Hey Panthers fans,

It was nice to get back on track in Ottawa last night.

I think the last three weeks we’d kind of gotten away from our game and what makes us successful. We started off this road trip with two games where we weren’t happy with the way we played, so it’s nice to get back to feeling good about ourselves with a win like that.

Looking back, it was impressive to watch Steven Lorentz do what we did out there while not feeling great. For him to battle through that – blocking big shots, helping out on the PK – was great to see. I think he even led the team in hits.

There was actually a shift late in the game where I was supposed to take his spot because obviously he wasn’t doing well, but he looked over at me on the bench and was like, ‘No, no, I’m going.’ That just shows you the tremendous character he has as a player.

I mean, it’s a 6-0 game and he still wanted to be out there battling. That goes a long way in the dressing room. I’m happy for him. He’s worked hard all year and hasn’t complained once. For him to come on here over the last 3-4 weeks and play some of his best hockey, it’s been important for us.

I’m just happy for him. Stevie’s a great teammate.

Overall, I thought during the first 10 minutes against the Senators that our gaps were good, we were getting the puck in on the forecheck and making it hard on the other team. That’s what we have to do to have success. I think last night was a good step in the right direction.

Cousins makes it 1-0 after a pass from Tkachuk.

Now, we’ve got another big test in Boston on Saturday.

There’s obviously a rivalry there going back to last year in the playoffs. It’s two teams that probably don’t like each other a whole lot. When our team is playing with an edge like that, it usually brings out the best in us. We’ve had some good games against them this year.

I’ve actually never been in a situation like this in my career where you clinch the playoffs with a lot of games left like we have. Throughout the season you’re just trying to build your game going into the playoffs, but you’ve got to get there first, which is a tough task. You want to be playing your best going into the playoffs. We had a stretch there, a 10-12 game block, that we didn’t necessarily like, but it’s always good to hit a little bit of adversity before the playoffs.

For us, it’s just about establishing our game right now, making sure it’s in a good spot and moving in the right direction. Last night was obviously a big step. It’s exciting to play teams like Boston. It forces you to play that playoff-style hockey. There won’t be much room out there. It’ll be physical, emotional, high-stakes hockey. They’re obviously four points ahead of us right now. We’re aware of that. It should be a good matchup to gear up for Game 1.

Honestly, when it comes to gearing up for the playoffs, I don’t think it gets much better.

I think there were probably some teams that underestimated us last year, but this year we know we’re going to get everyone’s best. We’ve already seen that throughout the regular season. We know we’re going to get Boston’s best tomorrow. They play well at home, they feed off their crowd. It’s a fun atmosphere to play in, so it should be a fun and emotional game.

We also brought in some great guys over the summer that should really help us when the playoffs get underway. I think it’s been a good mix. We keep it loose, but at the same time when the puck drops we’re a pretty serious group. We’ve got a funny bench. We’ve got a bunch of characters on the bench that make it fun to come to the rink every single day.

When we’re working and having fun on the bench, it’s usually when we’re playing our best.

I really think this team is great. We all get along really well. We’re a close-knit group and you can see it translate to the ice. This season has already been one of the favorites of my career. Hopefully, we can go on a nice long run and make it that much more memorable.

See you back in South Florida,

Nick Cousins

*As told to’s Jameson Olive