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2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Greenberg: Best Stories of Cup Playoffs are the ‘Feel Good’ Ones

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Florida panthers
Florida Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, center, celebrates with Nick Cousins Ryan Lomberg after a win against Minnesota on Feb. 13. (AP Photo/Craig Lassig)

Every round of the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs has its unlikely heroes; this year is no exception.

Players you least expect emerge as heroes.

Florida had its share of feel-good stories in last year’s ascent to the Cup Final.

Alex Lyon did the lion’s share just getting the team into the playoffs.

Journeyman Zac Dalpe, who had played for 12 professional teams between the NHL and the minors, scored a critical goal in Game 6 against Boston, triggering Florida’s comeback win.

It was Dalpe’s only NHL playoff goal in 16 games over the course of 15 seasons, during which he never had a one-way contract and never earned above the NHL minimum.

Nick Cousins is not an unknown but was an unlikely hero with his overtime winner in the clincher against Toronto.

Cousins never scored more than 12 goals in a season and was almost always a flexible bottom-6 guy.

Being thrust into the spotlight was a feel-good event for him and the Panthers.

After one playoff round this year, we already have our share of feel-good stories around the league.

Unknown hero No. 1 in my book is Vancouver rookie goalie Arturs Silovs, who has made all nine NHL regular-season appearances over the past two seasons.

When both Thatcher Demko and Casey DeSmith went down with injuries, third-stringer Silovs stepped in.

He wrapped it up for Vancouver with two wins in three starts, including a shutout in the finale. He had a 1.70 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage.

Great numbers, regardless of your pedigree.

Pius Suter scored the dramatic winning goal in the Game 6 clincher for the Canucks, with only 1:39 left on the clock.

The undrafted Suter is with his third NHL team in four seasons.

Prior to this season, he had never been in the playoffs.

Carolina goaltender Frederik Andersen is a veteran of 67 playoff games, so he is not an unknown. He gets a nod for a feel-good story because earlier this year, he didn’t know if his season, or career, would soon be over.

Back in November he was diagnosed with pulmonary embolisms (blood clots in the lungs), a potential life-threatening condition.

He missed four months and 49 games.

Andersen won his first seven starts upon his return to regular season action.

In the first round, he throttled the Islanders, playing every minute, going 4-1 with a 2.25 goals-against average and .912 save percentage.

Vincent Trocheck is a known quantity to Panthers’ fans, but I mention him as a feel-good story because he comes off a career-high season in points with the Rangers.

Everybody loves Vincent.

In the Rangers sweep of the Capitals, Trocheck had three goals and six points in the four games and an out-of-sight 71.2 percent faceoff win percentage.

He won this year’s prestigious Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award, chosen by New York fans for the player “who goes above and beyond the call of duty.”

McDonald was a New York City police officer and major Ranger fan who was seriously injured in the line of duty in 1986. He passed away in 2017.

Who will be the feel-good stories for the Panthers this postseason?

For the regular season, my nominees are Sam Reinhart for his 57-goal season and Anthony Stolarz for his 16 wins as backup, his .925/2.03 coming on a bargain-priced contract.

The big guns carried the action in the first round of the playoffs against Tampa Bay — save for Steven Lorentz’s game-winner in Game 3 — but a lesser light will again be a hero before the playoffs are over.

It happens all the time.

For the most in-depth coverage of the Florida Panthers:

STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
FLORIDA PANTHERS (ATL1) V. BOSTON BRUINS (A2)
BEST-OF-7 SERIES
GAME 1

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