Intensity training for the Panthers

WASHINGTON –The Florida Panthers spat in their hands, rolled up their sleeves and put on their work boots at practice on Sunday.

Coach Andrew Brunette wants his troops to show more dedication. He had concocted a vigorous session for them. Short, but intense. Serious work, but embellished with pleasure. The goal was to combine business with pleasure.

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For about thirty minutes, the players, among other things, used up the corners of the boards by engaging in individual and two-on-two battles, which is very unusual in the playoffs. A three-on-two drill was also held over one-third of the ice. We didn’t dwell on the power play, which is unproductive after three games (0-for-9).

« It was a good session, » commented the defender Aaron Ekblad. “The focus was on our level of intensity. We had fun. We have worked well and we will be ready for the next match. »

Down 6-1 on Saturday and trailing 2-1 in the series, the Panthers will look to challenge the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena on Monday (7 p.m. ET; TVAS2, SN1, NBCSWA, BSFL, TBS). The NHL champions in the regular season don’t want to return to Florida being backed into the wall.

« It was pretty light, » Brunette said of the workout. “Just a reminder that our intensity level needs to be high. We are losing 50-50 (percent) battles right now. »

Brunette tries as best he can to play down the situation. For this reason, he strikes the term “sense of urgency” from his vocabulary.

« I don’t want to see a greater sense of urgency, but more intensity, » said the rookie coach. “The pressure can make you lose your means or make you redouble your enthusiasm. For us, it’s about being ourselves. We haven’t been ourselves since the start of the series except for a few flashes here and there.

“You have to give the Capitals credit for that,” continued Brunette. They know how to play in the playoffs and we still have things to learn. The first three games were formative. I hope we learned some good lessons for the game to come. »

The Panthers are too tormented by nervousness. They talk about it a lot since the start of the confrontation. Sunday was Ekblad.

« Personally, I hadn’t played in the playoffs for about six years, » he said, dismissing the four games he played in the Toronto bubble in August 2020 from the equation.

“I was nervous like rarely before the first game, on the return in addition to a period of inactivity of six weeks, he admitted. There it is. We are ready to fight. »

The pressure is high at the Panthers due to their status as the best team in the regular season, but the forward Sam Reinhart wanted to put things in perspective.

« Hey, we win Monday, the series is tied and we’re back on home ice, » Reinhart said. “It’s not a challenge at all. It’s a best-of-seven series, only three have been played. We know our best hockey is yet to come. »

« Jumbo » as reinforcement?

Brunette hasn’t ruled out the possibility of including the veteran Joe Thornton in training to help calm things down.

“We are considering all possibilities,” he answered the question. “The third game played in the afternoon gives us more time to weigh our decisions. »

For what it’s worth, Thornton pivoted the extra offensive unit in practice on Sunday.

Brunette, however, indicated that the presence of Sergey Bobrovsky in front of goal is in no way in question. Bobrovsky had training off on Sunday.

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