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2023-24 ECQF: Panthers vs. Lightning

Who wins?  

14 members have voted

  1. 1. Well?

    • Panthers in 4
    • Panthers in 5
    • Panthers in 6
    • Panthers in 7
    • Lightning in 4
    • Lightning in 5
    • Lightning in 6
    • Lightning in 7

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(D1) Florida Panthers vs. (WC1) Tampa Bay Lightning

Screenshot 2024-04-19 at 4.11.57 PM.png


Panthers: 52-24-6, 110 points

Lightning: 45-29-8, 98 points


FLA: 2-1-0, TBL: 1-2-0



Panthers: Forward Sam Reinhart had a breakout season scoring 57 goals, which shattered his previous NHL career high of 33 in 2021-22. He scored 27 of Florida's 63 power-play goals and was tied with forward Matthew Tkachuk with 55 even-strength points. Among those to play at least 60 games, he led the NHL with a 24.5 percent shooting percentage. He's also defensive-minded, ranking second among Panthers forwards in plus-minus (plus-29) behind captain Aleksander Barkov (plus-33).


Lightning: How could it be anyone but Nikita Kucherov? The forward has had a season for the ages, leading the NHL with a career-high 144 points (44 goals, 100 assists). He now has the three most productive seasons in Lightning history (128 points in 2018-19, 113 in 2022-23). He's the first Eastern Conference player with at least 144 points in a season since Mario Lemieux (161) and Jaromir Jagr (149) for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1995-96. How dominant is Kucherov? He has 54 more points than Tampa Bay's second-leading scorer, Brayden Point (90).



Panthers: It's almost hard to believe that Alex Lyon and not Sergei Bobrovsky began the 2023 playoffs as the starter. Once Bobrovsky was in goal, he dominated, going 12-6 with a 2.78 goals-against average, .915 save percentage and one shutout, including a 12-game run between Game 5 of the first round against the Bruins and Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Hurricanes, when he faced 465 shots and made 438 saves to go 11-1 with a 1.95 GAA and .942 save percentage. He followed that up this season by going 36-17-4 with a 2.37 GAA, .915 save percentage and six shutouts in 58 games. His backup was Anthony Stolarz, who was 16-7-2 with a 2.03 GAA .925 save percentage and two shutouts in 27 games (24 starts).


Lightning: In a recent poll among NHL players, they were asked which goalie they would want on their team if they had to win one game. Almost half (46.92 percent) picked Vasilevskiy. And why not? In 110 postseason games, he's 65-42 with a 2.27 GAA, .921 save percentage and seven shutouts. Since the Lightning were swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2019 first round, Vasilevskiy is 50-27 with a 2.21 GAA and .924 save percentage in the postseason. When he's on his game, there may not be a better goalie in the League. He has two Stanley Cup titles and three straight trips to the Final to prove it.



Panthers: Florida started the season without injured defensemen Brandon Montour and Aaron Ekblad, but Gustav Forsling held down the fort, led the NHL in plus/minus (plus-56) and ranked ninth in shot-attempts differential (plus-444). The Panthers outscored the Lightning 15-9 and outshot them by an average of 37-25 during the regular season, when Forsling had three points (one goal, two assists). With Tampa Bay often outscoring its problems and lack of depth without injured defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, Florida needs Forsling to help dictate possession dominance early and often and lead the penalty-kill efforts against the best power play in the NHL. -- Pete Jensen


Lightning: Forward Brandon Hagel thrived whether playing on the top line with Kucherov and Point or the second unit with Stamkos, ranking eighth in the NHL in even-strength points (66). Hagel also had NHL career highs in assists (49), points (75) and shots on goal (184). But with limited production over his first two postseasons (11 points in 29 games), Tampa Bay will count on Hagel to provide more depth scoring to offset Florida's offense, which was second in shots on goal per game (33.7) behind the Edmonton Oilers (33.9). Hagel had three points (one goal, two assists) in three games against the Panthers this season. -- Pete Jensen



Panthers: Tkachuk plays like Tkachuk. He proved to be the ultimate clutch performer in the run to the Final last season, and it's not a stretch to expect more of the same. Though Reinhart and Bobrovsky will no doubt be in the spotlight for Florida, Tkachuk is the one who makes this team go. And if he gets going, they will advance.


Lightning: Their top players score. When the Lightning lost the first round in six games to the Maple Leafs last season, Kucherov (one), Stamkos and Point (two each) combined for five goals. Anthony Cirelli and Alex Killorn combined for six (three each). If those three can get going, it would spell bad news for Florida.



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This is going to be the series of the first round IMO. These two teams hate each other and its gonna spill out over a nasty, bloody, violent seven-game series. At the end of the day, though, never count out healthy Tkachuk. Panthers in seven.

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