Hyde5: Tkachuck keeps Florida Panthers’ season alive with a dramatic goal in overtime

The Matthew Tkachuk trade keeps getting better and better with each night. His overtime goal in Wednesday’s 4-3 win against Boston didn’t just keep the Florida Panthers season going in Game 5. It established him more as the face of this franchise. He’s not only a scorer but an edgy physical presence that has caught Boston’s full attention this series. On a team that doesn’t play as cute as last season but still doesn’t have enough grit, Tkachuk brings the personality you hope rubs off on others. He has three goals and three assists this series to lead the team. He also leads in being an instigator against Boston. You know how the Miami Dolphins receiver Tyreek Hill was a star who played beyond hopes? Tkachuk is the same idea for the Panthers.

2. Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky had a big game in an odd postseason for him. He had 44 saves on Wednesday, none bigger than when a strange sequence at the end of regulation gave Boston’s star a chance for a breakaway buzzer beater. Bobrovsky made the stop to keep the season going. He’s started the past two games and you can expect him Friday in Sunrise for Game 6. Let’s not pretend this series was some referendum on the Panthers goalie situation. Alex Lyon was phenomenal down the stretch 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. The Panthers can’t pay Lyon. Thank him for his good service — and for the good personality he was — and wish him the best.

3. Again: Is this all you get from Aleksander Barkov in a big series? You might as well throw defenseman Aaron Ekblad in that question, too. Barkov, the Panthers all-time points leader, was noticeably quiet in an often loud five games. He had three assists. That’s something at least. But impact? He didn’t have a shot in the first eight periods of the series — until the third period of Game 3. Yes, he has a complete game and is instrumental defensive forward. But to be considered a major star, as Barkov’s talent has shown, you’ve got 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 the special teams. That’s no surprise considering Boston’s historically strong team is strong on both sides of the penalty work. Boston is 6 of 19 on power plays 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 Wednesday’s third period. These numbers explain why the Panthers kept talking about having to keep the series five-on-five. Of course, they then took five penalties on Wednesday, including an inexcusable penalty for six men on the ice in a 3-3 game late in the third period.

5. As for Ekblad, maybe he was hurt in Game 5. He missed Game 4 with injury. But he had two penalties, a series of turnovers, got turned around early for a good Boston chance and the offensive defenseman hasn’t had a point in the series. Again, as with Barkov, it’s not too late for a star to play like one.


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