The Florida Panthers will begin their quest for the Stanley Cup in earnest on Tuesday night when they open up the postseason at home against the Washington Capitals.
As the top team in the NHL — Florida clinched the Presidents’ Trophy last week — the Panthers are a heavy favorite to beat the Capitals and move on down the road.
But postseason hockey is a different animal.
The Panthers found that out last year when they won five of eight against the Lightning, only to lose their opening round series to Tampa Bay in six games.
Being the top team means getting every team’s best on any given night.
The Panthers have been talking about that for months, about how they have been playing with a target on their backs.
But in the playoffs, teams are playing for everything they hold dear.
It really is ‘win or go home’ and that brings an intensity different from anything this team has faced in its record-breaking regular season.
The pressure, as Florida captain Sasha Barkov said Sunday, is on every single team still playing.
Only for the Panthers, there probably is more pressure than on other teams.