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2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Carter Verhaeghe is the Florida Panthers ‘Playoff Guy’

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Verhaeghe
Carter Verhaeghe, pictured here in the Panthers’ first game of the season on Oct. 12, is Florida’s all-time leader in playoff goals scored as well as game-winning goals. “The playoff game is his frequency,’’ coach Paul Maurice said. (AP Photo/Matt Krohn)

FORT LAUDERDALE — Florida Panthers coach Paul Maurice recalls the first time he really noticed Carter Verhaeghe.

“I’m watching Tampa,’’ Maurice recalled of the 2021 playoffs, “but this guy from Florida is all over the puck. He’s on it.

“There’s skill and there’s numbers, but he is just a dog on a bone.”

Verhaeghe won the Stanley Cup while with the Tampa Bay Lightning as a fourth-line players in 2020, but his play in the postseason since joining the Panthers has been incredible.

It has been flat out money.

Verhaeghe has scored some of the biggest goals in Florida’s franchise history, from the Game 6 winner he scored against Washington in 2022 to get the Panthers out of the first round for the first time since 1996, to his overtime winner in Game 7 against the Bruins last spring.

Then there are the numbers.

Verhaeghe’s power-play goal against the Lightning on Sunday was his 16th goal in three playoff seasons with the Panthers.

No player in franchise history has scored as many postseason goals as Carter Verhaeghe has.

Oh, Verhaeghe’s seven game-winning goals is also a franchise postseason record.

Matthew Tkachuk is second on the team list with 12 goals and five game-winners.

In talking about Verhaeghe, Maurice brought up a word he credits for former Buffalo coach Ralph Krueger: Hecticity.

When the game gets hectic, Maurice said, Verhaeghe thrives.

“Some people thrive in certain frequencies,’’ Maurice said on Monday afternoon. “The playoff game is his frequency. I would have watched Tampa — and by proxy, Florida — play those games in the playoffs and they were close. I didn’t know who Carter Verhaeghe was. Kept seeing that number pop up. ‘Who is this guy?’

“He is a playoff guy because of the speed of the game … is hectic out there, and there is an intensity to it, he thrives in that. That is where he is at his best.’’

A few months ago when talking about Verhaeghe’s style of game, Maurice talked about how Verhaeghe can find space few players on the ice can.

Maurice repeated some of those thoughts on Monday.

“He is not your prototypical 40-goal guy,” Maurice said in January. “I get that he is really fast and I get that the rush game should be there for him, but that’s not what he’s great at, either.

“If you could put 20 guys on the ice instead of 10 skaters, he’d score 60. The more chaos, the more traffic, the more he does things that people can’t do. Three-on-three, can he play it? Sure. But I think his strength and his grace and what makes him highly unique is that he is really, really good in chaos.”

On Sunday, Verhaeghe used his nose for the net early in the third.

Florida had power play time remaining to start the third, and skated around until he got to the front of the net.

Sasha Barkov spotted him from the right circle, laced a pass through traffic and put it right on Verhaeghe’s stick.

“I got the puck to Barky and, once I did that, I didn’t see the pass,’’ Verhaeghe said. “It just hit my stick. We know how Barky can pass the puck.’’

True, but Verhaeghe certainly has a knack for putting the puck in the back of the net.

Over the past three seasons, he has 117 goals when you factor in the ones scored in the playoffs.

“I think he just has the nose for the net and has an unbelievable shot,” Tkachuk said of Verhaeghe after he scored in Game 3 of the Cup Final.

“He finds the soft areas like not many guys can. He has his skating and it allows him to be one of the top players in the league but if you can’t do anything with that, you can’t be as successful. He’s got that full offensive package that you rarely see.

”You saw his shot tonight. It wasn’t screened. He just has that ability that not that many guys out there have to shoot it from that far. It’s great.”

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

STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (WC1) VS. FLORIDA PANTHERS (ATL1)
PANTHERS LEAD BEST-OF-7 SERIES 1-0
GAME 2
  • When: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • Local TV/National TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida/ESPN2/ESPN+
  • Radio: 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
  • First Round (Panthers Lead 1-0) — Game 1: Panthers 3, Lightning 2 (Sunday); Game 2: Tuesday at Florida, 7:30 (BSF, ESPN2); Game 3: Thursday at Tampa Bay, 7 (BSF, TBS); Game 4: Saturday Ap. 27 at Tampa Bay, 5 (BSF, TBS, TruTV); Game 5*:Monday Ap. 29 at Florida, TBA (BSF, TBA); Game 6*: Wednesday May 1 at Tampa Bay, TBA (BSF, TBA); Game 7*:Saturday May 4 at Florida, TBA (BSF, TBA). (*) — If necessary
  • 2023-24 Regular Season Series (Panthers Won 2-1) — At Tampa Bay: Panthers 3, Lightning 2 (Dec. 27)Panthers 9, Lightning 2 (Feb. 17). At Florida: Lightning 5, Panthers 3 (March 16).
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Florida leads 77-51-19, 10 ties
  • All-Time Postgame Series: Lightning Leads 2-0 (2021 first-round, 2022 ECS)

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