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Matthew Tkachuk: Buy-In at ‘All-Time High’ for Florida Panthers



Florida Panthers defenseman Brandon Montour and center Sam Bennett collapse on Buffalo forward Zach Benson along the backwall Tuesday night in Sunrise. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

SUNRISE — If the Florida Panthers were not ‘all-in’ at this time last season, Matthew Tkachuk says they certainly are right now.

The Panthers certainly find themselves in a much more comfortable spot than at the end of February 2023. 

Last year, Florida finished the month three points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

After struggling out of the gate, it was in those games the Panthers fully adjusted to new head coach Paul Maurice’s system and fought their way to the Stanley Cup Final.

They are not changing their approach to the end of this season despite now sitting near the top of the NHL standings.

“We do have a lot of really good offensive players in here, but at the end of the day, defense wins and we’re all so committed to that,” Tkachuk said after Florida’s 3-2 win over the Sabres which, at the time, put them atop the NHL standings.

The Rangers and Vancouver lead Florida by a point — but both have played more games.

“Especially after last year, kind of learning that style and playing it over and over again, it’s kind of just in our brains of that’s how you play.

“The buy-in from this group is at an all-time high. We’re having a lot of fun coming in and working each game and we’re having so much fun coming to the rink every other day.”

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Despite a near 20-point cushion between them and the teams on the outside looking in, the Panthers continue to do things Maurice’s way.

The results have been stunning.

Florida is currently riding a streak of 14 straight games with two or fewer goals against and a record of 12-2-0 during that span.

“I think that’s what makes us a playoff team,” Anthony Stolarz said. “Guys are willing to sell out and commit on both ends of the ice. When we’ve had a couple of breakdowns where they had an odd-man rush, the guys did a great job of getting back or blocking a shot and getting sticks in lanes to distrust passes.

“As a goalie, you really appreciate that.”

For a team as high in the standings as the Panthers, getting up and playing a team sitting outside of the playoff race can get stale.

Players on top-tier contenders have admitted such plenty of times.

“It’s a challenge for sure,” Dmitry Kulikov said. “You see it around the league. Teams in the playoffs right now are getting beat by teams not in the race. To stay within that game all year round, that’s what we are training ourselves for, to play the style of game we will play in the playoffs.

“Mentally, it’s hard getting up for a game that doesn’t mean anything to the other team and maybe even for us, that it’s not going to do anything points-wise in the standings. But we’re not thinking like that. We’re thinking every game we should come out and try to put the same game on the ice that we would in the playoffs.”

But those in Florida’s locker room still play with the same physicality and defensive effort that wins games in the playoffs.

“It doesn’t matter the opponent. We stick with the structure, and guys deliver it,” Sergei Bobrovsky said. “Guys work hard, guys work smart, and the results [follow].”

After going through what they did last year on their way to the Stanley Cup Final, the Panthers know what it takes to get there, and they are doing everything they can to get back.

And Florida does whatever it takes to make sure it can do better in the playoffs this year than it did last year.

“We’re just trying to get to the style of hockey that makes us successful in the playoffs,” Nick Cousins said. “And we can play any style.

“We can play in those physical, emotional games and that’s usually when we’re at our best. So, I think in the last 23 games here, we’re just trying to get to that game on a regular basis and make sure we’re ready to go Game 1.”



  • When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise 
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5 FM-2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Last Season: Florida won 4-0
  • This Season (Panthers Lead 2-0) — At Montreal: Panthers 5, Canadiens 1 (Nov. 30). At Florida: Panthers 4, Canadiens 1 (Dec. 30); Thursday
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Florida leads 57-38-11, 6 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Saturday at Detroit, 3 p.m. (ABC)

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