How the Bad Guys Won: Panthers’ Ruthless Style Paves Way to Stanley Cup Final

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How the Bad Guys Won: Panthers’ Ruthless Style Paves Way to Stanley Cup Final
SUNRISE, FLORIDA - JUNE 01: Aleksander Barkov #16 of the Florida Panthers hits Artemi Panarin #10 of the New York Rangers d1p in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amerant Bank Arena on June 01, 2024 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Where do we begin with the defensive effort from these Panthers?

Despite all of Tkachuk’s talk about the confidence within the group and the hunger to win it all this time, “Good defense” is the first thing he offered as the reason for the Game 6 win over the Rangers.

The Blueshirts’ big guns were silenced throughout the series, as Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin had a combined two goals, with Panarin only finding the next in the dying moments of the series. It helps to have the newly minted Selke winner in Sasha Barkov completely tilt the ice, but the way the Panthers bottled up New York’s stars was extremely impressive

Oh, by the way, this isn’t a new phenomenon. The Panthers also held the Bruins’ David Pastrňák to one goal in the second round.

The defensive solidity is most evident in the neutralization of stars, but also in Florida’s ability to close out games. The Panthers limited the Rangers to 14 shots and just three high-danger chances in the final two periods of an elimination game. Mind you, these were the Rangers that’d been heralded as the comeback kids all season and boasted several third-period equalizers in this postseason run.

According to NaturalStatTrick.com, the Panthers held the 57.23 percent edge in Corsi in the Eastern Conference Final, and our eyes showed us they had a knack for building up that possession momentum at all the crucial times.

By the way, Gustav Forsling might be setting himself up for a dark-horse Conn Smythe run.

He’s turning some heads and cementing himself as one of the top defensemen in the league. Through this run, he’s racked up four goals, 11 points, and a team-high plus-eleven rating through 17 games. He plays both ends of the ice like a modern great, committing to the little things that prevent the big things.

Shayna @hayyyshayyy

Gustav Forsling with a big defensive play to take away a scoring chance pic.twitter.com/C4BdHfVKxA

He’s garnered much praise from Maurice throughout the playoff run.

Michael Russo @RussoHockey

Maurice says of Gustav Forsling, “In his style, he’s the best defenseman in the world.”

Florida has allowed the fewest goals against (2.38) of any remaining playoff team, and ties Edmonton for allowing the second-fewest shots per game in the playoffs in general (24.5).

In these playoffs, you’re toast if you don’t win close games, and the Panthers have won six one-goal games through three rounds.

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