Matthew Tkachuk needs to step up big time in Game 3

Florida Panthers, Matthew Tkachuk (Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)
Florida Panthers, Matthew Tkachuk (Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports) /

Florida Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk needs to say on the ice and out of the penalty box if this team plans on winning Game 3.

Matthew Tkachuk has 22 points so far in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs. But in the previous two games, he racked up an inexcusable 36 penalty minutes. And when you do the math, that’s 30% of the 120 minutes between Games 1 and 2 that Tkachuk has spent in the box.

That might be okay if you’re a fourth liner who sees between 12 and 14 minutes of total ice time, if that, but when you were traded to virtually become the missing puzzle piece for the franchise, you can’t keep landing in the penalty box. It’s going to inevitably hurt your team.

And given how poorly the Panthers have played over the past four periods, where they have been outscored 10-2, you can argue that being sent to the box for 36 minutes over the previous two games, with all of that coming over the past four frames, it’s safe to say Tkachuk has hurt his team.

Florida Panthers need Matthew Tkachuk to step up in Game 3

So far, Matthew Tkachuk has led the Panthers in points in both the regular season (109) and in the playoffs (22). And at this point, the team needs him more than anyone else to keep cool, and just set up scoring opportunities.

Before the Stanley Cup Finals, Tkachuk logged 24 penalty minutes in 16 games. And is it any coincidence that Florida pulled off three straight upsets against the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Carolina Hurricanes?

This article isn’t saying that the Panthers shouldn’t play physically. They need to, as it’s been an important part of their game all season. But Tkachuk can’t be the one racking up penalty minutes. That job needs to go to another player, or else this will be a short series for the Panthers.

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Down 2-0, Florida still has a chance to bounce back. But if Tkachuk continues to play the way he has, then it will be next to impossible to climb out of a 3-0 deficit against the Vegas Golden Knights.