Three key trends Florida Panthers need to continue succeeding in playoffs

The Florida Panthers entered Thursday’s practice still waiting to find out who their second-round opponent will be in the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Regardless of who they face — it will be either the Boston Bruins or Toronto Maple Leafs, with Boston up 3-2 in the best-of-7 series entering Game 6 on Thursday night — the Panthers are spending their down time focusing on their game so that they are as prepared as possible for what’s to come.

Here are three key trends the Panthers need to continue as they aim for another deep postseason run.

Early leads

The Panthers insist they don’t pay too much attention to who scores the first goal of a game and don’t let it impact how they play.

However, it’s hard to deny how much of an impact getting on the board first has had for the team.

All four of Florida’s wins against Tampa Bay came in games when they scored first.

In the regular season, the Panthers went 33-4-6 when they scored the first goal.

Keeping the game at 5-on-5

While the Panthers are confident in their special teams — their penalty kill was one of the best in the regular season and held the Lightning power play to just four goals in 20 opportunities, while their power play improved over the season — Florida is at its best when the game is at 5-on-5.

During the regular season, Florida controlled 55.7 percent of shot attempts when the game was played at full strength — the second-best mark in the league behind only the Carolina Hurricanes (59.55 percent) — and outscored opponents 155-119.

In Round 1 against the Lightning, Florida outscored Tampa Bay 11-7 at full strength.

Strong goaltending

Defense and goaltending have been the Panthers’ backbone all season. Florida tied with the Winnipeg Jets for the fewest goals in the regular season and Sergei Bobrovsky, a Vezina Trophy finalist, turns his game up to another level in the playoffs.

Bobrovsky posted a .929 save percentage at five-on-five play during the Panthers’ series against the Lightning, allowing just seven goals on 99 shots at full strength, and was credited with 1.34 goals saved above average at full strength.