final 24 games will come against teams within their division so there’s plenty of hay left to be made and with the goaltending duo of James Reimer and Roberto Luongo starting to play to their potential, this is a team I’d be targeting in division futures. GM Dave Tallon has said he’d be willing to deal some of the organization’s young talent in return for a player who could help them today so this will be an interesting club to keep on eye on as the clock ticks down to the trade deadline.

For bettors, tread carefully. The margins by which the Panthers are winning games are very slight and they have not been cashing spread bets when favored, losing $100 puckline backers -$291.63 over the course of their last 10 games. This trend is in line with Florida’s season on the whole as the Cats are one of the worst puckline bets in the entire league, going 5-24 ATS in games where they were the favorite.

Although it hasn’t translated into success on the power play just yet, Tom Rowe’s tactics – which are heavily based on analytical models – have slowly turned the Panthers into a five-on-five nightmare. Despite possessing the league’s fourth-worst power play that’s operated at an anemic 11.5 percent since the all-star break, the Panthers are the hottest team in the league and are sneakily becoming a team you do not want to play in the postseason.

If you’re a proponent of fantasy hockey, hanging on to Huberdeau has paid dividends and if he’s still available in your league – which he is in 28 percent of Yahoo leagues – you should go to your free-agent pool right now and pick him up for the sake of all that is hockey.

For a breakdown of their game against the Oilers on Wednesday night, check out my preview here.

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