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2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Spotlight on Gus Forsling After Sending Florida Panthers to ECF

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Florida defenseman Gus Forsling celebrates with his teammates — here, it’s Vladimir Tarasenko — after scoring with 1:33 left in Game 6 against the Bruins on Friday night in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

With the game — and series — on the line, the Florida Panthers had a new, unlikely hero step up in a big moment: Gus Forsling.

The ability to make couch plays when it matters most is nothing new for Forsling.

The standout defenseman has blocked countless shots and has made tons of monumental plays with his stick in the defensive zone to bail out the Panthers in big games.

But with 1:33 to go in Game 6 against the Bruins, Forsling pinched up in the offensive zone, picked up a rebound from Anton Lundell, sent it through the legs of Boston defender Parker Wotherspoon, and beat goalie Jeremy Swayman on the short side.

That gave the Panthers their first lead of the game, which held up in a 2-1 Game 6 win, sending Florida to the Eastern Conference final for the second straight year.

“I just got the rebound, and I was honestly just trying to get it to the net,” Forsling said. “I really didn’t see it go in, I just saw someone else react, so it was amazing.”

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The 27-year-old has emerged as one of the most defensively sound defensemen in the NHL over the past few years, stepping up on multiple occasions when Florida’s big-name defensemen have been dealing with injuries.

He came up especially big while helping the Panthers become one of the best defensive teams in the league while Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour were nursing injuries to start the season.

In fact, his stature with the Panthers really took off when Ekblad was hurt in 2021 and Forsling, the defenseman Florida picked up off of waivers a few months prior, stepped right in and took over.

However, he was rarely in the national spotlight until his big moment in Boston.

And he is OK with that.

“I’m not usually the guy who scores the game-winning goal,” Forsling said.

“I’m trying to defend out there most of the time, so it’s fun to score and help your team win. I’ll stick to defense.”

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Still, his teammates and coaches see it daily and believe he deserves the recognition.

Forsling’s name never came up when talking about the Norris Trophy race.

His 10 goals and 39 points in 79 games this season do not stand out compared with the 80-plus point totals that the three finalists— Quinn Hughes, Cale Makar, and Roman Josi — put up.

But beyond the surface, his all-around ability on the defensive end is what stands out most to his Panthers counterparts.

“It’s really what he does for a living,” coach Paul Maurice said.

“I think that’s what the Norris Trophy is. I don’t think it’s the defensemen that get the most points. It’s very difficult to identity a guy if we’re talking about things that aren’t easily measured. There are different styles of defensemen, and in that style he’s the best in the world.”

After the series-clinching goal, the spotlight is now on Forsling as the Panthers head to the self-described ‘world’s most famous arena’ for the Eastern Conference final.

Even if he doesn’t want it to be.

“I honestly don’t really care about that,” Forsling told FHN. “I know my role in the team. It feels good, but at the same time, I don’t care if nobody else sees that.”

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

STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
FLORIDA PANTHERS (ATL1) V. NEW YORK RANGERS (MET1)
GAME 1
  • When: Wednesday, 8 p.m.
  • Where: Madison Square Garden, New York
  • National TV: ESPN
  • 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 — Game 1: Panthers at Rangers, Wednesday, 8 (ESPN); Game 2: Panthers at Rangers, Friday 8 (ESPN); Game 3: Rangers at Panthers, Sunday May 26, 3 (ABC); Game 4: Rangers at Panthers, Tuesday May 28, 8 (ESPN): Game 5*: Panthers at Rangers, Thursday May 30, 8 (ESPN); Game 6*: Rangers at Panthers, Saturday June 1, 8 (ABC); Game 7*: Panthers at Rangers, Monday June 3, 8 (ESPN). (*) — If Necessary.
  • Second Round, Florida d. Boston 4-2 — Game 1: Boston 5, @Florida 1; Game 2: @Florida 6, Boston 1; Game 3: Florida 6, @Boston 2; Game 4: Florida 3, @Boston 2; Game 5: Boston 2, @Florida 1; Game 6: Florida 2, @Boston 1.
  • How They Got Here: Florida d. Tampa Bay 4-1, Boston 4-2; Rangers d. Washington 4-0, Carolina 4-2.
  • Last Season vs. Rangers — Regular Season: Rangers won 3-0
  • This Season (Panthers Won 2-1) — At Florida: Panthers 4 Rangers 3 (Dec. 29). At MSG: Panthers 4, Rangers 2 (March 4); Rangers 4, Panthers 3 OT (March 23).
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Rangers lead 61-34-8, 6 ties
  • Postseason History: Rangers Lead 1-0 (1997 1st)

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