Aleksander Barkov helped lead the Florida Panthers to the Stanley Cup Final one year ago. It was a remarkable run for Florida. They barely snuck into the Stanley Cup Playoffs and defeated a 65-win Boston Bruins team in round one. Then, they won eight of their next nine games. However, things came apart in the Final against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Florida never had a fighting chance against Vegas. They were dominated for much of the series. In fact, the Golden Knights clinched the Stanley Cup by winning Game 5 9-3 on home ice. This year, though, the Panthers are looking to avoid fate repeating itself. And this loss fuels Barkov and his teammates this postseason.

“Sometimes when you go all the way to the finals and you're this close and you don't win it, you're just like, ‘you're never going to win it,'” Barkov told on Monday. “I think after it happened to us last year, every single guy in the room, we just knew we needed to work a little harder and everyone did. Everyone came to camp better than ever before and it just carried into the season. We knew that we can do it, we're close, and everyone got better. And here we are again, we are really close.”

Aleksander Barkov leads Panthers once again

Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov (16) celebrates with Florida Panthers defenseman Brandon Montour (62) after scoring during the third period in game two of the second round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amerant Bank Arena.
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Barkov turned in a fine performance in last year's Stanley Cup Playoffs. He scored five goals and 16 points in 21 games for Florida during their run. He was one of eight Panthers players who scored 10 or more points during the 2023 postseason. This year, though, he's taken his game up a notch.

In 2024, the Panthers captain has matched his five-goal output from last year in just 11 games. He has 13 points throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs, ranking second among Florida skaters. This includes a huge four-point performance against the Bruins in Game 3 of their second-round series.

The Florida star is a major reason they have reached this point. They defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in round one before getting rid of Boston in six games. Now, Aleksander Barkov and the Panthers are one step away from the Stanley Cup Final. But they have to go through the Presidents Trophy winners to get there.

Florida, Rangers set for East Final clash

The Panthers are set to take on the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals. New York had the best regular season finish of any team in the league this year. And they have had an incredible playoff run in their own right. In fact, the Blueshirts have lost just two games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs so far.

The Rangers first faced the Washington Capitals in round one. Washington made it through a tiebreaker with the Detroit Red Wings. New York took care of them in quick order, sweeping the Capitals in four games. In round two, they took on the Carolina Hurricanes. They seemed destined for another sweep when they won the first three games of this series, as well.

However, the Hurricanes mounted a bit of a comeback. They avoided the sweep with a win in Game 4. And in Game 5, they took advantage of New York's third-period implosion to force Game 6. Unfortunately, the magic ran out. Carolina squandered a 3-1 lead in the third period and were eliminated on home ice.

The Panthers understand that the Rangers are a quality team. But they believe in their work ethic and skill heading into this series. And they are remaining focused on the task at hand. “We're close, but we take it a day at a time,” Aleksander Barkov said, via “We don't think too much ahead. It's a day at a time and we're ready for the next challenge.”