SUNRISE, Florida~ Before their Stanley Cup Final matchup with the Vegas Golden Knights, the Florida Panthers will have more than a week off. After the Golden Knights’ 6-0 victory over the Dallas Stars in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final on Saturday, the Stanley Cup Final will begin at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas (8 p.m. ET; TNT, TBS, truTV, CBC, SN, TVAS). In Game 5, Dallas defeated Vegas 4-2 to avoid elimination for the second consecutive game, and the Final was originally scheduled to begin on Wednesday. ‘We basically have a plan now of what we’re going to do the next few days here before we fly,’ said Florida defenseman Marc Staal.
Now that everyone is aware of the challenges ahead, we can spend the next several days preparing as thoroughly as possible. If we plan ahead of time and know what to expect, it will be somewhat more organized. The Panthers’ 4-3 victory over the Hurricanes in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final on May 24 will have been 10 days in the making by the time Game 1 rolls around.
Florida coach Paul Maurice said he liked the idea of his team having more time to recover from the fatigue of a series in which all four games were decided by a single goal, beginning with a 4-3 victory in quadruple overtime in Game 1. Be cautious what you ask for, Maurice warned. “None of the things that you would normally have wanted to have happen to us has happened and they all turned out good.” We have finally decided to stop wishing for anything and accept life as it is. One bright spot is that we have a few players who are on the mend.
There was a price to be paid in that four-overtime game (a 3-2 victory on May 18), and I don’t think either team can fully recover until the series is over. I’d rather relax than stress about whether or not we’ll be ready for Game 1 because of the lengthy layoff. After skating on Saturday, the Panthers did not hold a practice on Sunday. After suffering an injury in the second period of Game 4, forward Eetu Luostarinen sat out that practice. Defenseman Aaron Ekblad and forwards Matthew Tkachuk and Nick Cousins also didn’t skate.
According to Maurice, everyone should be ready to go for the start of the Final. “Recovery is the key,” he said. “That is a more appropriate term than relaxation. We’d like to play a part in helping with the cleanup. We’re cognizant of the fact that spending too much time on the ice now will dull you rather than hone your skills. Skaters should “recover” from the previous day’s training on their days off in order to “keep the mental excitement of being on the ice,” as one skater put it.
Staal claimed he had no doubts about the team’s readiness for Game 1 despite the lengthy break. “I mean, it’s Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, you’re gonna have some nerves and you’re gonna have some excitement,” he added. We’ll get ourselves ready properly, and we’ll have plenty of energy. It’s possible that we’ll be a touch rusty, but we’ll still be ready to play.
News on SNBC13.com