The Florida Panthers have won the Atlantic Divison for the second time in three seasons. As a result, they head into the Stanley Cup Playoffs with an intense intrastate matchup waiting for them. Florida has drawn the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round. And it's a matchup that could stand as one of the best of the postseason.

Hockey fans are aware of the story by now. Last season, the Panthers barely snuck into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They were on the brink of elimination before they mounted a comeback to defeat the Boston Bruins. Florida then caught fire en route to the Stanley Cup Final. There, they came up short against the Vegas Golden Knights.

However, the narrative is different in 2024. The Panthers are not the Cinderella story capturing the attention of fans even outside the hockey world. Florida is not one of the favorites to go all the way. Anything less than a deep playoff run would come as a major disappointment to their fans.

The Panthers have the tools to go on a deep playoff run. Some may argue that this team is built to thrive in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. However, there is one flaw with this team that has reared its head in the past. And it's a flaw that must be contained if they want to win the Stanley Cup in 2024.

The Panthers must remain disciplined

Florida Panthers players celebrate after the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Amerant Bank Arena.
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Panthers are an excellent team that can play a complete game. Florida is very sound defensively, has received top notch goaltending, and can produce offense when needed. Finding a flaw in this team is rather difficult. And yet, it's also rather obvious. The Panthers can be rather undisciplined on the ice.

Florida is one of the more physical teams in the NHL. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, but can lead to unnecessary penalties in practice. This rang true for the Panthers in 2023-24. In fact, only the Anaheim Ducks (1008) accrued more penalty minutes than Florida (1006).

In defense of the Panthers, they have a strong penalty kill. They finished the regular season with the sixth-best penalty kill in the NHL in 2023-24. That being said, Florida can get carried away when playing a team that matches their intensity. It doesn't happen often, but we saw a prime example just last season.

The Panthers met the Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final, and Vegas understood the assignment. They were just as hard to play against as Florida was. The Golden Knights showed little fear matching the physicality Florida brought to the table. And in the end, the Panthers came undone.

Florida saw superstar Matthew Tkachuk ejected from Game 1 of the series. In Game 2, things got worse. Tkachuk was ejected again as nine total players hit the showers early. The two teams brawled again in Game 3, which was Florida's lone win of the series.

The Panthers didn't lose that series solely because of their inability to keep a level head. Vegas simply outplayed them at every turn. However, it did play a part. It also showed that teams can goad the Panthers into taking needless and avoidable penalties by simply matching their intensity.

The Panthers cannot lose themselves in chaotic brawls this year. Especially against teams like the Lightning, who are absolutely lethal on the power play. If Florida has a repeat of that Stanley Cup Final with Vegas, they may not even make it to the final round in 2024.