August 14, 2022

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Nervous now?

Perhaps somewhat?

That is one thing else lacking all these empty years, this nervous twitch of playoff hockey, this clammy-palmed nervousness that ups the Florida Panthers’ stakes and your invested signs even after one recreation.

“I wish to assume we’re going to study a worthwhile lesson from this,” Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad stated after their disappointing 4-2 loss in Sport 1 towards Washington on Monday evening.

Right here’s the lesson: It’s totally different in playoff hockey. Extra bodily. Much less scoring. Lower the lovable out of your play and hold all the pieces direct and easy in your recreation within the method interim coach Andrew Burnette talks.

“We sort of self-destructed,” Burnette stated of the Panthers’ tough third interval.

No franchise has extra at stake these playoffs than the Panthers. It’s not simply how they seemed within the common season, scoring at will, entertaining just like the Harlem Globetrotters some nights and delivering one of the best season not simply within the league however of their sad-sack historical past.

It’s additionally what these playoffs can do for this sagging franchise. It may well make them related in South Florida. It can provide them the sort of bandwagon increase they desperately want.

That’s what is admittedly at stake right here greater than a collection win. So is that this: If they will’t construct off that nice common season, in the event that they don’t even win a collection for a twenty sixth straight yr, you may as nicely lock up the sector as a result of it’s sitting on some cursed Everglades land.

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This collection, you see, isn’t nearly a profitable group and a shedding group. It’s a few franchise getting full life breathed again into it. Washington’s gamers bemoaned earlier than the playoffs how they hadn’t gained a post-season collection since 2018 after they gained the Stanley Cup.

Three barren years? That’s nothing. The Panthers haven’t gained a playoff collection in 26 years. They’ve allowed everybody to disregard them. Former coach Doug MacLean tells of asking a restaurant to show the Panthers recreation on the tv in Delray Seashore and being informed the NFL’s Carolina Panthers weren’t taking part in that evening.

So that is their probability. The Panthers have an awesome group now — an awesome regular-season group, anyway. They scored extra objectives than any group because the highly effective Pittsburgh Penguins in 1995-96.

that yr? That’s when the Panthers final gained a playoff collection. MacLean was the coach. They made the sort of magic in advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals that Panthers followers nonetheless speak about. Then once more, what else can they speak about?

This group can change all that. It acquired a crowd not like any in years Monday evening. It had a 2-1 lead coming into the third interval — and so they not solely tied for one of the best dwelling file this yr however have been 39-0-1 when coming into the third interval with a lead.

These numbers melted away in a single Mackenzie Weegar turnover.

Washington’s Alex Ovechkin poked the puck from the Panthers defenseman at his blue line. Teammate Evgeny Kuznetsov took it in for a breakaway and beat Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.

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Lower than three minutes later, Washington’s T.J. Oshie tipped in a go for the lead. An empty internet objective clinched it.

“I feel we had to determine that is going to be arduous,” Burnette stated. “We haven’t had plenty of arduous video games. We didn’t deal with it in addition to we’d wish to. We weren’t as sharp we wished to. We misplaced somewhat vitality.

“It is a good eye-opener. I may discuss till I’m blue within the face, however till they undergo it and remind themselves how arduous it was final yr (in a playoff loss to Tampa Bay), how arduous it’s important to play and that each puck and each play means one thing — this was an excellent reminder.”

The reminder got here at a price.

“We’re nonetheless in good spirits,” stated heart Sam Bennett, who scored the Panthers’ first objective. “We nonetheless know the way good of a group we’re. There’s no panic within the locker room in anyway. Everybody’s nonetheless constructive. We’ll study from that recreation and transfer on. It’s an extended collection.”

The primary loss solely provides consequence to Thursday’s Sport 2. Washington has the growing old elements of a one-time champion, too. Playoff hockey has arrived.

Nervous but?