SUNRISE (CBSMiami) – The Panthers returned from a 13 day NHL break due to COVID with a vengeance.

The Cats are 5-0-1 in the six games since the return, putting up big offensive numbers.

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The wins covered a 9-3 pounding of rival Tampa Bay and a road win at Carolina while missing a number of key players. The Panthers have the league’s best offense and begin this week #1 overall in the NHL.

Home Sweet Home
The Cats won 17 of their first 20 home games, the 2nd best home start to a season in NHL history. Their 11 game winning streak to start the season tied a league record. They enter this week at 18-3 at FLA Live Arena, and going back to last March they are 31-5 on home ice. The Panthers don’t just win at home, they pound opponents into submission. They’ve scored five goals or more in 12 of the 21 home games. This week the Panthers host Vancouver, Dallas, and Columbus.

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MVP Huby
Jonathan Huberdeau has elevated his overall game to the point where he is one of the best all-around players in hockey. He has always put up good offensive stats but this season has taken his game to a new level. His demeanor when the Panthers were eliminated from last season’s playoffs showed his anger at the loss to Tampa and his desire to win. It’s Huberdeau’s 10th NHL season and the fire is burning to make a playoff run. He is up to 4th in the NHL in scoring and 2nd in assists, while being the best player on the league’s best team. In addition to scoring, he is playing a tough, physical game and has achieved a new level of consistency every game. Huberdeau belongs in the MVP conversation.

The Duke of South Florida
Anthony Duclair signing with the Panthers didn’t get much attention last year. Despite coming off an all-star season with Ottawa he was heading to the 6th team of his career. But South Florida has become home for the player they call Duke. He has fit into this Panthers team wonderfully and after a strong season in his first campaign, he has taken that to a whole new level this year. Duclair is blistering in a 35 goal pace, and his speed exemplifies the Panthers style of play. Relentless, tenacious off the rush, and nearly impossible for opposing teams to handle.

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Interim head coach Andrew Brunette walked into a very difficult situation. Yes, he has an extremely talented roster and a team that is built to win. But taking over for legend Joel Quenneville, who he worked for as an assistant coach, was not easy to do. Let’s begin with the fact that Brunette had played for Quenneville and learned a lot about coaching under him. The tw0 were very close and to see that happen to a friend could not have been easy. Then you get to the hockey part where Brunette had to transition from being an assistant to running the whole show. He’s handled the adjustment very well, has stayed the same person and displayed the same personality he did in his previous role. The team has kept the style of play established by Quenneville and keeps on winning with Brunette behind the bench.

Steven "Goldie" Goldstein