The Florida Panthers showed why they were the Presidents’ Trophy winner by taking their first-round series against the Washington Capitals four games to two. This is Florida’s first playoff series win since June of 1996, in which they beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games to claim the Eastern Conference title and move on to the Stanley Cup Final.
Of course, it was all a team effort to get to this point, but the one player who was the best for the Panthers in their series against the Capitals was undoubtedly forward Carter Verhaeghe.
Verhaeghe Has Come In Clutch
When the lights shined the brightest, Verhaeghe stepped up throughout the first round. Through all six games played, he had six goals and six assists, making him the scoring leader on the team in the playoffs with 12 total points. This includes three game-winning goals, with one of those being the overtime winner in Game 6 that sent them on to the second round. In addition, he managed to fight through a lingering injury to be in the lineup for the series-clinching game.
“I’m sure they’re ecstatic for him,” Brunette said when asked about Verhaeghe’s post-game reception in the locker room. “They knew he was not at 100%, but he dug in deep and found a way to get it done.”Florida Panthers’ head coach Andrew Brunette on Carter Verhaeghe playing in Game 6
In addition, he set a new franchise record for most points in a playoff game with five (two goals, three assists) in Game 5, originally set by Ray Sheppard with four (one goal, three assists). The toughness and the talent he showed throughout the series made him an extremely valuable asset for the Panthers in an attempt to make a deep playoff run.
Verhaeghe’s Playoff History Shaped Him for These Moments
In his rookie year in the 2019-20 season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, he got valuable playoff experience by playing in eight playoff games, including three Stanley Cup Final games. He only tallied one point through those games, but it would lay out the groundwork for what to expect in the future.
In his first season with the Panthers in 2020-21, Verhaeghe was reintroduced to the brutality of the postseason, as he tallied three points (two goals, one assist) in six games against his former team. Although the series ended in a terrible way, the valuable experience he received has clearly translated into top minutes in crucial moments. As a result, he has a chance to get back at the Bolts and get his revenge in the upcoming second round.
Will Verhaeghe Repeat His Performance in the Second Round?
The second round is a whole new animal for the current Panthers roster, and the team’s first since its magical Stanley Cup run in 1996.
Related: Panthers’ Bobrovsky Has Been Electric for Round One
As previously mentioned, Verhaeghe’s valuable playoff lessons came in at huge moments throughout the series to help the Panthers get out of the first round for the first time in 26 years. However, Tampa still may be in their heads rent-free, and the Cats have some problems they would like to fix themselves. For example, they went 0-for-18 on the power play the entire series, and allowed at least one power-play goal to the Capitals in every game. With the lethality of the Bolts’ offensive attack, they cannot afford to make those same mistakes. But this is a new season, and as shown from the regular season and beyond, the Panthers and Verhaeghe appear to be up to the task.