With both the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers in the top five power rankings, these teams seem to be on a good roll. The Lightning (26-18) are currently ranked number five in the power rankings; however, they are fourth in the Atlantic Division. ESPN NHL Analyst Barry Melrose both played and coached in the league (coached Tampa Bay for the 2008-2009 season). Melrose says the Lightning are doing well as long as they continue to get their players back to being healthy. Right wing Joel Vermin is still out since mid-December of 2015 after having hand surgery (out 6-8 weeks). Melrose believes that if Tampa Bay stays healthy then they will be dangerous to other teams in the league.
After missing the playoffs for 13 of the past 14 seasons and not winning a playoff round since 1996, the Florida Panthers were not expected to be as successful this season as they currently are. Melrose says the combination of youth and experience has given the Panthers an edge this season. The Panthers are third in the power rankings with a record of 29-15.
The team responded to a four-game losing streak this season with big wins over the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning. Melrose says the Panthers will have to avoid losing game streaks if they want to remain solid until the end of the season. Effective goaltending gives teams an edge in the league, and Melrose says if the team keeps this up then they shouldn’t have a problem with entering the playoffs.
The Tampa Bay Lightning will play the Toronto Maple Leafs Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. The Florida Panthers will not see the ice again until Feb. 2 against the Washington Capitals; the number one team in the power rankings.