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Why Florida will win the Cup

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Why Florida will win the Cup
The Florida Panthers are not a favorite to win the Stanley Cup -- far from it, in fact. But that stealth might be their biggest weapon as they gun for their first Stanley Cup championship.

The Florida Panthers are not a favorite to win the Stanley Cup -- far from it, in fact. But that stealth might be their biggest weapon as they gun for their first Stanley Cup championship.

Every team will underestimate the Panthers, but their balance, structure, goaltending and experience gives this team enough to be the last one standing in mid-June.

The Big Why: Oddly enough for a team that has been absent from the playoffs for more than a decade, it's about experience.

As a franchise, Florida is the most inexperienced of the 16 that made it to the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Panthers are making their first trip to the postseason since 2000, ending the longest playoff drought in the League.

Brian Campbell
Brian Campbell
Defense - FLA
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 49 | PTS: 53
SOG: 130 | +/-: -10
Their players, though, are not new to this spring dance.

Five of them have won the Stanley Cup, a combined eight times. John Madden has three rings, Tomas Kopecky has two, and Brian Campbell, Kris Versteeg and Mikael Samuelsson all have one. Jack Skille was also a black ace with the Blackhawks during their run to the Cup two years ago. He did not get his name engraved on the Stanley Cup.

Beyond the Cup winners, Ed Jovanovski has played in the Stanley Cup Final and Sean Bergenheim was in the Eastern Conference Finals just this past season. Jovanovski also won an Olympic gold medal with Team Canada in 2002.

Seventeen players on the active roster have at least some playoff experience. First-year coach Kevin Dineen played in 59 playoff games in his career. Assistant coach Craig Ramsay was on John Tortorella's staff in Tampa Bay when the Lightning won in 2004.

The Big Uh-Oh: Clearly the Panthers' players have enough experience to understand what the Stanley Cup Playoffs mean. But can they win when they get there?

That's a more difficult question to answer because the Panthers are limping into the playoffs. They became contenders by being just good enough in one of the weakest divisions in the League during the first three quarters of the season, but they didn't look anything like a playoff team down the stretch.

Florida backed in Thursday because Buffalo lost to Philadelphia. The Panthers struggled when they were in control of the Southeast Division. They essentially ran out of gas at the worst time.

Moreover, they don't have a dominant star that will carry them when things get tough in the playoffs. They are still missing that go-to-guy.

The Final Argument: Hey, remember 16 years ago, when Florida made a run to the Stanley Cup Final? Nobody expected that, did they?

Who's to say lightning can't strike twice? Florida certainly has the parts to make that happen.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

Quote of the Day

I'm just excited about the opportunity. I've been on the ice earlier than usual and in the weight room, pushing around a little more weights than usual. Every day I go into a workout with a smile on my face and ready to go. When you do have a little more responsibility, you want to take your lunch pail and get ready to work.

— Brian Elliott to Jeremy Rutherford of the Post-Dispatch on being the Blues' No. 1 goalie