The Florida Panthers Are Stanley Cup Champions

Panthers Stanley Cup Champions

Sunrise, FL – They made South Florida hold their breath for about a week. But the Florida Panthers are Stanley Cup Champions. 

After getting out to a 3-0 series lead over the Edmonton Oilers, the Panthers lost three consecutive games. They looked discombobulated in Game 4, unlucky in Game 5, and downright lethargic in Game 6. Outside of the final 30 minutes of Game 5, this was unrecognizable from the Florida Panthers team that won the Atlantic division and rolled relatively unscathed through the postseason.

“Right now if you walked into the room there won’t be a lot of happy people,” Panthers head coach Paul Maurice said after Florida’s 5-1 loss in Game 6 on Friday. “Not worried about this tonight. You suffered a defeat, you feel it and it hurts … we start building tomorrow. Who you are tonight means nothing to who you’ll be two days from now.”

He was right. The Panthers won by their exact blueprint on Monday night— something they had largely gotten away from in their three consecutive losses. 

Big saves from your goaltender? Check. Stingy defense? Check. Shutting down the other team’s star? Check. Defense turning into offense? Check. 

Everything that Paul Maurice promised when he arrived before the 2022-23 season came to fruition on Monday. Not just in the win, but how they did it. 

Both teams scored early, with Carter Verhaeghe deflecting an Evan Rodrigues pass into the net four and a half minutes into the game, and Mattias Janmark scoring for Edmonton two and a half minutes after that when he received a stretch pass from Cody Ceci and got on a breakaway.

Aside from that, the Panthers kept Edmonton from getting on the rush at all – something Florida excelled at in the first three games of the series. Brandon Montour was especially a nuisance in the neutral zone and on the forecheck all game.

Even when Edmonton did get their chances, Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky turned back into the Vezina and Conn Smythe candidate that he looked to be just one week ago.

He made 23 saves, including five on high-danger shots. His expected goals against was 2.32, according to Natural Stat Trick.

Remember that defense turning into offense?

With five minutes left in the second period, Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov swiped away a loose puck that was right in front of the net, serving up for what would’ve been an easy goal had an Edmonton skater gotten to it first. He whacked it over to Verhaeghe, who immediately passed it to Sam Reinhart. The Panthers winger skated with the puck on his stick through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone and fired a wrister from the right faceoff circle for the go-ahead goal.

The Panthers constricted the potent Edmonton offense the rest of the way. Connor McDavid had just two shots on goal. Leon Draisaitl had zero. McDavid was held to zero points in the final two games of the series.

The game itself ended in the most Panther-esque way possible: pinning the opposing team in their own corner boards for the final 20 seconds of the game.

For tonight, the Sawgrass Mills Mall is the center of the hockey universe.

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