(Sunrise) In hockey, it’s well known, you don’t touch the cup until you’ve won it. But it also appears that we should not look at it either.

Saturday evening at Sunrise, the most famous of all trophies appeared on the ice, before the first puck of this final. Well installed in the blue league while waiting for the match to start, Aleksander Barkov and Gustav Forsling tried not to turn their heads in the direction of Lord Stanley’s bowl.

“I tried not to look at her too much,” Forsling said Sunday afternoon at the Panthers’ training center. I just wanted to concentrate on the game…”

His colleague Barkov, seated to his right, discreetly nodded. “Same thing here,” he said.

If the Panthers are there, not wanting to talk too much or strut too much, it’s probably because they were in the same place a year ago, in the final, and the Vegas Golden Knights ended up push yourself with the big prize.

So that gives us what we saw on Sunday in Fort Lauderdale, what we will see until the end, no doubt: very cautious players, who do not want to make too many big declarations, who will do everything not to annoy the hockey gods, even if it means ignoring this trophy which is nevertheless magnificent, as everyone knows.

In fact, listening to some members of the Panthers speak at their Fort Lauderdale practice facility, it even sounded like they had lost the first game of the series.

“We know we have to be better than that,” Barkov insisted, sternly. We must continue to build on what we have been able to do so far. Because the [Edmonton] Oilers have an incredible team. They have so much talent, it’s going to be difficult, that’s for sure. »

Perhaps also the Panthers feel like they were able to avoid the worst Saturday night in the opening game. The Oilers big guns were blanked, as was the power play and then ultimately, so was the rest of the entire team.

Around here, there is no one crazy enough to believe that this will last.

“We want to play at our best, we want to dictate the tempo, because a match like the one on Saturday night is not going to happen every time,” Barkov said cautiously. They’re going to have the puck often, we also know that they’re going to have their opportunities, but we have to continue to do what we’re doing. In this league, every team wants to be able to dictate the pace of the game, and it’s the same with us. »

Before suffering a zero on Saturday night, the Oilers had managed to score 10 goals in their previous three games, the last of which came in the Western Conference Final against the Dallas Stars. The Panthers suspect that, sooner or later, Connor McDavid will end up doing something.

“We know that he will make big plays and that he will arrive at full speed, and that’s why we have a Bobby,” added defender Niko Mikkola, in tribute to his goalkeeper Sergei Bobrovsky.

Then, coach Paul Maurice spoke, also in a very cautious tone, to the point of warning us by talking about McDavid and his friend Leon Draisaitl.

“You get too used to these two, and how good they are…I understand why. We see it every night, they are so dynamic, so special, and after a while, we become accustomed to it, to the point of wondering why they don’t do that every time they are on the ice. They almost do…”

We presume that Paul Maurice did not watch the Stanley Cup either.