The Florida Panthers are back in the Eastern Conference Finals. Florida defeated the Boston Bruins in Game 6 on Friday night to make the Conference Finals for the second year in a row. Star forwards Matthew Tkachuk and Aleksander Barkov have helped Florida reach this point. But in Tkachuk's mind, his teammate is on another level.

Barkov did not record a point in the deciding Game 6. Meanwhile, Tkachuk recorded an assist on Gustav Forsling's game-winner in the third period. But the Panthers captain scored eight points in six games against Boston. This includes a four-point performance against the Bruins in Game 2.

On Friday night, Tkachuk took time to speak of his captain. And he gave Barkov the highest praise one could offer a player in the NHL. “He’s the best player in the world right now,” the Panthers star said, via Florida's senior digital content manager Jameson Olive.

Aleksander Barkov, Panthers eliminate Bruins

he Florida Panthers congratulate each other after defeating the Boston Bruins in game six of the second round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden.
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Panthers and Bruins played an extremely close Game 6. Boston had home-ice advantage and everything to play for. And they got off on the right foot in this contest. Forward Pavel Zacha scored his first career playoff goal to give Boston a massive 1-0 lead. It was a lead they would take into the locker room.

But the Panthers weren't going to roll over. They fought hard for an equalizer in the second period. Eventually, they got the goal they needed. Forward Anton Lundell scored his second of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to tie the game. Neither team could break the deadlock in the middle frame. The final period was any team's for the taking.

However, it seemed as if an extra period of hockey would be required. Boston nor Florida could break through, with both goalies standing tall. That was until the final minute and a half of the third period. Panthers defender Gustav Forsling found a rebound in front of the net and took a shot. It hit Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman, but went into the net.

The Panthers held the fort down after that. Matthew Tkachuk and Aleksander Barkov watched as the clock ticked down to zero. Florida advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second year in a row. And they have a date with another Original Six team in the next round.

Rangers await Florida in East Final

The Panthers defeated their intra-state rival Tampa Bay Lightning in round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And they took care of the Bruins on Friday night. Now, they will head over to the Big Apple as they take on the New York Rangers. It's a Rangers team Florida certainly can't afford to underestimate.

New York won the Presidents Trophy as the best regular season team this season. In round one, they drew the Washington Capitals. Washington made the playoffs thanks to their tiebreaker advantage over the Detroit Red Wings. But they couldn't stand up to the Rangers, as they were swept in four games.

In the second round, they took on the Carolina Hurricanes. The Panthers met the Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Finals last season. Rod Brind'Amour and his team wanted to return and almost did. After going down 3-0, the Hurricanes won their next two games. But the Rangers mounted a wild third-period comeback on Thursday to end Carolina's season.

The Rangers have incredible scoring depth. New York has five players with 10 or more points in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Mika Zibanejad and Vincent Trocheck each lead the way with 14. Florida has similar depth, with three 10+ point scorers, and another player with nine points.

Aleksander Barkov and Matthew Tkachuk have helped get the Panthers back to the Eastern Conference Finals. But their work is far from over. The Panthers and Rangers begin their quest for the East crown on Wednesday in New York.