After a short — but very successful — business trip to North Carolina, the Florida Panthers are back in Sunrise tonight to take on the Hurricanes.
The Panthers are back on home ice following a pair of overtime wins against Carolina which gives them a 2-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
For a team that was not expecting to have home ice advantage in these playoffs after getting in as an eighth-seed, Florida has now earned it in each of its past two series.
Both of Florida’s series clinching wins this postseason have, however, come on the road and the Panthers have a much better road record (8-1) than at FLA Live Arena (2-3).
The boys are happy to be back in town.
“We’re happy to be going home and we’re in a good situation.” Sasha Barkov said after Florida’s 2-1 win on Saturday night.
“We’re exactly where we want to be. We’re ready to get back home and play in front of our own fans. That building is really loud. I am excited to see that — and hear it.”
The Panthers have taken all challenges thrown their way on the road, winning the past eight since losing Game 1 in Boston way back on April 17.
Florida’s eight-game road winning streak is second all-time in NHL playoff history, second only to the 10 straight won by the 2012 Los Angeles Kings.
That team was also an eighth-seed coming in and ended up winning its first Stanley Cup championship that year.
The Panthers, however, are not thinking about any of that although many in South Florida are already dreaming big.
Florida has a long way to go — this series included.
A shot here or there and this could be a completely different series.
Carolina could be coming south tied at 1, or, holding a 2-0 lead.
Woulda, coulda, shoulda.
The Panthers are up 2-0 in this series and would not mind finishing this thing off on home ice.
They had that opportunity in Game 4 against Toronto but ended up losing 2-1 to the Leafs. Coach Paul Maurice was anything but alarmed with the loss, calmly explaining these things happen in the playoffs.
But the Panthers do have complete control of this series and have five chances to win two games. Three of those games would be in Florida.
The Panthers are just ready to enjoy a full house of hometown fans unlike the first two seasons when Boston and Toronto supporters showed up en masse.
In this round, it is going to be heavy on the locals.
“It is nice to get back in front of our fans,” Sergei Bobrovsky said. “But it is 0-0 when it starts. We’ll put this behind us and get ready to go.’’
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
CAROLINA HURRICANES (MET1) AT PANTHERS (WC2)
GAME 3 (Panthers Lead 2-0)
- When: Monday, 8 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- 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 — Game 1: Florida 3, @Carolina 2; Game 2: Florida 2, @Carolina 1 (OT); Game 3: Monday at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 4: Wednesday at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 5*: Friday at Carolina, 8 (TNT); Game 6*: Sunday, May 28 at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 7*: Tuesday, May 30 at Carolina, 8 (TNT). *If Necessary
- Season Series: (Carolina won 2-1): @Florida 3, Carolina 0 (Nov.9);@Carolina 4, Florida 0 (Dec. 30); Carolina 6, @Florida 4 (April 13)
- All-Time Regular Season Series: Carolina/Hartford leads 71-46-10, 11 ties
- Postseason History: First Meeting
- How They Got Here — Carolina: d. New York Islanders in 6; d. New Jersey Devils in 5. Florida: d. Boston Bruins in 7; d. Toronto Maple Leafs in 5.