Pete DeBoer may have returned to Florida to face the team that employed him last year. But the team he faced—this is a different group of guys. The Pete DeBoer led New Jersey Devils jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead against the Florida Panthers on Monday night. But instead of allowing the Devils to cruise to an easy victory in DeBoer’s homecoming, the Panthers roared back for a thrilling 4-3 win.
It’s not just the faces that are different in Florida. There’s a different attitude as well. There’s a different confidence level. There’s more character. There’s a different leadership level.
Should-be captain Stephen Weiss talked about slow start and the new mind-set in the locker room this year. “We decided it could go one of two ways either we get spanked or fight our way back into it,” Weiss told the Miami Herald. “We’re not going to quit. We weren’t happy with the way we played in the first but that doesn’t mean it was over. We pulled up our pants and changed things around.”
If you are to believe Weiss, the new outlook wasn’t just the result of playing the former coach either. “It’s got nothing to do with him at all,” Weiss stated when talking about DeBoer’s return. “…we had to push back, and we did. It’s a big win for us.” A quick look at the standings and it’s clear that the Southeast Division leading Panthers have been playing with newfound sense of confidence all season.
Weiss’ comments don’t tell the whole story though. Even though he said the DeBoer “stuff is out the window,” newcomer Kris Versteeg shared that there was a little more motivation for the new Panthers in the locker room. “The guys here last year really wanted to beat him bad so it was a great game by everyone,” the streaking Versteeg said. “We wanted to win for those guys.”