The 4-3 go-ahead goal with less than five seconds left in regulation in Game 4 against Carolina is the latest testament to the 25-year-old forward’s value to the Panthers. In overtime on the ice, the Hurricanes have already decided the opening two duels. “Chucky is the right one for these moments,” noted teammate Ryan Lomberg. However, Tkachuk was already Florida’s most valuable player in the regular season (40+69), as evidenced by his nomination for the Hart Trophy.
“Without him, Florida wouldn’t have even made the playoffs,” believes the most productive player in the history of the Devils, Patrik Eliáš. The Panthers got to the last place, one point ahead of Pittsburgh and Buffalo. However, a few hours ago, Florida’s players were in euphoria touching the Prince of Wales Trophy for Eastern Conference champions.
“We will not be superstitious that we should not touch that cup. No one would have even said that we would get to the playoffs, so I think it’s pretty cool to wear it and take pictures with it,” said Tkachuk, who has collected 21 points (9+12) in the playoffs so far.
His father Keith, the former great forward of Winnipeg/Phoenix and St. Louis. But also Jaromír Jágr, who played 181 games (49+81) for Florida in 2015-17 and arrived at the FLA Live Arena for the fourth match with his girlfriend Dominika. Subsequently, the Czech legend did not escape the attention of the fans, so Jágr had to hand out a few autographs.
Panthers general manager Bill Zito deserves additional credit for his summer megatrade with Calgary, in which he traded away the team’s most productive player, Jonathan Huberdeau, and defenseman MacKenzie Weegar for Tkachuk.
“We’re looking for the types of players that will give us more energy in the playoffs,” Zito said a year ago. it means nothing.
This year, Florida also convinced Boston, who broke historical records in the regular season. But a 3-1 lead in the first-round series was not enough for the Bruins to advance, nor was a 3-2 score in the 59th minute of the seventh game. The Panthers became the third team in NHL history to eliminate three of the top four teams in the regular season in the playoffs.
“We definitely didn’t follow the easy way. We deserved it. I feel like when you’re blocking shots, taking hits, doing whatever it takes to win a trophy like that, you might as well enjoy it,” smiled Tkachuk, who is loved by teammates and Panthers fans. But to the rest of the league, he may be the most hated player at all – provocateur, villain, skeet, outcast.
“I feel like nobody likes him at all,” Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty said of Tkachuk, who was suspended three times during his NHL career.
But good guys don’t usually win in the playoffs.
“We have a few more weeks left and hopefully they will be the best weeks of our lives,” Tkachuk wishes.
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