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2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs

After Years of Frustration, Barkov & Ekblad Bask in Playoff Success with Panthers



Florida panthers
Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad, left, celebrates his game-winning overtime goal against the host Carolina Hurricanes with longtime teammate Sasha Barkov on Feb. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Chris Seward)

After so many years of disappointment in the playoffs during their time with the Florida Panthers, only the toughest critic could not appreciate what Sasha Barkov and Aaron Ekblad are feeling these days.

As much fun as fans are having with the Panthers’ run through these playoffs, Barkov and Ekblad are soaking it in alongside them.

The two longest-tenured members of the team — Barkov started with Florida in 2013, Ekblad a year later — have seen a lot of things go down in their years with the Panthers.

A lot.

They have seen dozens of teammates, many of whom were and remain close friends, traded away. They have gone through numerous coaches after firings or resignations and have seen one season after another end in disappointment.

The tide appears to be finally coming in for the Panthers as they are not only in the playoffs for the third straight year for the first time in franchise history, but are off to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1996.

Even players on the Miami Heat are wearing Panthers jerseys and attending games in Sunrise.

They weren’t even doing that when the two teams shared Miami Arena all those years ago.

“We are living the best time of our lives right now,’’ Barkov said. “Every day is the best time of our life.’’

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