Aleksander Barkov had the best game of his NHL playoff career on Monday

The Florida Panthers are moving on as a result of Aleksander Barkov's big night.
Tampa Bay Lightning v Florida Panthers - Game Five
Tampa Bay Lightning v Florida Panthers - Game Five / Joel Auerbach/GettyImages

The Tampa Bay Lightning are one of the top teams in the league when you think about the last decade or so. They've been in the Stanley Cup Final four times, won two of them, and have produced a handful of Hall of Famers during that stretch.

With that in mind, the Florida Panthers made easy work of them this year. It is a situation where the up-and-coming Panthers are a better hockey team now.

Florida won the President's Trophy in 2022, advanced to the Stanley Cup Final in 2024 (lost to the Vegas Golden Knights), and is now looking to finally win the whole thing in 2024.

One of the big reasons that they are super-elite now is their captain Aleksander Barkov. He has been one of the best two-way centers in the NHL for years now. He already has one Selke Trophy on his resume and will add a second later this summer at the NHL Awards.

The Panthers are onto the next round thanks in part to Aleksander Barkov

His playoff numbers offensively haven't been incredible. He is one of the elite players in the regular season that hasn't been amazing once the stakes get higher.

After getting plenty of playoff experience last season, he seems to be turning a corner with that stereotype. He had the best playoff game of his NHL career on Monday night when the Panthers eliminated the Lightning.

For the first time, he had two goals in a playoff game. It is also the first time that he had a three-point game in the playoffs. The Lightning had no answer for him.

Now, it is time for Barkov to keep that going. He now has five points in the five games they've played in the playoffs.

With stars like Carter Berhaeghe and Matthew Tkachuk already up to nine points in the playoffs, Barkov can just continue playing his game. That means playing solid in the offensive zone while shutting down stars on the opposition.

If he does play like this going forward and everyone else around him keeps up, the Panthers will make another deep run.

Barkov is one of the best players in the NHL but he needs to show why in the playoffs as he did in Monday night's game.