Florida’s Matthew Tkachuk Is the Jimmy Butler of the NHL Playoffs

Tkachuk has 21 goals in 16 games this postseason for the Panthers

Matthew Tkachuk of the Florida Panthers warms up prior to a game.
Matthew Tkachuk is doing a great Jimmy Butler impression.
Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty

Averaging 29.9 points in 15 playoff games for the Heat that have ended with Miami losing just four times this postseason, Jimmy Butler has been the MVP of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference thus far and has his team on the verge of advancing to the NBA Finals for the second time in four seasons.

Butler, who is scoring seven more points per game in the playoffs than he did during the regular season, has been outplaying fellow All-NBA players Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown of the Celtics by a long shot and elevating his teammates, many of whom were undrafted, to heights most thought impossible. Should Miami defeat the Celtics tonight in Boston and advance, they will be just the second No. 8 seed in history to reach the NBA Finals and the first to do it in the play-in era.

Another eighth-seeded Florida team, the Panthers, just punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final last night with a 4-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes — and it was their version of Butler who potted the game-winning goal with 4.9 seconds left.

Matthew Tkachuk, who went to high school in St. Louis with Tatum, has 21 goals in 16 games this postseason and scored three of the four game-winners against the Hurricanes as the Panthers pulled off the four-game sweep.

The Panthers, who qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs by a single point, have captured the Prince of Wales Trophy for the first time since 1996 and Tkachuk, similar to Butler, has been the driving force behind their playoff run. The Panthers were swept by Colorado the last time they played for the Cup, but there’s been no indication that’ll happen against Vegas or Dallas once the Western Conference finals are complete.

“I still think not many people believe,” Tkachuk said. “I mean, the people in this area support and believe in us — but there’s not many people out there that do, still. And we know that we’ve played some really good teams so far in these playoffs and we know that the next team is going to be unbelievable as well. More points, more wins, more whatever. We’ll be the underdog, trying to prove people wrong again.”

Winners of 11 of their last 12 games, the Panthers eliminated three of the league’s top four teams to get to the Cup and the play of Tkachuk is the biggest reason why. If Miami advances, the same can be said for Butler.

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