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2023 Stanley Cup Final

TNT Ready for Stanley Cup Final, Even More Matthew Tkachuk

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Tkachuk
Matthew Tkachuk celebrates his game-winning overtime goal with teammates Sam Reinhart and Sam Bennett following Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against the host Carolina Hurricanes on May 20. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

When the Stanley Cup Final starts tonight in Las Vegas between the Florida Panthers and Golden Knights, a new network will be broadcasting it.

Well, not a new network, per se.

For the first time, the Stanley Cup Final has moved to TNT with the network taking its turn calling the NHL’s crown jewel event after being part of the league’s new broadcast package which started last season.

The network has had much success with its coverage of the NBA and, by all accounts, have carried that over into its coverage of the NHL.

Let’s just say fans are happy this Cup Final is on TNT — which, when it comes to their hockey coverage of late should be called Tkachuk Network Television.

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The TNT crossovers with Florida Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk has been well documented and is helping him become a household name.

Tkachuk has done his part in grabbing the spotlight the network is more than willing to aim his way, his 21 points and four game-winning goals leading all players not on summer vacation.

Three of those game-winners came in the Eastern Conference finals sweep of Carolina which, of course, was broadcast by TNT — which will have Kenny Albert, Eddie Olczyk, Keith Jones, Darren Pang and Jackie Redmond team up on the game coverage in the Final.

Tkachuk’s heroics led him to Miami a few days after he beat the Hurricanes in Game 4 with 4.9 seconds remaining for a spot on the Inside the NBA set with TNT stars Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal.

When TNT got the rights to the NHL in 2021, the joke was someday an NHL player would join Barkley & Co. on set.

No one would have been crazy enough to predict it would be a member of the Florida Panthers being front and center.

“The bold move of Bill Zito to make that sign-and-trade and bring in a heart-and-soul guy like Matthew Tkachuk, the NHL is starving for personalities in those southern markets where we’re trying to grow the game,’’ said Paul Bissonnette, who is part of the TNT studio show with Wayne Gretzky, Henrik Lundqvist, Anson Carter and host Liam McHugh.

“This is a huge moment for our sport where you have these two teams with these unbelievable superstars. Not only the way they’re playing on the ice but how they’re carrying themselves off of it. How many interviews has Tkachuk done during this playoff run, while putting his team on his back? It is getting a lot of national attention.”

Said Carter: “Matthew Tkachuk being on the NBA on TNT is really exposing him to a whole different audience. There were probably some people in South Florida, in Miami, who were not paying attention to hockey and the Panthers in Fort Lauderdale are paying attention now. This is huge for hockey in South Florida.”

Tkachuk cup final

Matthew Tkachuk speaks with the NHL on TNT crew not long after his goal beat the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 4. // @NHL_on_TNT

Tkachuk is the talk of these Stanley Cup Final as his star is rising faster than the temperature on the Vegas Strip.

Even in the Toronto series when he did not score a goal, he was the focal point of most hockey-related conversations.

Tkachuk has carried himself through this postseason with a cocky grin.

Folks are eating it up.

“I listen a lot to the interviews and he is brilliant at it,” coach Paul Maurice said. “He has a deep confidence in himself and in his game. That’s exactly who he is. When he gets up and does that interview, that’s Matthew Tkachuk. He doesn’t have to manufacture a brand, and he doesn’t have to play a certain way. That’s just him.”

Although the Panthers have had star players in their time — from John Vanbiesbrouck, Pavel Bure, Roberto Luongo and now Sasha Barkov — none have taken a turn like Tkachuk has.

Tkachuk even gave an exclusive to People.com, saying he is who he is and he does not plan to change.

“I think what some people have taken a liking to is the fact I’m just me being genuine,” Tkachuk said in perhaps the first mention of a Florida Panthers player by People since Bure was playing in the early 2000s.

“It makes me feel good that people enjoy me being me, so I’ll just keep being myself.”

Tkachuk’s rise to superstardom is a combination of Tkachuk’s personality as well as his play on the ice.

It also has to do with the success he and the Panthers are enjoying right now as they share the Finals spotlight with the Miami Heat.

According to various sportsbooks, Tkachuk and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky are the betting favorites to win the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP and he has already been named one of three finalists for league MVP.

“You can say Matthew Tkachuk wants to be this, wants to be that off the ice. But if he’s not backing it up on the ice, no one would want to talk about that,” Carter said.

“He is backing it up. He been amazing on the ice and has been even better off the ice. Having that combination in one player is pretty amazing.’’

Said Barkov: “He is unbelievable. Ever since he got here, the first message … it was like we knew each other for 10 years just how he talked to me and they way he got everyone together in this organization. … It has been an unreal addition and everyone sees what he has been doing on the ice. Off the ice, it has been eyeopening how great of a person he is, how he breathes hockey and everything around it every day. It’s unreal.”

If the Panthers do win the Stanley Cup, expect to be seeing a lot more of Tkachuk moving forward.

He will be everywhere you look.

Fans in South Florida welcome that opportunity.

“This is a dream for me to be in this situation and what has come with it for me and my team,” Tkachuk said on Friday in Las Vegas at media day for the Final.

“The spotlight on us has been awesome. There is no fluke in us. We did not do it the easy way that’s for sure, we didn’t have the easiest route and it was probably the hardest route.

“But our ultimate goal going into the playoffs was to have the chance to win the Stanley Cup and we put ourselves in the position where there are two teams left. That’s what you dream of. If we’re able to knock off this juggernaut in Vegas, it would probably be the hardest road in history. Our goal is to knock off this team and see if we can make history.”

FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK

THE 2023 STANLEY CUP FINAL
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
GAME 1
  • When: Saturday, 8 p.m.
  • Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
  • TV: TNT
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM, WPOW 96.5 FM2, WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
  • Series Schedule — Game 1: Saturday at Vegas, 8 (TNT); Game 2:Monday June 5 at Vegas, 8 (TNT); Game 3: Thursday June 8 at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 4: Saturday June 10 at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 5*: Tuesday June 13 at Vegas, 8 (TNT); Game 6*: Friday June 16 at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 7*: Monday June 19 at Vegas, 8 (TNT). * – If Necessary
  • 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
  • Postseason History: First meeting
  • How They Got Here — Vegas: d. Winnipeg in 5, Edmonton in 6, Dallas in 6; Florida: d. Boston in 7, Toronto in 5, Carolina in 4.

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