Jonathan Huberdeau leads Panthers and NHL in scoring

Florida Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau said what a lot of people in the NHL are surely thinking.

“We’re relentless,” Huberdeau remarked, and who could argue?

The Panthers, who are set to visit the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night, lead the league in scoring, and they never seem to be out of a game. For example, the Panthers trailed the San Jose Sharks 4-2 in Saturday’s third period … only to rally for a 5-4 win on Huberdeau’s overtime goal.

Jonathan Huberdeau NHL scoring leader

Huberdeau, an All-Star this season, leads the NHL in points (62) and assists (45).

Over his past 24 games, Huberdeau has 42 points.

“His competitive nature is at an all-time high,” Panthers interim coach Andrew Brunette said. “His will to carry us has been tremendous all season. To be in the front row to watch him grow into that player has been special.”

Florida Panthers
Apr 27, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Florida Panthers left wing Jonathan Huberdeau (11) and Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov (16) celebrate after defeating the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov is also hot with five goals in his past six games. He has 20 goals for the season in just 32 games.

In Panthers history, only Hall of Famer Pavel Bure has reached 20 goals in fewer games.

The Panthers are tied with the Colorado Avalanche for the league lead with 67 points. The Panthers also have the best home record in the league at 23-3-0. But the Panthers are just 8-6-5 on the road, which gives the Blue Jackets hope for Monday’s game.

Panthers to face surging Blue Jackets

The Jackets will also enter Monday on a bit of a roll. On Sunday night, they defeated the Montreal Canadiens 6-3 on the strength of four first-period goals. Patrik Laine provided much of the offense with his first two-goal game of the season.

Goalie Joonas Korpisalo got the win, making 32 saves, improving his record this season to 6-8-0.

However, given that the Jackets have no rest day in between, it’s likely that coach Brad Larsen will turn to goalie Elvis Merzlikins to face the Panthers on Monday.

Merzlikins is 14-11-1 this season with a 3.18 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage.

He has lost three of his past four starts, allowing 13 goals during that span. One of those losses was at the Panthers 9-2 on Jan. 15. Merzlikins stopped just 11 of 15 shots before he was pulled. Korpisalo came in and stopped 31 of 36 shots as the Panthers gave the Jackets a pounding.

“When their crowd starts chanting, ‘We want 10′, and they are one goal away, I don’t think there’s a more embarrassing feeling in hockey,” Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski said following that game.

Werenski also had strong praise for the Panthers.

“It’s the best hockey team in the league, just with how fast they are and how well they play,” he said.

Panthers vs Blue Jackets matchup

Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who made 28 saves in that game, is expected to start again on Monday. He is 22-4-3 this season with a 2.51 GAA and an .874 save percentage.

It remains to be seen if the Jackets will put up more of a fight in Monday’s rematch with the Panthers. But at least the Jackets are on a modest two-game win streak, including an impressive 5-3 victory over the New York Rangers on Thursday.

“We had been struggling to score lately,” Laine said after the Rangers win. “Every line had a chance to contribute.”

–Field Level Media