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2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

No Team Grinds Like the Florida Panthers. Nick Cousins Fits Perfectly

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Nick Cousins battles New Jersey’s Jack Hughes for the puck during a game on March 5 in Newark. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)

For Nick Cousins, sitting out three games for the Florida Panthers in the second-round series against Boston had to be frustrating.

Cousins is the kind of player you rarely read about in the game summaries, except, of course, if he scores an overtime series clincher like he did against Toronto last year.

He is the kind of grinder and warrior every team needs for a grueling Stanley Cup run.

Cousins has paid his dues in the NHL.

A veteran of 10 NHL seasons, Cousins has played for six teams.

This year marks his sixth appearance in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Losing tight games is never a pleasure, but the Panthers are happy to come home after breaking even in front of the hostile Madison Square Garden crowd.

Cousins and his mates are anxious to get back at it.

“I think after a loss we come to the rink with a little bit more focus,” Cousins said on Saturday. “A little bit more energy. Tomorrow’s no different. It’s a quick turnaround. Early afternoon start. After a loss you kind of want to get right back at it. We’re going to get some rest today, get on the plane and get ready to play a game at home.”

In the first two games against the Rangers, Cousins and his fourth-line linemates, Kevin Stenlund and Ryan Lomberg, were more than noticeable.

Lomberg has been the biggest banger, with 11 hits in two games.

Friday, he led the team with five shots on goal.

“Ryan’s one of my favorite teammates that I’ve ever played with,” Cousins said. “Such a high-energy guy. And then we have Stenny down the middle, who’s got a new nickname: ‘Steady Stenny.’

“Stenny’s good, and reliable in our own end. He takes care of all the dirty work that probably goes unnoticed. With Ryan’s game, he’s always got a tremendous amount of speed  and tenacity in on the forecheck. We just kind of be all around the puck in the offensive zone.  Hang onto pucks, finish our checks when we need to and wear the other team’s defense down.”

Cousins scored 27 goals and 103 points in his final season as a junior, but as an NHL player, he has never scored more than 12 goals in a season.

Yet, for his grit, he was always coveted as a valuable playoff asset.

At 30, he can be considered a wily veteran and a mentor to younger players.

He defines the term “role player.”

Cousins has played top-six and bottom-six forward positions with the Panthers, filling in at all levels when needed.

“It’s something I’ve done throughout my career,” he said. “I’ve been put all over the lineup. I can play left-wing or right-wing. I’ve had success with Benny and Chucky, and obviously, we have so much depth this year that wherever they need me, it’s usually where I slot. It really benefits when guys can play all over the lineup. We have lots of guys like that here.”

As with most NHL players, no matter how many playoffs they’ve been in previously, each one is a new and different experience and brings nervous anticipation.

Cousins spoke about it before the playoffs began.

“The experience that I’ve had in the playoffs throughout my career is beneficial for sure,” he said. “Come playoff time I still get that little nervous energy that maybe you don’t get in the regular season. Everything is amplified. Everything is magnified. It should be fun.”

Last season the Panthers played with “house money.”

They far exceeded expectations.

The team is stronger this year, and the bar is much higher.

On the eve of the playoff start, Cousins assessed where the team was at.

“This team has lots of depth, even on defense,” Cousins said. “With the run last year, everybody gained so much valuable experience. Guys are excited to … see how things turn out.”

For the most in-depth coverage of the Florida Panthers:

STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
FLORIDA PANTHERS (ATL1) V. NEW YORK RANGERS (MET1)

Best-of-7 Series Tied 1-1

GAME 3
  • When: Sunday, 3 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • National TV: ABC
  • Streaming: ESPN+/Hulu
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Series Schedule — Game 1: Florida 3, @New York 0; Game 2: @New York 2, Florida 1 OT; Game 3: New York at Florida, Sunday 3 (ABC); Game 4: New York at Florida, Tuesday 8 (ESPN): Game 5: Florida at New York, Thursday 8 (ESPN); Game 6*: New York at Florida, Saturday June 1, 8 (ABC); Game 7*: Florida at New York, Monday June 3, 8 (ESPN). (*) — If Necessary.
  • How They Got Here: Florida d. Tampa Bay 4-1, Boston 4-2; Rangers d. Washington 4-0, Carolina 4-2.
  • Last Season vs. Rangers — Regular Season: Rangers won 3-0
  • This Season (Panthers Won 2-1) — At Florida: Panthers 4 Rangers 3 (Dec. 29). At MSG: Panthers 4, Rangers 2 (March 4); Rangers 4, Panthers 3 OT (March 23).
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Rangers lead 61-34-8, 6 ties
  • Postseason History: Rangers Lead 1-0 (1997 1st)

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