Among all the players of the Florida Panthers, the Quebecer Jonathan Huberdeau is one who feels enormous satisfaction, but also a feeling of liberation following the series won in six games against the Washington Capitals in the first round.
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“It’s a great relief, we’re all very happy,” Huberdeau told reporter Robert Laflamme on the National Hockey League website. The last time I felt like that was in the junior ranks.
Aged 28, soon to be 29, Huberdeau has advanced to the second round of the National Hockey League playoffs for the first time in 10 years since the start of his professional career. The good old days when he dominated in the Saint John Sea Dogs uniform of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League were far behind him. Just like winning the Memorial Cup in 2011.
“It took a long time, several years,” he said, following the 4-3 overtime win Friday night in Game 6. Finally we are rewarded. It’s only a series, but for us it’s big.
It should be noted that the Panthers organization had not won a single series since 1996, well before the arrival of the Quebecer in Florida. It weighed very heavily on the team. After a 58-18-6 regular season record and 122 points in the standings, the pressure was on.
“Yes we had a good season, but we thought we were missing that first series, agreed Huberdeau, who was limited to three points in six games against the Capitals. We were trailing 2-1 [dans la série] and we had to do lifts. It was like our regular season. We are a very tight-knit group and that helped us win.”
No matter the opponent
For the next round, the Panthers will now face the winners of the series between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Toronto Maple Leafs, whose Game 7 was scheduled for Saturday night.
Before knowing the identity of the next adversaries, Huberdeau admitted to having no preference.
“We don’t care a bit about the team we are going to face, noted the Quebecer, this time quoted on the English-language website of the NHL. They are two good teams.”
While wishing to take a little rest, Huberdeau assured however that he was going to watch this famous seventh game between the Lightning and the Maple Leafs on television.
Carter Verhaeghe’s series
Ontario’s Carter Verhaeghe is likely to be much more popular with fans of hockey pools for next season.
For good reason, the Florida Panthers forward completed the first round of playoffs with 12 points, including six goals, in six games against the Washington Capitals. Even better, he scored in overtime in the fourth and sixth games. In the fifth game, he also scored five points, including the winning goal, in a 5-3 victory.
“It was Carter Verhaeghe’s series and we hope it will continue,” simply summarized Quebecer Jonathan Huberdeau, quoted on the National Hockey League website.
Three game-winning goals in three consecutive playoff games! Gotta do it… In the history of the National Hockey League, only Clark Gillies, with the New York Islanders in 1977, did better with four for four.
26-year-old Verhaeghe has another important note in his file: he was part of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2020 when they won the Stanley Cup. The striker even took part in three of the six games in the final against the Dallas Stars.
Depth at the Panthers
In a way, Verhaeghe’s performance against the Capitals will have compensated for the lack of production from some teammates, starting with Huberdeau, who was limited to three points in six games.
“I know I can give more, but it happens, these are the playoffs, simply commented on the Quebecer. It just proves the value of our team. (…) That does not prevent me from having to give more and be better with the puck.
During the regular season, Huberdeau led the Panthers with 115 points in 80 games, finishing second in the NHL, tied with Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames and behind only Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers ( 123 dots). Regarding Verhaeghe, he did very well, all in all, with 55 points in 78 games during the recent campaign.
To add to the budding legend of Verhaeghe, it should be mentioned that the player had missed his team’s morning training on Friday due to a mysterious injury.