Sleep. Nutrition. Meetings.
Cats rested, prepping for Isles.
— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) April 12, 2016
Elite Sports NY sits down with Rats n’ Pucks writer Ethan Goldsmith before a critical first-round playoff matchup between the Florida Panthers and New York Islanders
Who’s an overshadowed player you believe is poised to have a big series?
Dimitry Kulikov – top 4 d-man all year… played on the top pair with [Aaron] Ekblad during the long streak… good puck-moving defenseman who has become a shutdown guy. Has cleaned up his own end game from his younger years as well.
How impactful has Jaromir Jagr been on the Panthers’ playoff chances?
He’s had a huge impact. He leads the team in points, has been a role-model for the younger guys all over the lineup, and most importantly (in my humble opinion), he’s having a ton of fun.
Roberto Luongo has a bad rap for his past playoff performances. Is this justified?
His playoff career really hasn’t been as bad as some make it out to be, but those bad games have happened at bad times. He’s been the Panthers’ anchor all season long, and he’s incredibly excited and motivated to make the dance with the team he’s always considered to be his home squad.
With the exception of Jagr, who’s been the best player on Florida?
If you ask anyone in or around the Panthers organization who the best player is, they’ll tell you Aleksander Barkov. At age 20, Barkov has 28 goals and is a top line center who can play both ends of the rink, win faceoffs, shutdown top players, and spend time on both the PK and PP. He has remarkable vision and hockey IQ, and uses his big frame and slick hands along the walls to win puck battles. This dude is gonna be a superstar in this league.
The Isles’ fourth line is known as the most productive in the league. How do the Rink Rats plan on stopping it?
They’re a good group that has a mix of speed, skill, and physicality. The Panthers are probably going to try to match their 4th line against theirs (Garret Wilson/Quinton Howden – Derek MacKenzie – Shawn Thornton).
Wilson, Howden and MacKenzie are all strong, physical, and fast players who can pester people about as well as The Isles’ line, but aside from MacKenzie, there isn’t a whole lot of skill to match.
Nassau Coliseum was notorious for being hell to opposing players during the playoffs. Can BB&T Center be the same?
Our arena should be packed, and it can get as loud as any other stadium in the league. The Coliseum was a different story due to the age and history of it, so I wonder how Barclays Center will be.
What has impressed you about the Islanders?
I’ve personally been holding my breath on a Panthers-Isles matchup for the past couple of seasons. When these two teams match up, they always battle hard, aren’t 100% structured, but use different styles. I like the makeup and how deep the Isles are.
What’s one additional thing Isles fans should know about the Panthers?
Jagr, Thornton, Campbell, Mitchell, Hudler, all have Cups. Purcell, Kindl, Kulikov, Gudbranson, and MacKenzie all have playoff experience. Even though the Panthers have plenty of newbies, they’re in good hands.
If the Panthers ____________, they’ll advance to the second round.
If the Panthers exploit the Islanders’ weaknesses (injuries can certainly hurt them), I believe they’ll win the series.
Prediction time! The ___________ will defeat the ____________ in _____________ games.
Maybe I’m biased, but I think the Panthers will defeat the Islanders in 5 games.