SUNRISE — It was a less than a week ago that the Florida Panthers found themselves holding a spot in the NHL playoffs as everything was seemingly going their way.
Feels like a month ago.
Since beating the Red Wings 5-2 in Detroit and taking the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, Florida has lost its past three games.
Losing to Toronto and the New York Rangers is understandable. These two, are after all, among the NHL elite.
The loss in Philadelphia was not completely unforgivable, but it was costly.
And, it may end up costing the Panthers a spot in the postseason.
The Panthers are now three points out of the playoffs what with Pittsburgh getting off the mat — as Florida coach Paul Maurice likes to say — by beating the Capitals on Saturday night.
Florida has nine games left with a four-game road trip kicking off Monday night in Ottawa.
In one of the early episodes of the popular AppleTV+ show ‘Ted Lasso,’ the coach of AFC Richmond tells a struggling player he needs to be like a goldfish.
Why? Because the goldfish has an extremely short memory.
Forget about it. Move on.
Be a goldfish.
The Panthers need to erase these past three games from their memory ASAP.
Easier said than done.
But … it needs to be done.
”It is our job to forget,” Sasha Barkov said. “We do this, we play so many games that if you concentrate on the bad things, you will mess up the whole season. We have to forget all the bad things. We were in this situation earlier in the season and we came out of it. We need to forget about this one.”
Said Ryan Lomberg: “We have to put on our ‘big boy pants’ and just do it. There is no point in hanging our heads. We know we are capable of doing it. This is a tough pill to swallow but we have to swallow it and move on.”
The mood around the Panthers right now is anything but positive.
Players are hiding out from the media, with Maurice talking about other teams suffering from the stress of being in a stressful playoff race.
He is probably talking about his squad.
On Monday night, the Panthers were in the drivers’ seat, controlling their own destiny. They saw the problems teams like the Penguins and Islanders were having and laughed them off.
Florida was, after all, playing its best hockey of the season.
Less than a week later and no one is saying that anymore.
The Panthers are choking this away and need to just let it all go and return to playing the way before.
Problem is, things are snowballing on them and when things start to go bad, well, you get what happened Saturday night against the Rangers.
”That is going to come out for all these teams. We’re all dealing with the exact same thing,’’ Maurice said. “First off, you look at your leaders to lead. They have to be your drivers, bring their A-Game. Barkov had two tonight, he was a driver. We have other guys who can be better.”
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT OTTAWA SENATORS
- When: Monday, 7 p.m.
- Where: Canadian Tire Center, Ottawa
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Season Series (Florida leads 1-0): Panthers 5, Senators 3 (Oct. 29)
- Last season: Florida won 3-1
- All-time regular season series: Ottawa leads 56-43-5, 3 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Florida at Toronto, Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.