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2024 Stanley Cup Final

Florida Panthers Force New York Rangers Out with a Wimper



Florida panthers
A referee breaks up a scuffle between New York center Vincent Trocheck and Florida forward Matthew Tkachuk after Trocheck’s goal in Game 2. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

Many experts predicted a long, hard-fought series before the Eastern Conference final between the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers started.

That, it was.

Few anticipated how the Panthers would dominate in almost every statistical category.

The Rangers learned what the Panthers, Bruins, and Lightning learned in recent years: Winning the Presidents’ Trophy means you are the top point-getter in the NHL. 

It does not mean you are the best team.

It does not guarantee postseason success.

The Rangers earned a franchise-record 115 regular season points and steamrolled Washington and Carolina in the first two playoff rounds.

The Rangers’ postgame room on Saturday was as somber as I have seen in more than 40 years of covering hockey.

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NHL players are, as a rule, courteous and articulate, and are very obliging to the media in the postgame dressing room, whether their team wins or loses.

Saturday, it was clearly an effort. 

Players were stunned that they weren’t going back to Madison Square Garden for a Game 7 and that their season was suddenly over.

One of the jobs of a team captain is to deal with the media after a tough loss, to spare his teammates the task.

Rangers captain Jacob Trouba is always obliging, but this time, it was a real strain.

“Not a lot of answers right now,” said Trouba, who had a rough series against the Panthers. 

“The effort to compete was there. We just came up short.”

Trouba has taken heat for a few strategic misplays but, most of all, for not displaying the nastiness of which he is very capable.

“At the end of the day it was frustrating,” Mika Zibanejad said. “We had chances, and chances. It’s pressure and more pressure until the last second. We got one late. You try not to get frustrated on the bench. I thought we did a pretty good job just trying to stay the course. Taking the next shift and try to do something. Try to get pucks and bodies – try to create something. 

“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Not pretty goals. I thought we tried to throw everything we had. It just wasn’t enough today.”

Zibanejad took his dose of criticism for being held to two assists in the six games.

This was a relatively peaceful series, with no major penalty and just a sprinkling of two-minute roughing minors.

It seemed that the Panthers’ resident agitator, ‘Playoff’ Sam Bennett, had his way and was able to move about relatively unobstructed.

Bennett’s antics were subtle in the Conference final.

He received only a solitary 2-minute minor for holding the stick of Adam Fox in Game 1 and led all Florida scorers with four goals in the series.

The Rangers’ resident tough guy and new fan favorite, Matt Rempe, played minimal minutes and was a healthy scratch for the series finale.

He is a diamond in the rough, but at age 21, he is too much of a loose cannon to be trusted in such situations.

Postgame, Rangers’ coach Peter Laviolette addressed many issues, particularly the Panthers limiting their previously potent power play to one goal in 15 attempts.

“There’s a lot that goes into trying to figure out the defense of the opposition,” Laviolette said, “but they were aggressive with what they were doing. They were successful and we had a hard time, just like 5-on-5, finding that goal on the power play.”

The Rangers’ brass will now go through the drill Bill Zito and Company did in the last two seasons: Take a good team and make it better.

The Panthers are not worried about the offseason just yet.

They have more pressing matters on their minds.

The Edmonton Oilers come to town with the Stanley Cup on the line later this week.

For More FHN Coverage of the Florida Panthers:

  • When: Saturday, 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:Edmonton at Florida, Saturday; Game 2: Edmonton at Florida, Monday June 10; Game 3: Florida at Edmonton, Thursday June 13; 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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