At the beginning of the postseason, it was hard to find someone who thought the Florida Panthers would keep things interesting in their first-round series against the Boston Bruins. They’re heading to the Stanley Cup Finals after taking down the top three teams in the Eastern Conference. It’s been an unexpected and unprecedented ride, but the players in the room are no longer the only ones who believe they can be the last ones standing. So, how did Florida run the tables? Let’s get into it.
First and foremost, Sergei Bobrovsky has been fantastic. Since taking over the net in Game 4 against Boston, the former Vezina-winner has gone 11-2-0. Although he let in several goals against the Bruins, Bob has shut the door completely since the second round started and has allowed more than two goals just once (Game 4 win against Carolina). His overall SVP is .931 through his thirteen starts, and his GAA is 2.21. Florida needed some magic to go on a run like this as a bottom seed, and Bobrovsky’s re-emergence has certainly been magical. There seem to be no more complaints from Florida fans about that $10 million contract, either.
If Tkachuk was on any other team right now, he’d be that team’s runaway favourite for the Conn Smythe Trophy. From physicality to clutch goalscoring, no skater in the playoffs has brought more to the table for his team than Tkachuk has for Florida. He’s second only to Roope Hintz in overall postseason scoring and became just the 29th player in NHL history to score three game-winning goals in the same playoff series when he finished the Hurricanes off in Game 4.
However, Tkachuk isn’t the type of player that only makes a difference offensively. He’s also physically involved in every game, making himself a presence on the ice regardless of whether he has the puck. He might not be the captain in Florida, and Alex Barkov deserves that honour, but it’s become clear this postseason that Matthew Tkachuk is the leader in Florida’s dressing room.
As well as, Bobrovsky and Tkachuk are playing, no team can win twelve playoff games on the backs of two players. Everyone on this Panthers roster has fully bought in, from Barkov to Brandon Montour to Sam Bennett to Radko Gudas. All four forward lines have been forechecking the puck incredibly well during the postseason, and all six defencemen are making it very hard for the opposition to get anything going. Yes, the goaltending has been fantastic, but the team in front of Bobrovsky has done a great job of limiting Grade-A scoring chances against him.
Basically, it’s full speed ahead for Florida. Their confidence is at an all-time high right now, and why shouldn’t it be? After going down 3-1 to the Bruins, the Panthers won three straight games before dismantling the next-best two teams in the East in just nine games total. They’ve proven they can beat any style of play in any rink, so why wouldn’t they fully believe they can do it four more times? Vegas may come into the Cup Finals on the back of their own Conference Finals Sweep, but they’ll have to be ready for something that no team has been ready for yet in the Florida Panthers.
Make your picks for the Stanley Cup Finals at OfficePools Bets. It’s free to play, and you could win prizes!