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Matthew Tkachuk Embodies Panthers Playoff Success

Tkachuk has turned the Florida Panthers into a machine come playoff time

May 23 2024

Matthew Tkachuk before the puck drop of the first game of the Eastern Conference Final. SOURCE: NHL (TWITTER/X)

The Florida Panthers took Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers 3-0 but the game felt like a 10-0 victory. The Panthers were in complete control, establishing the pace of play, winning with their forecheck, and blanking the Rangers. 

Who scored the first goal of the game? Who else but Matthew Tkachuk, a star who has changed the culture and identity in Florida and is establishing himself as one of the playoff greats. 

The Panthers acquired Tkachuk in the 2022 offseason and gave up a lot to get him, sending the Calgary Flames a top forward in Jonathan Huberdeau and defenseman MacKenzie Weegar, a star in his own right. The Panthers still won the trade because of Tkachuk’s impact.

Tkachuk’s Ability to Impact The Game

It’s hard to pinpoint Tkachuk’s best attribute. He’s a great scorer but also a great passer who creates scoring chances for the other skaters on the ice. He’s savvy on the defneisve end of the ice but also a physical, hard-hitting, forechecking force. 

The NHL demands versatility, especially in the playoffs. When opponents dare a skater to adapt and win in multiple ways, they must do that. Tkachuk can and more importantly, he also often dictates the game and sets the tone for the rest of the players on the ice. 

On top of that, Tkachuk adds a physical presence to the lineup that many elite players lack. It’s one thing to be a highlight-reel scorer but it’s another to also deliver a big hit and pressure the opposition in the offensive zone when they have the puck. Tkachuk’s ability to win with both his speed and size separate him from many elite skaters and the league has taken notice.

The Panthers Follow His Lead

The Panthers play in the vision of their head coach, Paul Maurice but also play the same way that Tkachuk does and it makes them a tough team to put away in the playoffs.  

Even the forwards play two-way hockey and try to make a difference defensively in the offensive zone. Likewise, the Panthers are a team that can slow down a game and grind out victories. That was on display in their Game 1 win over the Rangers, a game where they limited their opponent to only 11 shots on goal through two periods of play and 23 total shots on the night.

Panthers’ captain Aleksander Barkov and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky celebrate the decisive 3-0 victory. SOURCE: NHL (TWITTER/X)

It all starts with Tkachuk, who makes sure to win the game with offense and with defense. More importantly, he controls the puck and the Panthers skaters follow suit, maintaining both offensive zone time and possession.

Tkachuk’s Playoff Impact

It’s only been two seasons with the Panthers and 32 total games yet Tkachuk has 16 goals in the playoffs, the second-most in franchise history. He has a nose for the goal and in the playoffs, he’s been the clutch scorer the Panthers have needed.  

When the team needs a goal, Tkachuk is the one who typically nets it. He’s scored six game-winners in the playoffs and his Game 1 goal gave the Panthers a lead they would never squander. 

Tkachuk’s versatility helps him in the playoffs and allows him to be a great scorer even with the high stakes. However, he also isn’t afraid of the big stage. The Panthers are playing on the biggest stage in hockey, Madison Square Garden. Generally, the Rangers have the advantage at home but the stage is set for Tkachuk to thrive, and he’s doing just that.

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