The Florida Panthers have touched down in Toronto, Canada, moving one step closer to their upcoming play-in date with the New York Islanders.
Just yesterday on Sunday, July 26, the Florida Panthers landed in Toronto, one of two cities for the NHL’s bubble. With all their personal belongings packed up and moved into their hotel rooms, the players are now focused on what’s been their ultimate goal from the start of the year: to compete in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
But before they do that, the Panthers are set to face the stingy New York Islanders in a best-to-five, play-in series. The last time these two teams met in a playoff series was in 2015-16, where the Isles went on to defeat the Cats, 4-2, with a heartbreak, overtime winner.
That Islanders team that broke Florida’s heart last time around is no longer quick or flashy, but they are more organized and defensively sound, prepared to give any opponent a good fight. The Panthers have not performed well against Islanders this season, facing a three-game sweep that saw Florida find the back of the net four times in three games. Holding their opponents to a goal or two per game is what the Islanders are best at, and you can be sure that Barry Trotz will be implementing this exact system once the series begins.
The Cats will officially kick-off their play-in series on Saturday, August 1, but before that, they have an exhibition match to play against their in-state rival, the Tampa Bay Lightning, on Wednesday, July 29 at 12 P.M. The Panthers’ schedule is as follows:
- * Wednesday, July 29 (12 P.M.) Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Florida Panthers
- Saturday, August 1 (4 P.M.) Florida Panthers vs. New York Islanders
- Tuesday, August 4 (12 P.M.) Florida Panthers vs. New York Islanders
- Wednesday, August 5 (12 P.M.) New York Islanders vs. Florida Panthers
- ** Friday, August 7 (1 P.M.) New York Islanders vs. Florida Panthers
- ** Sunday, August 9 (1 P.M.) Florida Panthers vs. New York Islanders
* = Exhibition
** = If Necessary
All games will be held at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena including first and second-round matchups if the Panthers make it that far. Anything beyond that (Conference & Stanley Cup Finals) will take place in Edmonton at the Rogers Place.
For the Panthers, their focus is on their upcoming preparation game against the Lightning to get the rust off their skates as well as to eliminate any kinks before their big game on Saturday. The Islanders are regarded as the favorites to take this series based on their previous standing and head-to-head record against the Cats. But if there’s anything that’s certain, it’s that head coach Joel Quenneville will have his guys ready by the time the first puck is dropped as he lives for these types of moments.
At the end of the day, it’s up to the players to decide what their fate is going to be after the play-in series concludes. They have more than enough talent to match up against the Islanders well and be the first to win three games. All of that will depend on how well their D core can hold up and whether or not Bobrovsky can emulate his play from last year’s postseason.
After a long wait, hockey is finally back! Don’t miss the Panthers’ first game back in action on Wednesday (noon), followed by Game 1 on Saturday (4 P.M.). It’s going to be a wild ride, so sit back, fasten your seat belts, and enjoy the ride!