The Florida Panthers rolled through the playoffs with a hard-nosed, aggressive style which they brought at times during Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night.
Although the Panthers got in some shots in the third period which the Knights felt was an attempt to goad them into taking unnecessary penalties, they did not bite.
A day after their 5-2 loss to the Knights in Game 1, the Panthers say they are going to stay true to themselves and bring the same hard forecheck which brought them so much success in series wins against Boston, Toronto and Carolina.
It is the way they now know how to play — and the way they now like to play.
“This is who we are at this point,” said Ryan Lomberg, who was up on the third line Saturday due to the absence of Eetu Luostarinen. “We’ll learn from it what we can, but that’s our identity. We’re a hard team and we’re going to stay hard.”
Coach Paul Maurice was asked about Florida’s aggressive nature at pointed at the 61 (credited) combined hits from Florida’s 3-1 loss in Game 1 against Boston back on April 17.
Although the Panthers ended the regular season 25th in hits, they lead all playoff teams with 611 through 17 games.
Those numbers are skewed a bit since Florida has now played more postseason games than anyone else — and their average of 32.2 hits per postseason games ranks 10th among teams in the NHL’s Sweet 16 just above Vegas at 31.36.
Both teams don’t mind giving — nor receiving.
“I think there was more emotion early (in Game 1) but that was not Florida-Vegas, it was Game 1 of the Final,” Maurice said. “There was a lot of juice and energy. We’re going to try and finish our hits, stay out of the penalty box. We’re not going to pull off the physicality. We can’t. It is what we do well.”
Added Sam Reinhart: “We’re trying to execute our same gameplan. We’re not going in to try and bait guys, we’re just playing a hard game. I think staying out of the box is an emphasis where we play that line where we’re playing an aggressive game, an in-your-face game. We’re tying to walk that line.”
As was the case following Saturday night’s loss, Maurice was in a pretty chipper mood as he met the media on Sunday morning at T-Mobile Arena.
On Saturday, Maurice basically said losing Game 1 was not the end of the world and that these things happen, sometimes.
Yelling and screaming about a loss in the playoffs is not going to do anyone any good.
“Why should I be in a bad mood because my team lost last night?” Maurice said. “That does my team no good, to be growling up here, sending messages. That’s not what my team needs. It is not how I want to operate.”
One thing the Panthers cannot afford to do is let their emotions get away from them.
Late in the third period Saturday, Florida lost both Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett to 10-minute misconducts with Radko Gudas following them to the room not long afterward.
“You’re trying to play on that edge without going over it,” Reinhart said.
GAME 2 NEWS, NOTES
Maurice did not give an update on Luostarinen after he was held out of Game 1. Luostarinen blocked a shot in the second period of Florida’s final game of the Eastern Conference finals and did not return.
He had, however, been practicing with the team.
— When asked how Nick Cousins and Gudas were feeling after taking some big hits of their own Saturday, Maurice responded “fabulous” in a pretty exaggerated voice.
Gudas missed part of the first period and Cousins took a hard hit into the boards in the second.
— Maurice said he did not reach out to good friend Pete DeBoer, whose Dallas team lost to Vegas in the Western Conference finals.
Although he said DeBoer sent a congratulatory text — and Maurice responded with a thank you — the two are not collaborating on how Florida can beat the Golden Knights.
“We talked over the course of the year but I’m not calling a guy … I’m not answering my phone after a series ends,’’ Maurice said. “That’s a little respect for the profession. We’re both mechanics: He is working on Porsches, I am working on Ferraris. There are engines, but a completely different operation going on under the hood.
“There is not as much inside information as you might think. We all have TVs and four angles on everything that happens. There are not as many secrets as people may think.’’
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
THE 2023 STANLEY CUP FINAL
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
GAME 2 (Vegas Leads 1-0)
- When: Monday, 8 p.m.
- Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
- TV: TNT
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM, WPOW 96.5 FM2, WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Series Schedule — Game 1: @Vegas 5, Florida 2; Game 2: Monday at Vegas, 8 (TNT); Game 3: Thursday at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 4: Saturday at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 5*:Tuesday June 13 at Vegas, 8 (TNT); Game 6*: Friday June 16 at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 7*: Monday June 19 at Vegas, 8 (TNT). * – If Necessary
- 2022-23 Regular Season Series (Even 1-1): @Vegas 4, Florida 2 (Jan. 12); @Florida 2, Vegas 1 (March 7)
- All-time Regular Season Series: Golden Knights lead 6-3-1
- Postseason History: First meeting
- How They Got Here — Vegas: d. Winnipeg in 5, Edmonton in 6, Dallas in 6; Florida: d. Boston in 7, Toronto in 5, Carolina in 4.