SYC Barkov Bobrovsky tv tonight

The Florida Panthers are one victory from winning the Stanley Cup for the first time.

They have four chances to earn that win, starting with Game 4 at Rogers Place on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; ABC, ESPN+, SN, TVAS, CBC). Only one team ever has come back from a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-7 Final and that was the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1942.

So now is as good a time as any to start talking about who has been the Conn Smythe-worthy player for the Panthers. The Conn Smythe Trophy is awarded to the MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, not just the Final.

The Panthers have had a ton of big contributors during their journey to the precipice of a championship, but it is widely acknowledged to be a two-player race between captain Aleksander Barkov, their top-line center, and Sergei Bobrovsky, their brilliant goaltender.

Which player is more deserving of the 2024 Conn Smythe Trophy and the honor of becoming the seventh winner born outside of North America in the 59-year history of the trophy? That's the question before editor in chief Bill Price and senior writer Dan Rosen in this edition of State Your Case.

Price: This is not a knock on Barkov, who might be the most underrated, under-appreciated player in NHL history and is certainly a huge reason why the Panthers are one win from the Stanley Cup. But when it comes to these playoffs, Bobrovsky is the MVP. Yes, he has an amazing team in front of him, but he has been there to make the big save again and again. He set the tone for the Panthers' postseason run in Game 2 of the first round when he made a spectacular behind-the-back, lunging arm save to stop Matt Dumba of the Tampa Bay Lightning from scoring. He carried that into the second round against the Boston Bruins and seemed to get stronger in the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers. Perhaps his biggest save of this entire postseason came in Game 4 against New York. With the Rangers leading the series 2-1 and leading the game 1-0, he got just a piece of a shot from Mika Zibanejad that would have given New York a 2-0 lead. The Panthers rallied to win the game and the series. As for this Cup Final, he’s been unreal, with a .953 save percentage, a 1.33 goals-against average and one shutout. Just incredible.

Rosen: This is not a knock on Bill, who has covered the Panthers in three of their four rounds in the playoffs and obviously has a great understanding of the team they are and what makes them run. But when it comes to these playoffs, Barkov so very clearly has been Florida's most valuable and impactful player. Bobrovsky has been brilliant in three games during the Stanley Cup Final, but I'll argue that in the second and third rounds he wasn't even the best goalie on the ice. He was good, but the Bruins' Jeremy Swayman was better in the second round and the Rangers' Igor Shesterkin was better in the Eastern Conference Final. They had to be better because of players like Barkov doing everything through 200 feet to protect and insulate Bobrovsky and to create the offense needed for the Panthers to move on. I can get to Barkov's offense later; I think his defensive play is paramount. He's led the charge in Florida holding the Lightning's Nikita Kucherov, the Bruins' David Pastrnak, the Rangers' Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider, and the Oilers' Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Zach Hyman and Evan Bouchard to zero 5-on-5 goals during the playoffs. It's a team accomplishment and Bobrovsky certainly plays a role in that, but Barkov has been the driving force behind it with his ability to shut down the opposition's best forwards and at the same time drive Florida's offense, which he has done as its leading scorer in the playoffs with 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists).

Price: Again, this is not a slight on Barkov. I agree, he has been amazing, but the Conn Smythe Trophy almost always goes to a player on the team that wins the Cup, and if the Panthers defeat the Oilers in the Final, the biggest reason is Bobrovsky. The Panthers defense was not great in Game 1, but Bobrovsky was there to make 32 saves for the shutout. The Panthers played the final 9:28 of Game 2 without Barkov, and once again it was Bobrovsky shutting the door. And in Game 3, perhaps his best of this playoffs, he made 32 saves. Sure, he allowed three goals, but one bounced in off a defenseman's shoulder and one came on a breakaway. Perhaps the biggest play of the series to this point is the save he made on Oilers forward Ryan McLeod in the closing minutes of Game 3 when the Panthers were clinging to a 4-3 lead. He may not have been as much of a difference in the earlier rounds than Barkov, but he's been, unquestionably, the Panthers' best player through three games of the Final.

Rosen: But that's my point, and why I think it's Barkov's award to win. The first three rounds matter. It's a trophy for the entire playoffs, not just the Cup Final. If it was just the Cup Final, Bobrovsky would be the clubhouse leader, and that's with Barkov already having four points (one goal, three assists) in three games. That's with Barkov driving the Panthers' overall game in Game 3 by picking Bouchard's pocket and setting up the first goal, and scoring the fourth goal. No question Bobrovsky is the biggest reason the Panthers are up 3-0, but Barkov is the biggest reason the Panthers are even in the Stanley Cup Final and he's a big enough reason, probably second to Bobrovsky, for why they're up 3-0. He's a point-per-game player on his offensive merits, but when you take into account all the elite point-per-game players, or better than point-per-game players, he shuts down, his value essentially doubles. Put it all together, and since April 20 he has been the most impactful player to his team's success in the NHL. That's enough to make him the most valuable player of the playoffs.

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