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2023 Stanley Cup Final

Too Much Time Before Stanley Cup Final? Florida Panthers OK with Rest

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The Florida Panthers will remain in Sunrise for the next couple of days as they prepare for the Stanley Cup Final against either Vegas or Dallas with Game 1 scheduled for Saturday night. // Photo @GeorgeRichards

SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers found out that Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final will not be played until Saturday night, giving them 10 days off between games.

While the team does not even know who they will be playing, they do know they have plenty of time to get ready for it.

Is it too much time off?

”We have a plan of what we will do here in the next few days before we travel,” said Marc Staal, Florida’s 36-year-old defenseman who played in all 82 regular season games and all 16 of these playoffs.

“Everyone knows what we have and we will prepare. … As far as time goes, it’s Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. You’re going to have some nerves and you’re going to have some excitement. We have a layoff, but our energy level will be right. We may be a little rusty in some aspects, but we will be ready to play.”

Coach Paul Maurice had two schedules ready just in case the Western Conference finals ended on Saturday night.

Had Vegas beaten Dallas in Game 5 on Saturday to win the series, Game 1 would have been on Wednesday night.

Now the Panthers just watch and wait for the Cup Final to start.

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Dallas plays host to Game 6 tonight at 8 with the Golden Knights still holding a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series.

Maurice plans to have his team practice on Monday with a day off on Tuesday.

The Panthers could have two more practices in South Florida before flying off to either Las Vegas or Dallas to open the Cup Final.

“Right from the start when the potential schedule came out, we had two flowcharts going,” Maurice said. “It is a big challenge, a big block of time off and how do you stay sharp? But I will take the rest.”

Florida, despite sweeping the Hurricanes, could use it.

The Panthers rolled from a Game 7 win in Boston right into their second-round series with Toronto before having a few days off before playing Carolina.

Florida did play a four-overtime game in the opener against Carolina with all four games being decided by a goal.

That’s a lot of pressure.

The time off will also help the Panthers get completely healthy before the start of the Cup Finals.

Back in 1996, Panthers coach Doug MacLean was furious with the NHL for scheduling Game 1 of the Cup Final just two days after the potential end of the conference finals.

Florida won in Pittsburgh on a Saturday night in Game 7 that year, flew directly to Denver — with a pitstop or two on their way to the airport — and played Game 1 against the Avalanche on Monday night.

The Panthers obviously do not have that problem.

”None of the things you would want to happen to us have happened to us and it has turned out good,” Maurice said.

“Be careful what you wish for. We decided not to wish for anything and just take what it is. We do have guys healing up and had guys who played in a quadruple overtime game. There was a cost to that and I don’t think you get over it until a series is over. We were not short on icetime.”

Eetu Luostarinen, for instance, was in serious pain after blocking a shot with 10:55 left in the second period and did not return.

Maurice said Luostarinen is doing fine, but the extra time off will certainly help.

One concern, however, could be the rhyme and rhythm or goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.

With this much time off, rust could start to settle in on the red-hot Bobrovsky.

He says he will be just fine getting a little rest between series.

“It is what it is and I don’t have a choice,” Bobrovsky said. “But I have the same approach, taking it one day at a time. I don’t need to play hockey right now, it is just time to rest and try to stay with the flow energy-wise.

“It’s quiet right now and in a quite time you try to rejuvenate and build up and gear up for the big hockey.”

BEARD BUDDIES

One of the more humorous celebrations by the Panthers this postseason has been Staal and Aaron Ekblad rubbing beards after wins.

The two were all smiles following the 4-3 win in Game 4, happy to keep their routine going into the Cup Final.

“Honestly, it was awesome,” Staal said with a laugh on Sunday. “In the first overtime game in Boston, we were right next to each other and we gave each other a hug. Naturally, our beards scratched each other. We thought it was hilarious. We kept going to overtime games, so we kept rubbing beards.

“It’s a unique one for sure. We couldn’t stop. It is one of those things in the playoffs when you do something, you can’t stop. It starts as superstition and becomes routine. It is kind of fun.”

— Count Maurice in as a fan of Matthew Tkachuk appearing on the NBA on TNT pregame set before Game 6 between the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics on Saturday night.

“It’s a great tie-in, right?” Maurice said. “I saw pieces of it and he is so good. Those guys are as well. I tune in to watch them not for the basketball but because they are so funny and smart. It is great to bring people in to a non-traditional hockey market with people and personalities.

“It is really important for them to see someone like Matthew because he is good, it is natural. There is no act there. That’s him. It’s nice for fans, and hopefully new fans, to get to know the players.”

— Maurice was jokingly asked about the officiating in the Heat game: “I’m not getting fined in two sports in the same season.”

FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK

THE 2023 STANLEY CUP FINAL
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
OR DALLAS STARS
GAME 1
  • When: Saturday, 8 p.m.
  • 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 — Game 1: Saturday at Dallas/Vegas, 8 (TNT); Game 2: Monday June 5 at DAL/VGK, 8 (TNT); Game 3: Thursday June 8 at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 4: Saturday June 10 at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 5*: Tuesday June 13 at DAL/VGK, 8 (TNT); Game 6*: Friday June 16 at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 7*: Monday June 19 at DAL/VGK, 8 (TNT). * – If Necessary
  • 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

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