It has been quite a week for the Florida Panthers.
A week ago, they were prepping for their first home game of the second round against the Toronto Maple Leafs and today they are reveling in their overtime win against those Leafs.
And, they are getting ready for their next challenge.
What a task it will be.
The Panthers will be in Raleigh, N.C., sometime this week to kick off the Eastern Conference finals against the Carolina Hurricanes in a return to the old Southeast Division rivalry pretty much dominated by the Carolina.
The NHL schedule has not come out but we do know the Panthers will open in Raleigh — perhaps as early as Tuesday but probably Wednesday or Thursday — with Games 3 and 4 home in Sunrise.
The Panthers certainly can use the down time after the run they have been on.
“When you win the first game of series, everybody is wired and it is great,’’ Paul Maurice said. “When you go 7 and go into a series like this, there is extreme joy and elation, but about 20 minutes later, it was quiet.
“We got back to the hotel from the rink around midnight, had a team meal. It was peaceful in the room because everyone is exhausted. They were quietly celebrating — then went to bed. They get to enjoy this until the puck drops again.”
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW
Even the toughest critic has to be happy to see Sasha Barkov and Aaron Ekblad being able to finally be part of a deep playoff run with the Florida Panthers.
This has been what they have been working for — and through — for years as the organization changed around them seemingly on a yearly basis.
— Paul Maurice has deep ties to the Carolina Hurricanes organization going back to his days with the Hartford Whalers. He will see a lot of friends this week, including all the coaches behind the Carolina bench.
— If you live outside the Carolinas, the Hurricanes are not going to sell playoff tickets to you. It sounds familiar, eh?
— Could Ryan Lomberg be back with the Panthers during this upcoming series? Appears likely.
— Nick Cousins becomes the latest overtime hero for the Panthers.
— The Panthers keep the good times rolling into the Eastern Conference finals. This group is having a fun time.
— Matthew Tkachuk becomes the third Panthers player to be a Hart Trophy finalist.
— If you thought the Maple Leafs weren’t happy with Radko Gudas before, his play on Friday night certainly did not gain him any fans.
— Maurice has been keeping things light with postgame press conferences which are becoming very popular on YouTube. While Maurice knows the Panthers have to take things serious, he wants them to enjoy this journey as well.
— The Panthers have had a lot of success on the road this postseason.
— Gus Forsling has been a big driver of the Panthers’ playoff run.
— The Panthers nominated Barkov for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for his work on and off the ice.
— The Panthers redesigned their official Florida license tags which are available now.
— A lot of video is up on the FHN YouTube Channel including Game 5 postgame reaction from Paul Maurice, Sergei Bobrovsky, Matthew Tkachuk, Nick Cousins and Sasha Barkov.
To see all the videos, you can click the embedded videos below or head directly to the FHN YouTube Channel RIGHT HERE to see everything all in one place.
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NHL NEWS/NATIONAL HOCKEY NOW
We will have at least one Game 7 in the Western Conference after the Seattle Kraken raced out to a nice lead and beat the visiting Stars on Saturday night in Game 6.
The Vegas Golden Knights are in Edmonton tonight trying to wrap this thing up.
— There is a lot of blame going around Toronto these days and folks want change.
— Noel Acciari once again showed how tough he was.
— Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney has no regrets for going all-in this season at the NHL Trade Deadline. Nor should he. You got to go for it.
— There are a bunch of teams looking into trading for Washington center Evgeny Kuznetsov.
— For those Chicago Blackhawks hoping to get the band back together, GM Kyle Davidson will not bring back Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane.
— Will the Colorado Avalanche bring back Denis Malgin?
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
PANTHERS (WC2) AT CAROLINA HURRICANES (MET1)
- When: TBA
- Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh
- TV/Radio: TBA
- Series Schedule: TBA
- Season Series: (Carolina won 2-1): Florida 3, Carolina 2 (Nov.9); Carolina 4, Florida 0 (Dec. 30); Carolina 6, Florida 4 (April 13)
- All-Time Regular Season Series: Carolina/Hartford leads 71-46-10, 11 ties
- Postseason History: First Meeting
- How They Got Here — Carolina: d. New York Islanders in 6; d. New Jersey Devils in 5. Florida: d. Boston Bruins in 7; d. Toronto Maple Leafs in 5.