SUNRISE — When the Florida Panthers made the playoffs as the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, few gave them much of a chance to win the Stanley Cup.
After all, only one eighth-seed has ever won the Stanley Cup.
If the Panthers ever want to know how the Los Angeles Kings accomplished that mighty feat in 2012, they do not have to go too far.
Jamie Kompon, an assistant coach under Paul Maurice, was on Darryl Sutter’s staff that year and was part of one of the great underdog stories in NHL history.
Here he goes again.
“He has two Stanley Cup rings from two different teams and that is a rarity,” Maurice said earlier this week prior to the Panthers sweeping the Carolina Hurricanes to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in franchise history and first since 1996.
“He has an awful lot of experience. Even during the season, we talked about how it didn’t matter how you got into the playoffs, just get into the playoffs. I have a guy with a Stanley Cup ring who finished in the 8 hole. It doesn’t matter because the top 8 teams all have enough strength that they can win.”
Kompon and Maurice are close, the two working together since 2016 when Kompon returned to the NHL bench after a couple of years coaching in the juniors.
When Maurice resigned as coach in Winnipeg last December, Kompon stayed on with the Jets but was fired along with everyone else at the end of the season.
After Maurice was hired by Florida, it was assumed Kompon would join the Panthers as well in a move made official in July.
Kompon has been part of two Stanley Cup championship teams, first with the Kings and later under Joel Quenneville in Chicago.
“Bill Zito has done an unbelievable job to bring in the right pieces of the puzzle here,” Kompon told FHN on Thursday afternoon.
“We walked in to a situation where we had the pieces, we just had to make sure the puzzle was put together. It got put together at the right time and you are seeing the results right now.”
There appear to be a lot of similarities between this Florida team and the 2012 champs from Los Angeles which go deeper than just that No. 8 seed.
First, look at how both teams got here.
The Kings struggled for big portions of the 2011-12 season, firing coach Terry Murray (who coached the Panthers from 1998-2000) and eventually replacing him with Sutter.
The Kings had to get hot at the end of the season to make the playoffs, finishing 12-4-3 as they clinched a spot with a game remaining after getting a point in a shootout loss to the Sharks.
Florida went 12-5-2 and got in thanks in part to a 6-0-1 finish which included an overtime loss to Toronto that helped clinch its spot in the postseason.
The Kings in 2012 were led by a red-hot goalie in Jonathan Quick who ended up going 16-4 in the postseason with three shutouts, ending the playoffs with a .946 save percentage.
Florida is being led by a similar performance from Sergei Bobrovsky who is now 11-2 with a .935 since taking the net back from Alex Lyon in Game 3 against Boston.
Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown each had 20 points in those 2012 playoffs; Florida has 21 from Matthew Tkachuk and 14 from Sasha Barkov.
The Kings had a murderers’ row of opponents to get the Finals, having to knock off the No. 1 Canucks, No. 2 Blues and No. 3 Coyotes to get there.
Although because of how the playoffs are worked these days, the Panthers did not get a true 1-2-3 in this postseason — but it is close.
Boston had the best regular season of any team in NHL history, Toronto had the fourth-most points in the East and Carolina was the No. 2 seed.
”You just go out and you play the game,’’ Kompon said. “It does not matter who it is, because you are going to have to go through the best at some point whether it’s the first round or the fourth, you are going to get the best.
“The mentality of this group has just been on that next game and that is very similar to what we had in L.A. You don’t worry about the result, you just go out and do what you do in that game and let the results speak for themselves. They are not worried about where they’re going or where this path leads. We know our template and if we play to it, we’re not going to win every game but we’re giving ourselves a chance. We have a very strong inner belief.’’
The Kings were most definitely an underdog but learned how to play with a lead.
Los Angeles took a 3-0 series lead in each of its first three playoff rounds; the Panthers did so in their final two and are now the first No. 8 seed in the Final since Nashville made it in 2017. The Predators lost to Patric Hornqvist and the Penguins.
The Kings also set an NHL record with a 10-game playoff road winning streak. The Panthers are currently second having won eight straight away from Sunrise in these playoffs.
”I do see a lot of comparisons between the two but I really don’t want to talk about them now,” Kompon said with a smile. “When you look at we made the playoffs as the eighth-seed, it is pretty much the same. We made it at the end, everything fell into place.
“Quickie was unbelievable throughout that playoff run and Bob has been phenomenal. The style of play is similar and it is a special group.”
The Panthers, like those Kings, do not play scared.
Although they chased Game 1 against the Bruins, they came out flying and won easily in Game 2.
After a hard-fought series against Boston, Florida has been in complete control of its series against Toronto and Carolina, winning one in 5 and the other in a clean sweep.
While the Panthers are waiting to see who they will play in for the Cup next week, there is no one who can deny the opportunity in front of them now.
The Panthers are chasing history and, at least when it comes to the Los Angeles Kings, it is on their side.
“We just had our 10-year reunion last summer and you see those guys and it sends chills down your spine thinking about it,’’ Kompon said. “I have goosebumps talking about it now. It is special — and the group we have here is special, one like I have never seen.
“They genuinely care and love one another and that makes it that much … when you see how they are off the ice, you see that on the ice.”
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
THE 2023 STANLEY CUP FINAL
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
OR DALLAS STARS
- When: TBA
- Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas OR AmericanAirlines Center, Dallas
- TV: TNT
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM, WPOW 95.6 FM2, WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Series Schedule — TBA
- 2022-23 Regular Season Series Vs. Vegas (Even 1-1): @Vegas 4, Florida 2 (Jan. 12); @Florida 2, Vegas 1 (March 7)
- All-time Regular Season Series: vs. Vegas Golden Knights lead 6-3-1
- 2022-23 Regular Season Series vs. Dallas (Stars Won 2-0):Dallas 6, @Florida 4 (Nov. 17); @Dallas 5, Florida 1 (Jan. 8)
- All-time Regular Season Series: vs. Dallas Florida leads 24-21-2, 3 ties
- Postseason History: First meeting vs. both Vegas or Dallas