Boston fans tuning into the NBA on TNT pregame show Saturday night could not have been happy seeing Matthew Tkachuk hop on the set before Game 6 between the host Miami Heat and the Celtics.
Tkachuk helped end the Bruins’ season a few weeks ago with his late-game heroics, yet here he was yukking it up with Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and the rest of the best studio road show in the business.
Tkachuk was invited to the Miami-Dade arena for his first Heat game Saturday night and he joined the crew inside the lower bowl to talk a little basketball and a smidge of hockey.
The Panthers, you may have heard, not only knocked off the Bruins but also ended the seasons of the Maple Leafs and Hurricanes en route to the Stanley Cup Final which will be broadcast on TNT starting sometime next week.
Florida has not been in the Stanley Cup Final since it shared Miami Arena with the Heat back in 1996.
Fans are still throwing those rubber rats.
”It really has been incredible for me,” said Tkachuk, wearing a black Elbo Room t-shirt as some fans in the crowd started a ‘Lets Go Panthers’ chant.
“I think back like two or three months ago, no one thought we would be here or even make the playoffs. So to be up here sitting with you guys at my first Heat game and getting ready to play in the Stanley Cup Final with them having a chance to make it to is great for South Florida.”
As usual, there was a lot of back-and-forth between the hosts and their guests with Tkachuk obviously getting a kick out of O’Neal’s admitted lack of hockey knowledge.
While Barkley watches the game — and got the pronunciation of Sergei Bobrovsky’s last night right Saturday — O’Neal does not.
“I don’t really watch hockey,’’ Shaq said, “I just like watching you guys fight.”
O’Neal then asked if “home ice advantage” was a thing in hockey.
Florida has been the lower seed in all four rounds of the playoffs and will open Game 1, again, on the road.
The Panthers did take home ice in all three series, however, with wins on the road.
”Shaq, we made the playoffs by one point,” Tkachuk said. “We definitely do not have home ice advantage in this round. Hopefully we can get one or two at the start and that right back.”
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
THE 2023 STANLEY CUP FINAL
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
OR DALLAS STARS
- When: TBA
- Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas OR AmericanAirlines Center, Dallas
- TV: TNT
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM, WPOW 95.6 FM2, WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Series Schedule — TBA
- 2022-23 Regular Season Series Vs. Vegas (Even 1-1): @Vegas 4, Florida 2 (Jan. 12); @Florida 2, Vegas 1 (March 7)
- All-time Regular Season Series: vs. Vegas Golden Knights lead 6-3-1
- 2022-23 Regular Season Series vs. Dallas (Stars Won 2-0):Dallas 6, @Florida 4 (Nov. 17); @Dallas 5, Florida 1 (Jan. 8)
- All-time Regular Season Series: vs. Dallas Florida leads 24-21-2, 3 ties
- Postseason History: First meeting vs. both Vegas or Dallas