Including this year, 3 out of the last 4 Stanley Cups will have been won by the Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins. The two teams are built to be winners, and everything they have done up to now has proven that. The Blackhawks and Bruins are perfect teams to learn from. Let’s examine three things the Florida Panthers can learn from what we have witnessed in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals lasted an amazing 112 minutes, fifth longest in Stanley Cup Finals history. Both teams were pushed to their breaking points. It was no longer a game of skill, but of mental toughness and endurance. After a two day break the Blackhawks and Bruins were at it again. Game 2 nowhere near as long as Game 1 still went into overtime. Through two games the teams had played almost 190 minutes. An 82 game schedule is rigorous and 16 wins in the playoffs is even harder, but if a team wants Lord Stanley’s Cup endurance is key. If the Panthers want to return to the playoffs and eventually compete for the Cup then they need to master their endurance and mental toughness.
Too many times this past shortened season Panther fans endured squandered leads. Endurance, mental toughness, and just confidence were something the Panthers were missing. The Cats need to learn from the Blackhawks and Bruins that endurance is a key to winning the Cup.
A problem the Panthers are all too familiar with is staying healthy. This season the Panthers lost a baffling 278 man games to injuries. Although injuries in the shortened season led to experience for prospects and the second overall pick in the draft, if the Panthers want to compete for the Cup they will need to stay healthy.
In Game 1 Bruins winger Nathan Horton went down in overtime with an injury. Although that injury alone isn’t what caused the Bruins to lose it sure didn’t help them. Lines were forced to be shuffled and the bench was short. A short bench is not something a team needs in a triple overtime game.
In Game 3 Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa went down before the game with an undisclosed injury. His replacement, Ben Smith, was a -1. That goal came in overtime. Not to say that goal was Smith’s fault, but having Hossa in the lineup over Smith would not have hurt.
Staying healthy in the NHL is hard, but it’s pivotal. And most of the time it dictates the winning team and the losing team.
The Chicago Blackhawks, for as talented as they are, cannot seem to convert on the power play lately. They are 0 for their last 19 opportunities. This is the Stanley Cup Finals and whenever a team has an advantage over the other it needs to be capitalized on.
On the other end of the spectrum we have the Boston Bruins and their penalty killing. The Bruins have killed off 89% of their opponents power plays throughout the playoffs.
The Panthers this season were sixth in the league on the power play. A stat that needs to continue on into next season. They were dead last in the league on the penalty kill however. A stat that has to change going into next season. Special teams wins games. Simple as that.
Florida Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon is doing everything in his power to turn his team into champion. A champion molded after his former team the Chicago Blackhawks. It could not hurt, however, to take a few lesson’s from the Bruins playbook as well.
A multitude of other things need to go right for the Panthers next year if they want to make the playoffs again, but they can start by examining two champions in the Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins.