It’s all or nothing now for the Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers (Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports)
Florida Panthers (Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Florida Panthers find themselves in an undesirable position, having fallen three games to one vs. the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Florida Panthers need to win three straight games if they plan on hoisting the Stanley Cup, and two of those wins must occur in Las Vegas, Nevada. This is a situation they could have done better without putting themselves into, but following two straight games of poor play in Games 1 and 2, Florida needed to play near-flawless hockey.

And they have yet to even come close, as it took them everything that they had to pull off the win in Game 3, before tonight’s loss. To make matters worse, the Panthers just looked flat, losing their physical edge with just 21 hits compared to Vegas’ 32.

Florida also let the Golden Knights block 30 of their shots, and it was like Vegas knew where the puck was going before it even left a Panthers player’s stick. The Panthers couldn’t draw penalties, they weren’t aggressive in pursuing the puck, and they also committed 12 giveaways. It all just equaled an ultra-flat performance.

Florida Panthers need to regain their physical edge

While the Panthers did a good job in staying out of the box, they still need to find a way to get physical once more, because it’s been a tried and true aspect of their game throughout the 2023 playoffs. To lose that edge means Vegas will just skate all over and around them, and it will be a five-game series if such a poor effort continues in Vegas.

So far in the series, the Panthers have found themselves at two different extremes. They couldn’t get anything going tonight, and in Games 1 and 2, they were too aggressive. Florida needs to find that happy medium in Game 5, then force a winnable Game 6 back onto their home ice.

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If they can do that, then they can steal momentum heading into a Game 7 showdown. But it’s going to take six frames of near-perfect hockey.

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