Looking at the recent rise of the Florida Panthers, many would agree that the arrival of Dale Tallon is one of the main reasons the team is in the position it is in today. After he methodically put together a Cup winning team in Chicago in 2010, he didn’t take long proving that he can put together a winning team no matter where he hangs his hat.
Here are five key things that the Panthers need to do to advance to the next round:
Rely on the Experience of Those Who Have Been There
Many of the players the Blackhawks let go found a new home with the Panthers. The team needs to take advantage of the experience of players like Kris Versteeg, Brian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky and John Madden who were all key components of the 2010 Stanley Cup Champion team. Memories of this victory are still fresh in their minds and they need to share what they learned with the rest of the team to give them the mindset needed to compete at this level.
Take Advantage of Being on Home Ice
This almost goes without saying but is always worth mentioning. Often times players gets so lost in what is happening on the ice or the direction from the coaching staff that they forget about the 18,000 people who are screaming their heads off. The fans are what make the excitement and players need to be reminded what it was like for them as kids cheering for their favorite team. Panther fans also need to understand their important role and not let the scoreboard dictate their level of enthusiasm if the Panthers get behind.
In a Game 7 scenario, the mental game is just as important as the on-ice game. Since this is a "winner-takes-all" setting, getting that coveted first goal is a huge advantage and will certainly impact the psyche of the NJ Devils. NBC Sports’ Liam McHugh has been sharing some quirky stats during this First Round via Twitter. Last night he shared this: “There were seven Game 7’s in last year’s playoffs. The team that scored the first goal won every single time.” Knowing how superstitious hockey players are, this stat should not be ignored.
Key Goal Scorers: Versteeg, Bergenheim and Weiss
Looking at the playoff stats for these three players, these are the sticks you want making shots-on-goal. Kris Versteeg has three goals and two assists with a 15% scoring percentage. Sean Bergenheim also has three goals and two assists with a 20% scoring percentage and Stephen Weiss has two goals, two assists and an impressive 33% scoring percentage.
Continue to Keep Penalty Minutes to a Minimum
Versteeg and Weiss lead the team with 6 PIMs each. Looking at some of the other series in this round, these players are a reflection of the kind of discipline these two teams have. While the Devils have not been stellar on the power play (only four thus far in the playoffs) this is a direct correlation to the few power play opportunities that the Panthers have given them. By maintaining control and keeping emotions in check, this might be the key that moves Florida into the next round of the 2012 NHL Playoffs.