The Florida Panthers can put an end to a historic postseason drought tonight but on the other side, a proud group of Washington Capitals are trying to keep the party going.
It is hard to look at Friday’s Game 6 without thinking of what it means to the future of both teams.
Florida, obviously, is a team on the upswing and is a Stanley Cup favorite.
Washington is trying to get one more kick at the can, the memories of the 2018 Stanley Cup championship not fading — even if the core of this team may be.
“I think they have been desperate the whole series,” Andrew Brunette said Thursday afternoon. “We matched their desperation with five minutes left in the first because I thought they were the far-more desperate team early. We started getting desperate and played better. Hopefully we carry that over into (Friday) night. We have had trouble sustaining that desperation for long stretches and hopefully we’re getting better at that game-by-game.”
Since winning it all and using fountains around the District of Columbia as swimming pools, the Capitals have not moved past the first round.
That is one streak the Panthers would like to keep going.
The one they want to end is their own playoff winless streak as the Panthers have not won a single playoff series since the 1996 Eastern Conference finals.
As exciting as that Game 7 win in Pittsburgh was, no one could have guessed that would be it for the Panthers.
That can all end tonight.
As far as lineup stuff goes, Washington coach Peter Laviolette says Ilya Samsonov will be back in net as he said the five goals he gave up in the latter part of Wednesday night’s game were not all on him.
If he reverts back to the form he showed in Games 2 and 3, the Panthers could be in trouble.
If he looks like the Ilya Samsonov we had seen for a lot of this season, the Panthers will be coming home — to get ready for the second round.
— Tom Wilson is out for the fifth consecutive game after leaving Game 1 after three shifts with a lower-body injury.
Brunette said Mason Marchment continues to deal with a lower body issue that kept him out of Game 5.
Marchment did not fly with the team Thursday afternoon and will miss a second consecutive game.
Maxim Mamin filled in on the third line but, by the time the Panthers went down 3-0, lines were blended up and Mamin found limited playing time.
Of his 13 shifts played Wednesday, only four came after the midway point of the second.
“I really liked him early in the game, liked him the whole game and thought he was a real impactful player,” Brunette said. “He was one of our few who started on time. I thought he played well the rest of the game although he kind of got lost in different shifts and was in-and-out. He brought some energy, some heaviness on pucks.”
It sounds like Mamin would return to the lineup although Brunette would not tip his hand.
Florida has not had Ryan Lomberg in the past few games nor has Joe Thornton played this series.
“Everyone is on the table,” Brunette said. “With (Thornton’s) experience, that could be helpful. We have some other guys, too. We’re going to think about things. Hopefully everyone will get a chance to play in a long playoff run and we’ll need everyone at some point I am sure.”
— Carter Verhaeghe, the Panthers’ hero the past two nights, is not on the ice for morning skate. May just be a maintenance thing but we will know more following the workout.
We will keep him in the projected lineup until hearing otherwise. Brunette said he is a game-time decision.
Mamin remains on third line at the skate, Lomberg back on the fourth.
NHL STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
PANTHERS V. CAPITALS (FLA leads 3-2)
- Game 6: Friday, 7:30
- Where: Capital One Arena, Washington D.C.
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, TBS
- Radio: WQAM 560 (Miami/Fort Lauderdale); WMEN 640 (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3 (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Draft Kings odds — Florida favored: Money Line (-180); Puck line (-1.5, +130); Over/Under 6.5 (-130/+110); Series (-900)
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
PANTHERS V. CAPITALS
- Regular season series — Florida won 2-1: @Florida 5, Washington 4 OT (Nov. 4); @Washington 4, Panthers 3 (Nov. 26); @Florida 5, Washington 4 (Nov. 30)
- All-time regular season series: Capitals lead 67-44-11, 9 ties
- Playoff history: First meeting
- First-round schedule — Game 1: Washington 4, @Florida 2; Game 2: @Florida 5, Washington 1; Game 3: @Washington 6, Florida 1; Game 4: Florida 3, @Washington 2 (OT); Game 5: @Florida 5, Washington 3; Game 6: Florida at Washington, Friday 7:30 (BSF, TBS); Game 7*: Washington at Florida, Sunday. *If necessary
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP
Coach: Andrew Brunette
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 16 Sasha Barkov // 10 Anthony Duclair
11 Jonathan Huberdeau // 8 Sam Bennett // 28 Claude Giroux
98 Maxim Mamin // 15 Anton Lundell // 13 Sam Reinhart
55 Noel Acciari // 27 Eetu Luostarinen // 70 Patric Hornqvist
8 Ben Chiarot // 5 Aaron Ekblad
42 Gus Forsling // 52 MacKenzie Weegar
7 Radko Gudas // 62 Brandon Montour
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
30 Spencer Knight
PP1: Reinhart – Barkov – Giroux – Huberdeau – Ekblad
PP2: Hornqvist – Bennett – Duclair – Verhaeghe – Montour
Scratched: Lucas Carlsson, Petteri Lindbohm, Joe Thornton, Robert Hagg, Jonas Johansson, Ryan Lomberg, Mason Marchment
Injured: Markus Nutivaara (LTIR)
PROJECTED WASHINGTON CAPITALS LINEUP
Coach: Peter Laviolette
8 Alex Ovechkin // 92 Evgeny Kuznetsov // 77 T.J. Oshie
90 Marcus Johansson // 19 Nicklas Backstrom // 39 Anthony Mantha
24 Connor McMichael // 20 Lars Eller // 73 Conor Sheary
22 Johan Larsson // 26 Nic Dowd // 21 Garnet Hathaway
42 Martin Fehervary // 74 John Carlson
9 Dmitri Orlov // 3 Nick Jensen
57 Trevor van Riemsdyk // 2 Justin Schultz
30 Ilya Samsonov
41 Vitek Vanecek
PP1: Oshie – Backstrom – Kuznetsov – Ovechkin – Carlson
PP2: Johansson – Sheary – Mantha – Schultz – Orlov
Injured: Tom Wilson (d2d, LBI)
Washington Capitals lines courtesy WashingtonHockeyNow.Com