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Welcome to the Dwork On Sports blog.  This is a place where I’ll cover all things related to South Florida sports, with a steady combination of facts and opinions while ultimately keeping a close eye on anything and everything related to our local teams.

Dwork On Sports

The Florida Panthers have been one of the hottest teams in the NHL for over a month now.

The only team considered to be on a better streak than the Panthers is the Washington Capitals.

Florida (21-12-4) has won seven straight games and 13 of its past 16.  The team has just finished the best month of hockey in franchise history.

Washington (27-6-2) has won eight straight and nine of its past 10.  That lone loss came at the hands of the Panthers, a 4-1 game at the BB&T Center on December 10th.

Indeed, it’s been fun watching the youthful Panthers mature into one of the best teams in the NHL.

Florida has ended the 2015 portion of its schedule sitting atop the Atlantic Division, a place it will remain until January 1st when second place Montreal (one point back) and third place Boston (two points back) face off in the 2016 Winter Classic.

The Panthers get back to work on January 2nd when they host the New York Rangers.

As Florida has made its way up the Eastern Conference standings the national attention surrounding the team has grown, as has the respect the media has for what the Panthers are doing.

With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at NHL Power Rankings from different media outlets and see where the Panthers fit in.

NHL.com: Eighth, up from 16th. Record at time of rankings: 19-12-4.

Good: They’ve won five in a row, including the last two in the shootout. They’re 5-1 in the shootout after going 8-10 last season.  Not so good: No reason to nitpick at a team that has won five in a row to climb eight spots in the rankings.

ESPN.com: Second, up from third. Record at time of rankings: 20-12-4

How does first place sound? The Panthers found themselves atop the Atlantic after Sunday’s 3-2 win over the Blue Jackets. The Panthers (44 points) are one point ahead of the Red Wings and Canadiens after a six-game win streak, their longest such streak since 2008. They are 12-3-0 in their last 15 games.

SportsIllustrated.com: Second, up from sixth. Record at time of rankings: 20-12-4

Shot suppression has been key to Florida’s stunning 10-3 December. According to War-On-Ice.com, they Panthers are holding opposing teams to just 45 attempts per 60 minutes this month, fewest in the league. They will have a chance to win their seventh straight game, and take over first place in the Atlantic Division, when they face the Canadiens on Tuesday night. Last week: 2-0-0.

CBSSports.com: Tenth, up from 14th. Record at time of rankings: 20-12-4

The surprise team of the NHL held first place for a day in the Atlantic and may get it back soon. They closed a 15-point gap on the Canadiens in a month. Meanwhile, young forward Aleksander Barkov is on his way to a breakout season. Everyone already knew he was good, but now the points are coming, too.

FOXSports.com: Fourth, up from ninth. Record at time of rankings: 20-12-4.

What is going on with this team? With seven wins in a row, the Florida Panthers have powered their way to the top of the Atlantic Division. Give the credit to the Panthers goaltending. Roberto Luongo has completely rejuvenated his career in the Sunshine State, but don’t forget about Al Montoya, who’s rocking a .930 save percentage in eight starts.

BuffaloNews.com: Tenth, up from 13th. Record at time of rankings: 19-12-4.

No franchise needs a playoff berth more and they might get there.

NESN.com: Fifth, up from 11th. Record at time of rankings: 21-12-4.

Jaromir Jagr is now just eight goals behind Brett Hull for third on the all-time list. That’s pretty impressive. Oh, by the way, the Panthers sit atop the Atlantic Division.

CSNMidAtlantic: Third, up from 11th. Record at time of rankings: 20-12-4.

The Panthers have won six-straight which is their longest winning streak in seven years and now sit atop the Atlantic Division.

 

The Panthers face the New York Rangers on Saturday, January 2nd at 7:00 p.m. You can hear every game on Sports Radio 560 WQAM, the radio home of the Florida Panthers.

Follow David on Twitter (@DavidDwork)

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