Aaron Ekblad obviously would have loved for the Panthers to win Tuesday night, play two more games and ultimately hoist the Stanley Cup.
But a silver lining to the 2023 Cup Final ending early for the Florida defenseman is he finally can take stress off his body and embark on the road to recovery.
An NHL tradition like no other is the injury revelations that come to life after a team’s season comes to a close. For the Panthers, that finish line arrived in Game 5 against the Las Vegas Golden Knights, who were able to claim hockey’s most coveted hardware in front of their hometown fans. And after the final game of the 2022-23 season, Florida head coach Paul Maurice ran through Ekblad’s laundry list of injuries.
“Aaron Ekblad broke his foot in the Boston series, popped his shoulder out twice, passed a concussion test, tore his oblique and went up the ice the other night and drove the puck into the offensive zone — we tied the game — and he scored tonight,” Maurice told reporters, per a video shared by CBS Sports.
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The Panthers will need Ekblad to nurse all of those ailments and ultimately return to full strength if they want to return to the Cup Final next season. Florida’s so-so future prospects are reflected at the sportsbooks, where oddsmakers don’t have the Panthers among the teams with the shortest odds to win the 2024 title.
Featured image via Lucas Peltier/USA TODAY Sports Images