‘This is what we play for’: Excitement peaking ahead of Panthers first playoff game

Florida Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville speaks to his players on the morning of Game One of the team's Stanley Cup Quarterfinal series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Florida Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville speaks to his players on the morning of Game One of the team's Stanley Cup Quarterfinal series against the Tampa Bay Lightning. (Erin Brown)

SUNRISE, Fla. – The Florida Panthers are preparing to hit the ice for the team’s first true Stanley Cup Playoff game in over five years.

Sunday the team held a morning skate at the BB&T Center ahead of Game One of their opening round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Head Coach Joel Quenneville spoke to the media afterwards, as did forward Jonathan Huberdeau and defenseman Radko Gudas.

Instead of framing their comments for the purpose of a story, I thought it would be cool to post them somewhat organically and let you, the reader, interpret them in your own way.

After all, while most of us are extremely excited and anticipating what’s to come in this postseason, everyone will have their own, unique, personal experience for the journey we’re about to collectively embark on.

Let’s ride.

JOEL QUENNEVILLE

“We’ve been waiting a little while for this game to come up over the course of the week. Let’s Go. We want to play.”

“We expect a fast-starting team in Tampa. Let’s be ready for them.”

“Now it’s a different game than what we saw at the beginning of the season. We’re excited about the chance and the privilege of playing playoff hockey against a team we know we have to be at our best.”

“We have to go to the next level in that consistency in games, and managing shift to shift, knowing you’re going to be out there against some of the best players in the world.”

“High skilled guys find a way to make an impact in games and in a series, no matter how much or how well they’re playing.”

“We know (Kucherov is) going to help the power play. How big of an impact he has 5-on-5, we’re going to find out quickly.”

“We know they’re going to be better. We’ve got to be better ourselves.”

“It’s going to be a great matchup, potentially a fantastic series. The games we played against them this year, the pace of the games has been fun to watch and be a part of. Playoff hockey is only going to add to that. It’s got the making for something special.”

RADKO GUDAS

“I think the confidence is as good as it could be. We know we can beat these guys; we’ve done that all season long. I think we had some great battles; we came up with the two points out of most of them.”

“I think everybody believes in each other and I think we’re a confident group going into this battle of Florida.”

“This is what we play for. It was the ultimate goal from game number one.”

“I think everybody in the locker room did a great job of holding each other accountable and playing the right way from game one.”

“I do expect the same mentality (from Tampa), even harder games, maybe not as many fights but I’m sure it’s going to be harder and harder as the series goes on.”

“That’s a great team on the other end. They’re the defending Stanley Cup Champions. On the other hand, we had a great season, and we feel very confident and comfortable with ourselves and the way we’re playing right now.”

“This is a day I’ve been looking forward to since game one.”

“We had a great morning skate. A lot of energy out there, everybody was doing their thing, getting ready for the game. You can feel the excitement getting bigger and bigger as the game approaches.”

JONATHAN HUBERDAEU

“The guys are ready. We’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”

“We want to win the first round, just focus on Tampa game by game. Winning is what we want to do. We feel confident.”

“Playing Tampa is going to be fun. Great rivalry. I think we’ll feel that a little bit more probably tonight, getting on the ice and seeing our fans. We’re going to get double the fans we had this season.”

“It’s exciting. There’s a lot of excitement in the room.”

“We know they’re a really good team. They’re getting a lot of key pieces back. We just have to get on them early and play our game. We know what we can do.”

“We know the first couple shifts at home, we have to come out and play in their zone, be physical.”

“We’re confident in the way we’ve been playing. We just have to keep going.”

“We played well against them all season long, but the playoffs are a different game. The intensity level goes up in the playoffs, we know that. It doesn’t matter how many games we won against this team during the season. It’s all about the playoffs. We’ve got to win four games and it starts tonight.”


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