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2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Bobrovsky, Panthers Make Game 1 a Special Night in South Florida

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Florida Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky waves after the Panthers beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-0 in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night in Sunrise. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

SUNRISE — For those who longed for the good old days of 1996, well, the way Sergei Bobrovsky played for the Florida Panthers in the opener of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night had to be in heaven.

Bobrovsky conjured up the memory of John Vanbiesbrouck his night, and, if you squinted a bit after Eetu Luostarinen put the finishing touches on a 3-0 win with an empty-net goal, you may have transported back to Miami Arena as rubber rats hit the ice en masse.

Of course, as much as South Florida loved that 1996 team, it never won a game in the Stanley Cup Final.

Those Panthers were swept by the Colorado Avalanche but, as those of us who were around, the end result did not matter.

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It was the run which put those ‘96 Panthers in the same neighborhood as the unbeaten Dolphins, the World Series winning Marlins, and the three-time champion Heat.

Now, the Panthers are closing in on becoming the final South Florida major professional team to win a title.

They are the last ones left.

The Dolphins have theirs, as do the Heat and Marlins.

Although it is just one win — and just a 1-0 series lead — the Panthers are feeling good about things.

Saturday night, it was because of Bobrovsky.

Florida has a lead in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in its third trip.

Last year, the Panthers went to Las Vegas and came back down 0-2.

Saturday night, Florida was outplayed for large swaths of Game 1 by the Edmonton Oilers — or was it?

The Panthers like playing a defensive game, and once Carter Verhaeghe made it 1-0 not four minutes in, Florida put its game in the hands of its defense and in its goalie.

Bobrovsky came up big, time and again.

The Florida goalie made 32 saves, many of which were highlight worthy.

Bobrovsky has not had to carry the load this postseason as he did last year, but Saturday, Florida hopped on his back and rode him to victory.

“He’s just been unreal,’’ Matthew Tkachuk said. “His preparation is incredible. You know his work ethic, his character, like everything you want in a teammate, especially a goalie.

“He is everything. Very impressed with the way he played tonight, especially early. But honestly throughout the whole night, he was really good and he was there for us.”

Indeed.

This is Bobrovsky’s second shutout of this postseason and, if Florida wins this thing, he is now the favorite for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

He was that good on Saturday night.

“Best player tonight for us,’’ Sam Reinhart said.

Bobrovsky, during his time with Columbus, was questioned about how tough he was when the rubber hit the road in the playoffs.

Then, he helped the Jackets sweep the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2019 a few months before signing a monster contract with the Panthers.

There were questions about Bobrovsky in the first three-plus seasons in Florida, but he has answered many of them in the past year.

No one seems to be talking about his contract anymore.

At least, not in a disparaging way.

Bobrovsky has become exactly what the Panthers hoped he would when they signed him five years ago.

As usual, Bobrovsky did not get too far ahead of himself following the win.

He has 13 wins in these playoffs and knows there are three more left before his team can claim the ultimate prize.

To the left of his locker stall in Sunrise, attached to the wall, is a plaque with pucks commemorating Florida’s wins this postseason.

Last year’s run ended with three empty spaces.

The Panthers do not want to come that short again.

“Every win’s a big win,’’ Bobrovsky said. “It’s a long series, so we’re going to reset, refocus and get ready for the next fight. … We’re happy with the win, and it’s a very fun game.”

Yeah it was.

For More FHN Coverage of the Florida Panthers:

2024 STANLEY CUP FINAL
EDMONTON OILERS VS. FLORIDA PANTHERS 
GAME 2
Panthers Lead Best-of-7 Series 1-0
  • When: Monday, 8 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • National TV: ABC
  • Streaming: ESPN+/Hulu
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Series Schedule, All Games 8 p.m. on ABC — Game 1: @Florida 3, Edmonton 0; Game 2: Edmonton at Florida, Monday; Game 3: Florida at Edmonton, Thursday; Game 4:Florida at Edmonton, Saturday June 15; Game 5*: Edmonton at Florida, Tuesday June 18; Game 6*: Florida at Edmonton, Friday June 21; Game 7*: Edmonton at Florida, Monday June 24. (*) – If Necessary
  • How They Got Here — Florida: d. Tampa Bay 4-1, Boston 4-2, New York Rangers 4-2; Edmonton: d. Los Angeles 4-1, Vancouver 4-3, Dallas 4-2.
  • This Season (Florida Won 2-0) — At Florida: Panthers 5, Oilers 3 (Nov. 20). At Edmonton: Panthers 5, Oilers 2 (Dec. 17).
  • Last Season: Edmonton Won 2-0
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Oilers lead 23-16-0, 3 ties
  • Postseason History: First Meeting

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Ed Purchase

That’s what a 10Million Dollar Goalie looks like. Game 2 is a must-win, and we’ll tighten up a few things. I don’t predict another shutout, but I’m willing to bet EDM gets off their D-game to score and we’ll make them pay.

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