Coming into Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals, all the pressure is on the road team. The Golden Knights have thoroughly dominated the vast majority of the first 4 games of this series. Even after stealing Game 3 in OT, the Panthers couldn’t use that game as a springboard to tie the series. The Golden Knights scored early and played ferocious defense on the road.
Adding to the pressure for the Panthers is the injury to leftwinger Matthew Tkachuk. Tkachuk suffered an apparent shoulder injury in Game 3. In Game 4, he played but it was apparent that he wasn’t 100%. Now, it’s up in the air as to whether or not he’s going to be able to play in Game 5. Coach Paul Maurice hasn’t said whether or not Tkachuk will play tonight. However, regardless of Tkachuk’s playing status, other leaders on the Panthers have to step up. Whether it’s Carter Verhaeghe, Aleksander Barkov, Eric Staal, or someone else, the Panthers need to have someone step up with a heroic performance to bring the series back to Florida.
Of course, it’s not just about the offense. Sergei Bobrovsky wasn’t bad in Game 4. He saved 28 out of the 31 shots against him in Game 4. He also pitched a shutout after giving up 3 goals in the first 30 minutes or so, which gave the Panthers a chance to mount a comeback. It will be harder on the road, and we’ve seen his struggles on the road in this series. However, for the Panthers to have a shot tonight, he has to be better. Sometimes a goalie needs to deliver an epic performance, and there’s no better time than tonight to do that.
We’ve already seen the Panthers come back from a 3-1 deficit. They did it against a historically good Bruins team in the first round of the playoffs. We’ve seen this team mount unlikely comebacks and not give up, even when their backs are against the wall. The Golden Knights won’t have it easy tonight, that’s for sure.