2021 was a stressful year. But for the Florida Panthers, 2021 was a year full of incredible improvements and exciting moments that fans will remember for years to come! What follows below is a list of the ten most exciting moments of the last year. Some of you may not agree with my list, but I’m sure we can all come together and reminisce on what was a crazy year. So let’s get started!
Number 10: DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUKE
Kicking off the list is the arrival of a player known by many nicknames such as “The Duke of Sunrise,” “The Duke of GoalScorington,” and my personal favorite, “The Duke of Barkov County.” But to most, Anthony Duclair is “The Duke.” His Panthers career got off to a slow start, but he has earned his way up from the fourth line up to the top line on most nights in the last year. He has fit right in with the speedy and chaotic Panthers offense. And who can not love his killer smile?
More recently, Duclair potted two goals and had an assist on his mother’s birthday as part of the next moment on the list.
Number 9: It’s Not Everyday That You Drop Nine Goals On The Defending Cup Champs
Yeah, you read that right; the Cats put up NINE goals against the Bolts in a 9-3 victory on December 30, 2021. Granted, it was against a horrifically depleted Tampa Bay Lightning lineup, specifically their third and fourth string goaltenders. But that doesn’t mean it was any less exciting for the Panthers and their fans! After scoring the ninth goal of the game, fans proceeded to cheer “WE WANT TEN” for the last ten minutes of the game.
Number 8: The Captain Gets A Selke And Eight More Years
Following a season where he led the team to a spot in the playoffs and earned himself the Selke Trophy, the Panthers came to terms with captain Aleksander Barkov on an eight-year, $80 million contract extension, cementing him as the Panthers captain until the year 2030. Many, including Barkov, expect him to stay with the Panthers for the remainder of what should be a very long and exciting career.
Number 7: Historic Start to the 2021-22 Season
Next on the list is the blazing hot start the Panthers had at the beginning of this season, winning their first eight games and registering at least a point in each of their first 11 games. Beyond that, the Cats went on to tie the NHL record for consecutive home wins to start a season, winning their first 11 home games to tie the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks.
Number 6: Bill Zito Earns Himself A Statue
Can we build the statue already? Since taking over as General Manager in September of 2020, Bill Zito transformed this team from just outside of playoff contention to right on the doorstep of greatness. He has found diamonds in the rough with players like Brandon Montour and Sam Bennett, brought in veterans like Joe Thornton, and built the deepest roster this team has ever seen. Zito kept a level head and dealt with the Head Coaching controversy professionally, and kept the team pointed in the right direction. He will surely be a serious contender for GM of the Year.
Number 5: Jonathan Huberdeau And Five-Point Games
Remember that game against the Lightning? Y’know… The one where we scored NINE goals? Would it shock you that it was Jonathan Huberdeau‘s second five-point game so far this season and fourth in the year 2021? We’ve come to expect multi-point games from Huberdeau on a nightly basis, and he delivers more often than not. Tim Reynolds assisted in pushing forth the narrative of Huberdeau being one of the best in the league with this tweet:
5-point games this season:&mdash; Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) December 31, 2021
Jonathan Huberdeau, 2
Rest of NHL combined, 1
Number 4: Defending Home Ice
I’m going to use another tweet from Tim Reynolds because there isn’t much else to say that isn’t included in this tweet:
The Florida Panthers won 36 regular-season games on home ice in the calendar year 2021&mdash; Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) December 31, 2021
Most in the NHL.
No team in the league won more home games in 2021 than the Florida Panthers. Teams are scared to play here, and they should be.
Number 3: Spencer Knight Stands Tall In Game Five
Mature beyond his years, Spencer Knight was on another level in his playoff debut. Knight shut the door after allowing a goal on the first shot he faced. He stopped the next 36 shots and didn’t allow another goal, leading the team to a 4-1 victory and forcing game six. As everyone watching witnessed, there has never been a more fired-up crowd at this arena.
Number 2: The Comeback Cats
Never count the Panthers out of a game; you will regret it. The Panthers had the second most wins when trailing after the second period in 2021 with nine comeback victories. Second only to the Vegas Golden Knights, who had 10.
Number 1: “Ryan Lomberg, You’ve Gotta Be Kidding Me! Let’s Go Home Baby!” -Steve Goldstein
If any of you thought that this moment wasn’t going to be my number one, you obviously haven’t met me! It was pure poetry. Ryan Lomberg, a player that the Lightning absolutely despised to the point that they went after him on almost every shift, breaks in behind the defenders and beats Andrei Vasilevskiy to give the Panthers their first win of the series.