Friday was a good day for the Florida Panthers.
They got to sleep in a bit, hang out at their hotel in Toronto and then headed to the airport for a flight back home.
Coach Paul Maurice said on this rare day off during the playoffs, he did not want to talk about hockey with his team, did not want to break down video.
They will get back to that soon enough.
“We talk a lot about handling your day and today is an off day for us,” Maurice said Friday morning as he sipped on a cup of coffee.
“We’ll meet before we hit the bus, we’ll talk about the schedule, a little about last night’s game and that is it. We want a low event day. I am specifically relaxed. I don’t anything more than a certain tone in the room.”
Even partial days off — the team did have a 3-hour flight home, after all — are welcomed by NHL teams at this time of year.
For the Panthers, it was a chance to kick their feet up a bit and chill for a minute.
They really have not been able to do that lately.
“We were gassed last night and you could see it as the game went on,” Maurice said, referring to Thursday’s 3-2 win over the Leafs. “I thought the same thing in Game 1 and didn’t say anything … we didn’t have the leg striding in that game.
“So these two days are huge for us to get some rest for our team. We’re not walking out of the rink feeling rich or royal. We’re just scratching and clawing. We don’t feel particularly prosperous this morning, just tired.”
The last time the Panthers had more than a day between playoff games was last week — and they were certainly in a much different place.
Florida had just lost Game 4 of its opening round series against the Bruins and were on the verge of elimination.
One more loss and the Panthers were toast.
They have not lost a game since.
Florida won its final three games of the Boston series — staving off elimination each time — and then opened the Eastern Conference semifinals in Toronto with just a day in between.
The Panthers have been dealing well with the pressure.
Five straight wins in the playoffs? That’s elite stuff right there.
“We were talking today about had anyone ever been in a more intense five games?” Maurice said. “None of us really had. And this is at a breakfast table with some guys who had won the Stanley Cup. … This five-game stretch has been as intense a block of hockey, and a lot of that is due to the physicality of the Boston series, as I have ever seen. Rest is necessary.”
The Panthers get back to hockey today with a practice scheduled for the arena this morning.
The playoffs start up again on Sunday.
“We won’t go heavy and we won’t go long,” Maurice said. “The energy will come. This is the playoffs. You don’t have to worry about getting up or finding the energy. It will be there.”
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (ATL2) AT FLORIDA PANTHERS (WC2)
GAME 3 (Panthers Lead 2-0)
- When: Sunday, 6:30 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV: TBS
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- First Round Schedule — Game 1: Florida 4, @Toronto 2; Game 2: Florida 3, @Toronto 2; Game 3: Sunday at Florida, 6:30 (TBS); Game 4: Wednesday at Florida, 7 (ESPN); Game 5*:Friday, May 12 at Toronto (TNT); Game 6*: Sunday, May 14 at Florida (TBA); Game 7*:May 16 at Toronto (TNT). (*) – If Necessary
- How They Got Here: Toronto d. Tampa Bay 4-2; Florida d. Boston 4-3
- Season Series (Toronto won 3-1): Maple Leafs 5, @Panthers 4 OT (Jan. 17); @Maple Leafs 6, Panthers 2 (Mar. 23); Panthers 3, @Maple Leafs 2 OT (March 29); Maple Leafs 2, @Panthers 1 OT (April 10)
- Last season: Florida won 2-1
- All-time Regular Season Series: Toronto leads 48-36-7, 7 ties
- Postseason History: First Meeting