NHL power rankings 10.0: Panthers leaping into playoff picture


SportsPulse: The NHL trade deadline finished with a flurry of deals, but none bigger than Ryan McDonagh heading to Tampa Bay. See who were the big winners of deadline day.

At the start of the season, general manager Dale Tallon described his Florida Panthers defense as “Keith Yandle and a bunch of kids.”

“I had a vision that we might struggle early because six of our defensemen hadn’t played much more than 200 games,” Tallon said. “But I felt if we could be around .500 at Christmas, we would have a good second half.”

The Panthers almost met Tallon’s expectations, entering the Christmas break at 15-17-5. But they’ve exceeded his hopes and everyone else’s by going 13-3 since the NHL All-Star break.

“We are starting to get some confidence,” Tallon said. “The younger players are starting to play with a little authority, more composure. I give our coaches a lot of credit.”

Yandle, 31, is having one of his best NHL seasons. Aaron Ekblad, 22, has taken a step up in the second half, along with Mike Matheson, 24. Mark Pysyk and Alex…

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