Brandon Pirri picked up right where he left off at the end of the 2013-14 season, and his success was a big part of the Panthers’ playoff run. Read on for a recap of the 24-year-old sniper’s second season with the Florida Panthers.
Since the Panthers were out of the playoff race early the season before, Pirri had a spot in the lineup following the trade that brought him to Florida from Chicago for 2 draft picks. However, with the Panthers signing free agents Derek MacKenzie, Dave Bolland, and Jussi Jokinen over the offseason, Pirri was no longer a lock when opening night rolled around. As a result, began the 2014-15 season in the press box watching his teammates rather than playing alongside them. He made his season debut in game 5 on October 18th against the Capitals, and he slotted in as the Panthers’ 3rd line center in between Sean Bergenheim and Tomas Fleischmann after Dave Bolland left the game before with a groin injury and ended up not returning until December.
Pirri had a seemingly more stable spot in the lineup following the Bolland injury, and he scored his first goal of the season in his second game against Colorado on October 21st and had three in total in his first 4 games played. However, on October 31st at home against the Coyotes, Pirri received an elbow to the head from Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle, and he would go on to miss 10 games before returning on November 24th. Following his return, he would be scratched several times while putting up just one point (an assist) in his next 15 games. After sitting out for three games, Pirri returned on the 19th of January against Vancouver and never looked back from there. He scored one goal that night, a quick wrister from the faceoff circle that ended Ryan Miller’s bid for a shutout.
Following the All-Star Break in late January, Pirri became one of the main beneficiaries of the Panthers vastly improved powerplay, which featured four forwards and one defenseman, including Pirri at the right faceoff circle often sending one-timers towards the net. He had a four-game goal streak from January 31st through February 5th, and two of the 4 goals during that span were one-timers from the right wing. On February 10th against Anaheim, Pirri logged just one 17-second long shift before he was forced to leave the game with a shoulder injury sustained after colliding with Ryan Getzlaf. After missing 9 games, Pirri returned, and he brought with him with his first multi-goal game of the season and of his career, scoring on two one-timers from the point on the powerplay against Buffalo on February 28th (1, 2). He would go on to have another four-game goal streak from March 14th to the 19th, a span which included a wicked top-shelf back-handed goal off the rush against Carolina and a season-high 10 shots against Montreal. Just three games later, he would have yet another two-goal game against Toronto. His final goal of the season came against Carolina at home, and it came, fittingly, by way of a no-look spin-o-rama. Pirri scored his 20th goal of the season on March 31st, and that same game was his 100th in the NHL.
Overall, Pirri had a dominant season offensively. His production was limited by the Yandle elbow to the head at the beginning of the season, which not only kept him out for almost a month, but affected him for 15 games once he returned. Pirri also transitioned from playing center at the beginning of the season to the right wing as the year progressed, which would prove to help with his offensive production. Among players on the Panthers with at least 50 minutes of 5-on-4 powerplay time, Pirri was second behind Jimmy Hayes with a shooting percentage of 19.35 while on the man advantage.
In all game situations, he led the team with a shooting percentage of 15.38 and 1.82 goals per 60 minutes of ice-time. Remarkably, Pirri finished with a career-high 22 goals and just 2 assists, giving him a goals-to-assists ratio of 11-1, which is the second best ratio in NHL history. The best was the 22-1 ratio of Cy Dennehy of the 1923-24 Ottawa Senators. Pirri’s 22 goals were good for 2nd on the Panthers, and he was just 2 goals shy of Nick Bjugstad despite playing in 23 less games. He was tied with Bjugstad for 7 powerplay goals and tied Brad Boyes and Aaron Ekblad with 4 game-winning goals. During a 22 game span which ran from January 19th through March 26th, Pirri scored 17 goals, second only to Alex Ovechkin, who scored 22 goals in 7 more games over that same span. Pirri was tied for second on the Panthers in shootout goals with three in 7 opportunities, just one behind Bjugstad who had four in 14 opportunities.
Given a full season and fewer injuries, there’s no doubt that Pirri can be one of the Panthers’ go-to snipers, and that is something he proved this year with his timely goals.