Campbell, Madden share wisdom with Panther cubs
Terry Koshan, QMI Agency
|Kris Versteeg of the Panthers scores a goal past Devils' goaltender, Martin Brodeur, in game one of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. (Joel Auerbach/AFP)
Brian Campbell — given a few minutes to sit down and think about it — could probably give a fairly descriptive narration of the Chicago Blackhawks’ 2010 run to a Stanley Cup title.
But the 32-year-old defenceman, one of many integral pieces general manager Dale Tallon acquired in an overhaul of the Florida Panthers’ roster last summer, hasn’t been boring his Panthers teammates with yarns about the Hawks’ championship charge.
The New Jersey Devils were the favourites in the Eastern Conference quarterfinal before it began and bolstered that belief with a victory in Game 1. But the Panthers aren’t a bunch of wide-eyed kids who have no idea what it’s like to play NHL hockey past the first week of April.
As Florida makes its first post-season appearance in 12 years, Campbell is one of several Panthers who can recall the overall experience of competing in the Stanley Cup final. Teammates John Madden, Kris Versteeg, Tomas Kopecky and Mikael Samuelsson also have lugged Cup rings to the Sunshine State.
Each of them knows from having lived it that there will be ebbs and flows in every series.
“People don’t want to hear story after story, so you don’t want to overkill too much on that stuff,” Campbell said after the Panthers practised Saturday in preparation for Game 2 on Sunday night at the BankAtlantic Center in nearby Sunrise.
“You just draw on it. We had a lot of fun this season and we know we have a good chance of winning this series if we go out and play our best hockey. We’re down 1-0. Seven other teams were down 1-0 too,” he said. “This game is big for us. We want to get a split at home and I expect a much better effort.”
With that reasoning in mind, there’s no sense of panic in the Panthers dressing room. If Campbell, Madden and others figure there is little to worry about, it’s being picked up by others who don’t have similar experiences.
“You can be talking about a bad mistake and he somehow he will end up putting confidence in someone’s back pocket,” Panthers rookie defenceman Erik Gudbranson said of Madden. “It’s the twists he puts on things. He has been extremely helpful, positive in the room, and not only that, he has been playing well.”
The 38-year-old Madden wasn’t signed as a free agent until January, and for months had to endure the queries of friends, who were wondering aloud whether Madden’s NHL career was over, and if so, what he planned to do with his life.
Madden, whose speed belies his age, won two Cups with the Devils and was Campbell’s teammate in Chicago two years ago. Having played in 135 NHL playoff games, Madden realizes his words carry lots of weight in the room.
“There have been plenty of times where I have been down 1-0 in a series in my own building, so you just re-assure the guys that all the things we did wrong the other night are correctable,” Madden said. “You could point your finger at a variety of things but I just don’t think we were as sharp as they were and that was the game.”
Of course, there’s the strong possibility that no matter what experience Campbell, Madden and fellow Panthers have, the Devils will emerge as the series winner. Skill-wise, the Devils trump the Panthers, and as sharp as goalie Jose Theodore was in Game 1, he can only dream of having the resumé of Martin Brodeur.
The Panthers stumbled from the opening faceoff on Friday before finding their legs in the second period.
“We’re not going to be that fortunate again,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. “We have to match whatever they will raise as far as intensity levels go. No one wants to be in an 0-2 hole and heading on the road for two games. (A split) is not something I am going to have to sell (to his players).”