Saffron Restaurants reservation Panthers’ Paul Maurice handles playoff losses like no other

Panthers’ Paul Maurice handles playoff losses like no other


SUNRISE — There’s something uniquely poignant about the way Paul Maurice discusses the Florida Panthers’ playoff games. He stomped all over the bench in the second period of Tuesday’s Game 5, snorting and ranting at his players about their mysterious lack of energy to the point where you expected cartoon smoke to billow from his ears.

He was pretty angry too, for all the reasons you don’t expect to lose this time of year, but the biggest one remains this: they weren’t ready.

How could the Florida Panthers not be ready to go?

You spend a season to achieve nights like this.

How could they not be emotionally and desperately ready to play their best game, finish off Boston, advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, avert any possible surprise and even get a few days of much-appreciated rest?

“I didn’t like our game,” Maurice said after the 2-1 loss that pushed the series to Boston for Friday’s Game 6.

He was then asked about his exuberant anger behind the bench. The timing was remarkable, as on the next shift, Sam Reinhart scored the Panthers’ only goal to temporarily tie the game at 1-1. And the Panthers picked up their game during the tight third period.

“I don’t know the exact words of the message,” Maurice said afterwards. ‘I felt: I wasn’t angry with them. I understood what they were going through.

“I just thought they needed some profanity in their lives. I brought a few with me. I don’t excel at many things in life, but f– me, I’m good at that.

His deadpan expression didn’t change.

“See what I did there?” he said.

The smoke from the game had already cleared, the series was already set for the next leg to Boston, and what was left in the aftermath of Game 5 was this simple truth: how you handle losing in the playoffs is just as important as to win.

In his two playoff years with the Panthers, he hasn’t done everything from quoting a line from comedian Will Ferrell after a loss (“Everyone panics!”) to dropping the philosophy of how everyone on a team handles a loss in a game series much better than those outside the team.

To win in a big way — and that’s what this Panthers season is about — you have to be willing to properly accept the lessons of losing games in a series. The lessons for the Panthers from Game 5 had to do with using their speed, finding their forecheck and most importantly not leaving their game in the locker room.

“It’s the saying of a losing coach: ‘We had our chances,’” Maurice said. “I didn’t like our game. But from where we were in the first (period), we at least got better in the second and third.”

The bigger truth is that this is a night when the goalies, Panthers’ Sergei Bobrovsky and Boston’s Jeremy Swayman, kept this game close. They all made five-star stops, back and forth, and Swayman made another. That’s how it works sometimes.

The Panthers still have the 3-2 series lead and all the confidence that comes with it. But they of all teams also know the danger when a team is let go from an elimination match. Last spring they trailed Boston 3-1. They won in Boston in Game 5.

“We’re back in this room for Game 7,” Matthew Tkachuk told his teammates afterward, and he kept his word.

Now it’s just Boston players who are still alive this season.

“Never say die, we’re going home, and this series is wide open,” said Charlie McAvoy, whose game-winning goal was his first playoff goal in three years. “Let’s go home and win a hockey game.”

What if Boston captain Brad Marchand returns from his injury? What if Boston reverses the lack of home-ice advantage in this series and wins Game 6? Will the pressure shift to the Panthers?

The Panthers still have a handle on this series. But Maurice’s loud tirade from behind the bench told exactly what he thought of their effort. His comical bit at the press conference afterwards also talked about how to deal with losing a match in a long series.