The Matthew Tkachuk trade just keeps getting better every night. His goal in overtime in Wednesday’s 4-3 win over Boston in Game 5 didn’t just keep the Florida Panthers season going. It has further established him in these playoffs as the face of this franchise moving forward. He’s not only a scorer, but also a nervous physical presence that has gotten all of Boston’s attention in this series. On a team that doesn’t play as pretty as it did last season, but still doesn’t have enough power, Tkachuk brings the sandpaper personality that you hope will rub off on the others. He has three goals and three assists this streak to lead the team. He also leads in being an instigator against Boston. You know how Tyreek Hill was a star who played beyond expectations? Tkachuk is the same idea for the Panthers as they go for the big upset against Boston.
“We were supposed to get swept by this streak, right?” he said after his winner sent this series back to Sunrise for Game 6 on Friday. “I don’t think anyone gave us a chance after losing two games in a row at home. …
2. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky had a big game in a strange postseason for him. He had 44 saves Wednesday, none more so than when a freak sequence late in regulation gave Boston’s star a chance to beat the buzzer. Bobrovsky made the stoppage to continue the season. He’s started the last two games and you can expect him in Sunrise on Friday for Game 6. Let’s not pretend this series was a referendum on the Panthers’ goaltending situation. Alex Lyon has been phenomenal for this franchise. But Bobrovsky is owed $12 million next year and Spencer Knight is owed $4.5 million. So the bottom line here is about the bottom line. Panthers can’t pay Lyon. Thank him for his good service – and the good personality he was – and wish him well.
3. Again: Is that all you get from Aleksander Barkov in a big series? You might as well throw point guard Aaron Ekblad into that question. Barkov, the Panthers’ all-time point leader, has been noticeably quiet through five often raucous games. He had three assists. At least that’s something. But the impact? He didn’t get a chance through the first eight periods of the series — until the third period of Game 3. Yes, he has a complete game and is an instrumental defensive tackle. But to be considered a major star, as Barkov’s talent demonstrated, you have to do something in the playoffs. It’s not too late.
4. Where do the Panthers need to improve in Game 6? Let’s start with special teams. It’s no surprise given that Boston’s historically strong team is strong on both sides of the penalty kill. Boston is 6 of 19 on the power play in this series after going 2 of five in Game 5. The Panthers are 2 of 13 after Sam Reinhart’s shot from the slot gave Florida a 3-2 lead in the third Wednesday half. Those numbers explain why the Panthers kept talking about needing to keep the streak five-on-five. Of course, then they took five penalties Wednesday, including an inexcusable six-man penalty in a 3-3 game late in the third period.
5. Quote of the night: “I knew it wasn’t going in,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said of his thoughts during Marchand’s escape in the final seconds of regulation. “And you can’t know it’s not coming in. But I don’t think we had a lot of advantages in this series in the karma of the game. It’s nice to say that I disagree with the number of calls. I feel like we hurt ourselves enough with karma that that record didn’t go in. And then profanity, long periods of nasty things.”