Rangers to face Panthers in Eastern Conference Final

NHL: Florida Panthers at New York Rangers
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The first place team in the Metropolitan Division and the the top team from the Atlantic Division will meet in the 2024 Eastern Conference Final when the New York Rangers play the Florida Panthers.

Simply, this is a true battle pitting two of the best teams in the entire NHL, with the winner advancing to the Stanley Cup Final.

The Rangers finished first in the Metro and were the top team overall in the League this season with a franchise record 55 wins and 114 points. The Presidents’ Trophy winners swept the Washington Capitals in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and defeated the Carolina Hurricanes in six hard-fought games in the Eastern Conference Second Round.

They will be playing in their second conference final in three seasons and fifth since 2012.

The Rangers have home-ice advantage and will host Game 1 in the best-of-7 series on Wednesday, May 22, at Madison Square Garden.

The Panthers were four points behind the Rangers in the overall regular-season standings, and finished first in the Atlantic, one point ahead of the Boston Bruins. Florida knocked off the Tampa Bay Lighting in five games in the first round of the playoffs and defeated the Bruins 2-1 in Game 6 of their second-round series on Friday.

It is the second straight conference final for the Panthers, who swept the Hurricanes in 2023 before losing to the Vegas Golden Knights in five games in the Stanley Cup Final last season. Two seasons ago, they won the Presidents’ Trophy for having the best regular-season record in the NHL.

This will be the second postseason meeting all-time between the Rangers and Panthers. The Rangers eliminated the Panthers in five games in the 1997 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

Related: Rangers vs. Panthers: schedule, results, TV info for Eastern Conference Final

Rangers to play Panthers in Eastern Conference Final

NHL: Florida Panthers at New York Rangers
Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers were 1-2-0 against the Panthers this season. Their lone win was a 4-3 shootout victory at The Garden on March 23. They also lost 4-3 in Florida on Dec. 29 and 4-2 at MSG on March 4.

Artemi Panarin had three goals and four points, and Vincent Trocheck had four assists, in three games against the Panthers. This will be the second straight playoff series where Trocheck is facing a former team after he helped the Rangers eliminate the Hurricanes.

Trocheck is tied for the Rangers lead with 14 points ( six goals, eight assists) in 10 postseason games. Mika Zibanejad (three goals, 11 assists) also has 14 points. Chris Kreider leads New York with seven goals after he scored a hat trick in the decisive Game 6 against the Hurricanes on Thursday.

The Panthers were led by Sam Reinhart in the season series against the Rangers. The forward, who scored an NHL career-high 57 goals this season had four goals and five points against New York. Aleksander Barkov had five assists for Florida.

In the playoffs, Matthew Tkachuk leads the Panthers with 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) and Barkov has 13 points (five goals, eight assists).

The goalie matchup pits two of the best in the business. Igor Shesterkin of New York is a former Vezina Trophy winner who’s 8-2 in the postseason with a 2.40 goals-against average and .923 save percentage. Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky is a two-time Vezina winner, who is 8-3 in these playoffs with a 2.51 GAA and .896 save percentage.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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