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Why They Will Win

Why Panthers will win Stanley Cup

Championship coming to Florida thanks to Jagr, young linemates and Luongo

by Barry Rubinstein @barryrubinstein / Manager, Assignments

The Florida Panthers may reside on the opposite coast from Hollywood, but theirs is a script that would turn plenty of heads in Tinseltown.

They have an ageless wonder, Jaromir Jagr, who at 44 still is breaking records and seems to be having as much fun as at any time in his 22 seasons in the NHL.

They have his two talented linemates, whose combined age does not equal his, but who have been lifted by playing and learning alongside him.

They have a veteran goaltender among the all-time leaders in wins, ready to help take this franchise to where it has never gone before.

And they have an image of a celebrity fan smiling in celestial splendor as their rallying cry.

Combine those storylines, and there's only one way this story will end: with the Panthers, after breaking franchise records for wins and points, capturing their first Stanley Cup.

All season, the Panthers' most compelling player has been Jagr, who became the NHL's third all-time leading goal-scorer (behind only Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe), reached 60 points for the 18th time in his career (only Howe and Gretzky have done it more often) and became the oldest player in League history to have 60 points in a season.

Video: FLA@OTT: Jagr slams home Barkov's pass in front.

Then there are those youthful linemates, left wing Jonathan Huberdeau, 22, and center Aleksander Barkov, 20, who have developed star power of their own. With Jagr, they form a first line as formidable as any in the NHL. Goaltender Roberto Luongo has been a steadying influence, with his best season since 2010-11, when he led the Vancouver Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final. He wants nothing more than to take that final step for himself and his franchise.

 Brian Campbell, 36, has not slowed down at all, recently playing his 1,000th NHL game and leading all defensemen with a plus-31 rating.

Center Vincent Trocheck, 22, having a breakout season with 25 goals playing on a line with Jussi Jokinen and Reilly Smith, broke a bone in his foot while blocking a shot March 29. He's expected to return after the first week of the playoffs.

Then there is the home crowd at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., who have embraced this team and its quirky postgame tradition of awarding the player of the game with a "Spacey in Space" blue sweatshirt.

Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey, whose face adorns the sweatshirt, attended a game on March 19, drawing a roar from the fans when he appeared on the video screen.

So you know how this is going to end, right? After the Panthers win the Stanley Cup, they will appear as themselves on the hit series "House of Cards" and travel to the White House, where Jagr and friends will present a Florida jersey to President Frank Underwood, played by … Kevin Spacey.

Now that will be something to binge-watch.

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