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Hockey Runs Through Florida: Panthers Make Back-To-Back Stanley Cup Finals

For the second straight year, the Florida Panthers are the Eastern Conference champions and will be playing for the Stanley Cup. It is also the third Stanley Cup Final appearance in the club's 30-year history.



Matthew Tkachuk Goal vs Carolina
Matthew Tkachuk Goal vs Carolina

The Playoff Run That Changed Everything:

After their tremendous end to the 2023 regular season, the Panthers secured the last playoff spot in the East, where they had to go up against the 65-win Boston Bruins in the first round.

Nobody expected this team to win the series, especially when they went down in the series 3-1 going into game 5 in Boston. But, a Matthew Tkachuk overtime winner gave the Panthers all the energy they needed to bring the series to a seventh game, where Carter Verhaeghe's OT goal lifted the Cats to the second round.

After beating the Toronto Maple Leafs in five games and the Carolina Hurricanes in four, the Florida Panthers advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1996. Although they fell to the Vegas Golden Knights in the Cup Final, there was no denying that this team would be back in the finals a year later.

Picking Up Where They Left Off:

The Panthers would ride their playoff momentum all through the 2023-2024 season, racking up 52 wins and 110 points for their second-best regular season in franchise history. Forward Sam Reinhart had a breakout year for the Panthers, scoring a career-high 57 goals and 94 points.

The Cats had multiple top performers this year, like captain Alexander Barkov who recorded 80 points in 73 games, and Matthew Tkachuk who notched 88 points in 80 games.

Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky had himself a year as well. His .915 sv%, 2.37 GAA, and 36 wins were good enough to be nominated for the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goalie.

Their Journey Back To The Finals:

The Panthers began their 2024 playoffs with a first-round matchup against their in-state rivals, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Outmatched by Florida's youth and grit, the Panthers sent a message to Tampa, saying we are Florida's hockey team now as they bounced the Lightning out of the first round in five games.

Battling The Bruins:

Florida's second-round matchup would be a rematch from last year's first-round, the Boston Bruins. The Bruins fought hard, and goaltender Jeremy Swayman stood on his head, but again, the B's were no match for the Cats as they eliminated Boston in six games to go to the Eastern Conference Final.

Panthers Push Out Rangers:

Their Eastern Conference Final opponent would be the President's Trophy-winning New York Rangers. These teams were very similar on paper going into the series. A lethal offense, a heavy and violent blue line, and a stud goaltender were the MO for both teams. Battling neck-and-neck each game became too much for the Rangers as the experience of the Panthers helped knock off the Rangers in six games, advancing to their second straight Stanley Cup Final.

Through Florida's Instagram page, Sergei Bobrovsky had this to say following the team's birth into the final:

"The job is not done. We made just a step. A good challenge in front of us, and we're excited for it."

One More Hill To Climb:

The Edmonton Oilers knocked off the Dallas Stars in six games to advance to their first Stanley Cup Final since 2006. The Oilers' offense has been like no other as the top four point scorers in these playoffs belong to Edmonton (Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Evan Bouchard, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins).

Florida's players understand how it feels to come so close yet come up short. Per Amalie Benjamin of NHL.com, Sam Bennet said, “This year it’s kind of all business. We have one goal in mind and that’s it. We’re not going to be satisfied until we accomplish that.”

Florida's "Big Guns":

Just like the 2023 playoffs, Matthew Tkachuk has led the way for Florida with 5 goals and 14 assists for 19 points in 17 games this post-season. Behind him is Alexander Barkov and forward Carter Verhaeghe, who are both tied with 17 points in 17 games. In the net, Sergei Bobrovsky continues to be the backbone for this team as his .908 save% and 2.20 GAA have helped his team reach the finals yet again.


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