How an AHL player changed the course of NHL history

The futures of Connor Bedard, the Penguins front office and the Florida Panthers all hinged on the performance of an AHL player.

The Florida Panthers have made buddies during their unexpected journey to the Stanley Cup Final.

Heat star Jimmy Butler wore a Mathew Tkachuk jersey in practice.

PGA champion Brooks Kopeka and other Florida celebrities have banged the pregame drum to excite fans for playoff games.

However, they’ve yet to acknowledge an AHL player that scored a key goal and made this all happen.

It’s Buddy Robinson. The 31-year-old winger is a Chicago Blackhawk. But he spent most of his 2022-23 season with their minor league team, the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL.  Yet he was allowed to play out the parent club’s string of games down the stretch and made the most of his chance on Apr. 11 in Pittsburg.

That night at PPG Paints Arena, the Penguins hosted the Blackhawks with their season hanging in the balance. A Pittsburg victory would put them on the cusp of a postseason berth. A Chicago defeat would give them the second-best odds at the top pick in the upcoming draft.

But by the end of the night, neither fanbase was pleased. At the 10:22 mark of the third period, Robinson scored to give Chicago the lead for good en route to a 5-2 victory.

Nobody knew it then, but that result would change NHL history. A ripple effect was born. It impacted several teams along the way. Let’s dive in:

Blackhawks land Connor Bedard

The Blackhawks’ position in the NHL Draft Lottery would have changed if they lost to the Penguins. However, their win secured the ideal place for them to win the lottery and secure the first overall pick at the 2023 NHL Draft.

They’ll likely choose Connor Bedard. He’s a highly touted prospect who will expedite their rebuild.

Bedard’s stardom will expedite their rebuilding phase. If he lives up to the hype, a new dynasty will take over the NHL soon.

Penguins clean house

The Penguins lost, and their chances of making the postseason decreased.

On April 12th, the Florida Panthers secured their spot and the Islanders knocked out the Penguins for the first time since 2006 by defeating the Montreal Canadiens in their season finale.

It was the end of an era. It was the end of the longest active playoff streak in professional sports.

The Penguins fired three top executives on the first day of the offseason. During the defeat, Brian Burke and Ron Hextall were fired. We’ll get to their replacements shortly.

Maple Leafs self destruct

The Maple Leafs won their first playoff series in 17 years but lost to the Panthers in the second round.

They let go of their general manager, Kyle Dubas. Then, last week, the Penguins hired Dubas as president of hockey operations.

Despite his previous dismissal from the Calgary Flames, Toronto hired Brad Treliving as their new GM.

Panthers upset Bruins, reach Final

The Panthers surprised everyone by reaching the Stanley Cup Final.

They rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to stun the record-setting Boston Bruins, who set the regular season benchmark for wins (65) and points (135).

They conquered the Maple Leafs in five.

They swept the Carolina Hurricanes, who finished second in the league behind Boston.

They’re in the Final for the first time since 1996.

Yes, they’ve earned it. But if not for Buddy Robinson and the Chicago Blackhawks defeating the Penguins on Apr. 11, the Panthers would’ve missed the playoffs. Florida’s 92 points were only one better than Pittsburg’s 91.

Maybe soon, it wouldn’t hurt them to acknowledge their best buddy. How about a thank you note?

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