The Florida Panthers are heading back to the Stanley Cup Final. The Panthers recorded a four-game sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes after winning Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final by a score of 4-3. Matthew Tkachuk scores the game-winning and series-clinching goal with 4.3 seconds left in regulation. It is the first time since 1996, the Florida Panthers are heading back to the Stanley Cup Final. And the men at the center of it all were Tkachuk and Sergei Bobrovsky.
Bobrovsky is playing some of the best hockey of his career. He has put himself in the conversation for the Conn Smythe Trophy. And is probably the clubhouse leader for the Panthers if they were to win the Stanley Cup. With his teammate Matthew Tkachuk right behind him.
Nobody really saw this coming. Though speaking with Russ Cohen of Full Press Hockey, Buffalo Hockey Now, and Sportsology, he could see this coming. In a recent episode of the Full Press NHL Podcast, Cohen noted that Bobrovsky likes a heavy workload and is better when he is the number one guy between the pipes. There is no challenging him for the position. Not to mention his work ethic after morning skates and practices and it is paying off.
While Spencer Knight was supposed to be the guy, he never took the reigns. And at times Bobrovsky just did not play great during the regular season this year or over the past couple of seasons. Many people questioned the amount of money Bobrovsky was making per season. Florida was paying him $10 million a season to sit on the bench.
Alex Lyon got the Panthers to the playoffs and saved their season. However, Lyon could only take the Panthers so far as head coach Paul Maurice saw in the first round against the Boston Bruins. Enter Sergei Bobrovsky. From Game 5 against Boston until now it has all been Bobrovsky. Before giving up three goals against Carolina in Game 4, he had only given up 2 goals or fewer in eight straight games.
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There were some trying times for Bobrovsky in the first round against Boston. Trailing 3-1 against the Bruins in the first round, Bobrovsky needed to come up clutch. Though he gave up three goals or more goals in the three games against Boston. He was there for the big save at the big time. Not to mention he had the save of the playoffs on Brad Marchand with three seconds left in Game 5. From there his confidence built and built and led the Panthers to the upset of the Bruins in the first round.
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Oh yeah, Bobrovsky beat the number-one team for the second time in the playoffs. Bobrovsky was with Columbus in 2019 when the Blue Jackets stunned the Tampa Bay Lightning in four games. Now he has swept the second-best team in the NHL this season in the Eastern Conference Final.
Bobrovsky not frustrated the Bruins, but in the second round frustrated the Toronto Maple Leafs and then the Hurricanes in the Conference Final. He was giving off vibes of Jean-Sebastien Giguere in 2003 with the Anaheim Ducks and similar vibes to Patrick Roy in 1986 and 1993 with the Montreal Canadiens.
Through 13 games in the playoffs and the 12 games he started, he has a 2.15 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage including one shutout. Bobrovsky got his first career playoff shutout in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final.
Bobrovsky just remains calm and cool back there for the Panthers. He has given his teammates so much confidence to go play their aggressive forechecking game. They know “Bob” will be there to make the save when they need him. Just look at his performance in the first three games of this series. Some of the saves he made. Two block saves on wide-open nets. Coming up with the timely and necessary saves for his team to go win the game later.
Matthew Tkachuk gives the Panthers the lead with 4.9 seconds remaining!#TimeToHunt #StanleyCup #FPC pic.twitter.com/yFRwfziUGd
— Full Press Hockey (@FullPressNHL) May 25, 2023
Matthew Tkachuk Does It Again
That is exactly what happened in Game 4. After the Panthers squandered a 2-0 lead. Many thought that would be it with the way Bobrovsky was playing in the series as Carolina’s offence was struggling to score, the Hurricanes found a way to tie the game not once but twice.
Anthony Duclair opened the scoring 41 seconds into the first period. Matthew Tkachuk got his first of two goals in the game to increase the Panthers lead to 2-0. That lead looked insurmountable, but Paul Stastny opened the scoring as Jordan Martinook picked up his first points of the series. Then Teuvo Teravainen tied the game early in the second period before Ryan Lomberg gave the Panthers a 3-2 that would stand until Jesper Fast deflected home Martinook’s shot to tie the game at 3-3 late in the third period.
It looked like the teams were heading to overtime for the third time in the series. Then the Panthers went on a powerplay where Matthew Tkachuk center stage scoring his second up the night proving to be the game and series clincher. Tkachuk factored into every game-winning goal in the series. He had three game-winners himself and had an assist on the Sam Reinhart game-winning and only goal of Game 3.
There was a reason they got Tkachuk. This is it to get to a Stanley Cup Final after being swept by the Lightning last year in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He leads the Panthers in scoring with 21 points (nine goals and 12 assists) as he adds to his franchise playoff point totals.
With Sergei Bobrovsky playing like the $10 million man he is and Tkachuk coming up with clutch goals, it would not be shocking if the Panthers lift the Stanley Cup in the coming weeks.
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