The Florida Panthers defeated the Boston Bruins on Friday night. As a result, they have returned to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2024. Awaiting them in the next round is the Presidents Trophy-winning New York Rangers. And it's a matchup that Florida star Matthew Tkachuk cannot wait for.

Tkachuk spoke with the media following his team's win on Friday night. Inevitably, he was asked about facing the Blueshirts with a trip to the Stanley Cup Final on the line. The Panthers star had a rather humorous but straightforward take on the upcoming battle with the Rangers.

“It’s playoff hockey in New York. It’s a dream. … Conference Final at MSG? That’s just so cool. We’re excited to start that on Wednesday. Hopefully the hotel doesn’t pull the fire alarm on us,” Tkachuk said, via Panthers senior digital content manager Jameson Olive.

Panthers make East Final again

Florida Panthers left wing Matthew Tkachuk (19) gets ready for a face off during the second period in game six of the second round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Panthers were a Cinderella story in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Matthew Tkachuk had a wild postseason, scoring 11 goals and 24 points. Florida snatched a series victory from the Bruins in the first round. And went on to win eight of their next nine games to make the Stanley Cup Final. However, the shoe is on the other foot this year.

Florida won the Atlantic Division over the Bruins in 2024. They met the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Before 2024, Florida had never eliminated the Lightning from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But that changed as the Panthers defeated Tampa Bay in five games.

They met the Bruins in the second round this time around. And it was Boston who came out punching in this series. They won Game 1 by an emphatic 5-1 score. Unfortunately for them, the momentum didn't have a knock-on effect. Florida won the next three games, with two of them being blowouts. The Bruins picked up a close Game 5 victory but fell on Friday night after a late third-period goal from Gustav Forsling.

This is the third time the Panthers have made the Eastern Conference Finals. They made it back during the 1996 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Florida faced the Pittsburgh Penguins that year. And they defeated Pittsburgh in seven games before losing to the Colorado Avalanche in the Stanley Cup Final.

Rangers bounce back from 2023 disappointment

The Rangers had high hopes for their run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season. But things never got off the ground. New York won the first two games of their series with the New Jersey Devils. But New Jersey won four of the next five to move on to the second round.

As mentioned, the Blueshirts won the Presidents Trophy this year. They finished with the best regular season record in the NHL. As a result, they will have home-ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In round one, they had a matchup with the Washington Capitals, who they swept.

In round two, they took on the Carolina Hurricanes. The Rangers almost had a flash of deja vu with the way things went against Carolina. New York won the first three games of this series. One of those games was a double overtime thriller in Game 2. But Carolina picked up two wins on the trot to force Game 6.

The Hurricanes raced out to a 3-1 lead in Game 6, as well. But the Blueshirts didn't roll over in this game. Chris Kreider scored a natural hat trick in the third period. And the Rangers went on to win Game 6 5-3 to eliminate the Hurricanes and set up this matchup with the Panthers.

New York has been to the Eastern Conference Finals in recent years. In fact, they went in 2022, facing the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, the Rangers fell to Tampa Bay. New York also went in 2012, 2014, and 2015. They won in 2014 but fell short of winning the Stanley Cup against the Los Angeles Kings.