The Florida Panthers enter Game 2 of their second-round series against the host Toronto Maple Leafs in a position they have not been in since 1997: With a 1-0 series lead.
In that 1997 series, Florida dropped the next four games to the New York Rangers to fall in the first round, kicking off what was a 26-year playoff series drought.
The same sentiment has been true in this year’s playoffs. Winning Game 1 does not win you the series.
Boston won Game 1 (and went up 3-1) against the Panthers and fell in 7.
The New York Rangers took a 2-0 series lead with convincing victories over the New Jersey Devils and blew the lead when rookie goaltender Akira Schmid went in and stole the momentum.
While taking a lead gives you momentum — both in a game and a series — that momentum has to be managed constantly or else it could swing in the other direction at any time.
“I’m not a big believer in momentum,” coach Paul Maurice said.
“It changes every time the puck drops. We make it 2-0 and we’re probably feeling pretty good about our game and you make it 2-1 and they are rolling. It will get re-established when the puck drops and you got to do it shift by shift.”
Florida has given itself an advantage because it has played its game this way for almost three months.
Every game they’ve played since mid-February has had that “must-win” mentality as they climbed back into a playoff spot.
And they have found a formula that works in the process.
“Every night is a Game 7 for us and it has been that way for a while,” Sam Reinhart said.
“We are just in a pretty good rhythm and a pretty good routine and whatever happens we kind shake it up and go back to ground level where we should be and refocus.”
The Panthers will come into Game 2 with the same lineup they have rolled out since Game 4 of the Bruins series.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (ATL2) VS. FLORIDA PANTHERS (WC2)
GAME 2 (Panthers Lead 1-0)
- When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
- Where: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto
- TV: TNT
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- DraftKings odds — Maple Leafs Favored: Money Line (-190); Puck line (-1.5, +130); Over/Under 6.5 (-135/+115). Series: Florida favored -125/+105.
- First Round Schedule — Game 1: Florida 4, @Toronto 2; Game 2: Thursday at Toronto, 7 (TNT); Game 3: Sunday at Florida, 6:30 (TBS); Game 4: Wednesday at Florida, 7 (ESPN); Game 5*:Friday, May 12 at Toronto (TNT); Game 6*: Sunday, May 14 at Florida (TBA); Game 7*:May 16 at Toronto (TNT). (*) – If Necessary
- How They Got Here: Toronto d. Tampa Bay 4-2; Florida d. Boston 4-3
- Season Series (Toronto won 3-1): Maple Leafs 5, @Panthers 4 OT (Jan. 17); @Maple Leafs 6, Panthers 2 (Mar. 23); Panthers 3, @Maple Leafs 2 OT (March 29); Maple Leafs 2, @Panthers 1 OT (April 10)
- Last season: Florida won 2-1
- All-time Regular Season Series: Toronto leads 48-36-7, 7 ties
- Postseason History: First Meeting
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 16 Sasha Barkov // 10 Anthony Duclair
21 Nick Cousins // 9 Sam Bennett // 19 Matthew Tkachuk
27 Eetu Luostarinen // 15 Anton Lundell // 13 Sam Reinhart
22 Zac Dalpe // 12 Eric Staal // 6 Colin White
42 Gus Forsling // 5 Aaron Ekblad
18 Marc Staal // 62 Brandon Montour
28 Josh Mahura // 7 Radko Gudas
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
34 Alex Lyon
Scratched: Mike Benning, Evan Fitzpatrick, Givani Smith, Casey Fitzgerald
Injured: Patric Hornqvist (LTIR-concussion), Ryan Lomberg (hand)
PROJECTED TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS LINEUP
23 Matthew Knies // 34 Auston Matthews // 88 William Nylander
19 Calle Jarnkrok // 91 John Tavares // 16 Mitch Marner
58 Michael Bunting // Ryan O’Reilly // 52 Noel Acciari
28 Sam Lafferty // 64 David Kampf // 15 Alexander Kerfoot
22 Jake McCabe // 78 T.J. Brodie
44 Morgan Reilly // 2 Luke Schenn
55 Mark Giordano // 37 Timothy Liljegren
35 Ilya Samsonov
60 Joseph Woll