The Vegas Golden Knights took home the 2023 Stanley Cup on Tuesday night. That means that no competitive advantage remains to be gained and all of the playoff injury horror stories can now be made public.
Perhaps the biggest of all those stories pertains to Florida Panthers superstar Matthew Tkachuk. Tkachuk played sparingly in Florida’s Game Four loss to Vegas and missed Game Five altogether and now we know why.
He had a broken freakin’ sternum.
After the Game Five loss ended the 2022-23 season, Panthers head coach Paul Maurice filled the media in on some of the hard-to-hear details about what Tkachuk played through. It turns out Tkachuk sustained the injury during the Final in Florida’s Game Three win and it took a village to get him on the ice for the next game.
“It’s his collarbone, sternum, clavicle, SI joint [are the words] that I think that I heard,” Maurice said. “He’ll heal fine from it. He got into the next game and because he is so smart he can find a way around the ice. I think he had three of our best chances to score but he couldn’t do the things that he can do to finish.
“He didn’t dress himself for the game,” he continued. “Somebody helped him get his gear on. Somebody tied his skates. Somebody put his sweater on for him. The next day when he came in he was in significant pain so there wasn’t really a question on whether he’d be able to play or not [in Game Five].”
The play in question that took Tkachuk out happened with 14:05 left in the first period of Game Three.
Vegas’ Keegan Kolesar lined Tkachuk up in the Panthers zone and absolutely flattened him. Tkachuk tried to get up, stumbled back down to the ice, and needed assistance from one of the referees to get back to the bench.
Tkachuk somehow returned from the hit and managed to score a late third period goal to send the game to overtime, where Carter Verhaeghe gave Florida their only victory in the series.
In the postseason, just like the regular season, Tkachuk was far and away Florida’s leading scorer. In 20 games, he recorded 24 points (11g, 13a).
“Not something I’ve dealt with before,” Tkachuk said in his Breakdown Day interview on Thursday. “The next few days were pretty tough. Just getting in and out of bed. Needed help getting onto the table to get treatment. Everybody played a huge part in getting me to play that game. My brother was staying with me and had to get me out of bed and get me dressed.
“I’m happy I was able to attempt playing in that game but I knew I wasn’t myself,” he continued. “It’s hard to play when there are twelve better options than me for forwards at that point. I tried to give everything I can. I can hold my head high. I did everything possible to try and play.”
To say the Panthers were banged up at the end of the series would be an understatement. Maurice and the players themselves revealed the extent of the carnage in their locker room postgame.
Outside of Tkachuk, Aaron Ekblad (separated shoulder, torn oblique, broken foot); Brandon Montour (torn labrum); Radko Gudas (high ankle sprain); Eetu Luostarinen (broken tibia); Sam Bennett (shoulder injury) all soldiered through serious health issues.
Screenshot via Florida Panthers/YouTube
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