Panthers
Florida Panthers left wing Ryan Lomberg, second from left, reacts after scoring during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes, Thursday, April 13, 2023, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Panthers start Best of 7 Series against the Bruins

The quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup begins Monday night, as the Florida Panthers take on the Boston Bruins. The Panthers did just enough to get the final wild card spot in this year’s playoffs with 92 points. The Bruins won 65 games in a historic regular season for the team. Both teams possess very talented players who can make big impacts in this series.

Florida Panthers journey to the playoffs

After winning the president’s trophy the previous season, the Panthers struggled for most of the season. When they finished play on January 28 before the all-star break, the Panthers held a 24-22-6 record. Florida could not find much consistency throughout the year.

After a 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators on March 27, head coach Paul Maurice made a change in goal. 30-year-old Alex Lyon, who played in just 24 games in 5 years before the current season, got the call to start in net. Lyon started the last 8 games of the season, and he helped the Panthers gain 13 points in those games to make it in. In those 8 games, Lyon put up a .943 save percentage and a 1.87 GAA. As a result of his form, Lyon will start Game 1 of this series.

Key Factors for the Panthers

Despite a step down from their 4.11 goals per game in the 2021-22 season, the Panthers still averaged 3.51 goals in the regular season, which was sixth in the league. Among the key forwards this season is a new face, forward Matthew Tkachuk. The Panthers acquired Tkachuk in the offseason from the Calgary Flames and extended him for 8 years. Tkachuk did not disappoint, scoring 40 goals and totaling 109 points in his first year in Sunrise.

Forward Carter Verhaeghe led the Panthers in goals with 42 on the season, while getting 73 points in 81 games. Top-line center Aleksander Barkov had 78 points this year, despite missing 14 games due to injury, while Sam Rheinhart plotted 31 goals and 36 assists in 82 games. The top six forwards for the Panthers will be counted on to produce big minutes in the playoffs.

Defense will be a main point of emphasis for the Panthers in the playoffs. Among the 16 teams that made the playoffs, Florida gave up the most goals per game at 3.32 and had the second-lowest penalty kill percentage. There were a few defensemen who played really well, however. Brandon Montour had a breakout season with 73 points with 9.9-point shares. Gustav Forsling had 41 points with 7.3-point shares. Aaron Ekblad had a down regular season, after finishing sixth in the Norris voting the previous season. Ekblad had 38 points with 4.6-point shares, down from 9.5 last season.

Boston Bruins historic season

The Bruins have clicked on offense, defense, and goaltending this season. There has not been a real weakness for the Bruins this season, as they put up 135 points in a full 2022-23 season. The 135 points by the Bruins are the most in a season ever, surpassing 132-point total set by the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens.

The Bruins have been elite on offense this season, as they are second in the NHL in goals scored per game. Their offensive leader is winger David Pastrnak, who set career highs in goals and assists with 61 and 52 respectively. As a result, Pastrnak inked an extension during the season that nets him $90M for the next 8 years.

In addition, Brad Marchand had 67 points in 73 games for Boston this season. Captain Patrice Bergeron continued his elite two-way play with 58 points and could end up winning his sixth Selke trophy for this season’s efforts. The Bruins have balanced scoring throughout their top three lines, which has helped them become an elite offensive team this season.

Although the Bruins have a great offense, their defense might be better. The Bruins had the best penalty kill in the regular season with an 87.3 PK percentage. They also gave up the least amount of goals per game at 2.12.

Two defenders stand out in particular, Charlie McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm. McAvoy finished fourth in the Norris voting the previous year and had another great season. He finished with 52 points in 67 games and 8.8-point shares.  Meanwhile, Lindholm had a great season in his first full season as a Bruin. He finished with 53 points and 10.9-point shares in 80 games.

The Bruins goaltending has also been exceptional this season. Both Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman have done well no matter who has started for Boston. According to MoneyPuck.com, Ullmark is second among goalies with 42.4 Goals saved above expected, while Swayman is eighth with 24.0.

Despite all of this, the Bruins are currently facing a big challenge before game 1.

The Bruins certainly have high expectations as the President’s Trophy winners. With the news that has come out about players being sick, they will now have to quickly adjust for the first game. Game 1 starts at 7:30 EST on Monday.

About Matt Rothmann

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