Panthers Matthew Tkachuk says facing the Rangers is a ‘dream’

NHL: Florida Panthers at New York Rangers
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers will host the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference Final which is set to begin on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.

That’s because last year’s defending Eastern Conference Champions defeated the Boston Bruins on Friday night to advance. After winning Game 6 by a 2-1 score, Panthers superstar Matthew Tkachuk was practically giddy to be facing the Rangers.

“It’s playoff hockey in New York,” Tkachuk said. “It’s a dream.

“MSG on the road is my favorite rink to play in, just because of the history. It’s a great city, and they love their sports. It’s going to be such a great atmosphere. Conference Final at MSG? That’s just so cool. We’re excited to start that on Wednesday.”

To date, the 26-year-old power forward has 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) through 11 playoff games. In seven career regular-season games at Madison Square Garden, he’s notched six points (three goals, three assists).

Matthew Tkachuk excited to face Rangers

NHL: New York Rangers at Florida Panthers
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no doubt that this will be a heavyweight matchup as two division winners will square off for the right to represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Final.

The Blueshirts finished first in the Metropolitan Division and won the Presidents’ Trophy on the strength of 55 wins and 114 points. They swept the Washington Capitals in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and defeated the Carolina Hurricanes in six games in the Eastern Conference Second Round.

Meanwhile, the Panthers won the Atlantic Division with 110 points and eliminated the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games before knocking off the Bruins in six.

When Tkachuk was asked his thoughts on the Rangers, he was very complimentary.

“Watching their games throughout the playoffs, they have an unbelievable goaltender like us,” he told the TNT panel. “A very well rounded defense like us. And they have some guys up front that can put the puck in the net. I would say their power play is their biggest strength from what I’ve seen so far. I feel like (playing them) will be a combination of Tampa and Boston, but with more of that high-end skill, they’re more like Tampa.”

In goal, Artemi Panarin’s close friend was a little less talkative regarding the Blueshirts.

“It’s a really good team with really good balance,” Sergei Bobrovsky noted. “It’s going to be a fun challenge.”

Bobrovsky, is 8-3 this postseason with a 2.51 GAA and .896 save percentage. He and Panarin were teammates on the Columbus Blue Jackets for two seasons (2017-18 to 2018-19)

When Panthers head coach Paul Maurice was asked about facing the Rangers, he simply shook his head and said, “I’m not doing anything yet. I need a day off.”

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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