Florida Panthers vs. Boston Bruins Recap: 03/26/2024

Bennett and Lindholm fight in the 2nd period. (AP Photo/Rhona Wise)

The Atlantic Division showdown for first place didn’t disappoint Tuesday night. Florida took on the Boston Bruins at home in what could be a preview of a Playoff Series in a month’s time. It’s no secret that there’s no love lost between these teams, especially after how the playoffs ended last season for Boston. Florida was in control for most of the game, but a couple of unfortunate defensive plays and ill-timed penalties gave Boston the win. The loss stings, but there were good things to take away from it: Barkov and Forsling were back in the lineup, Balinskis is playing well and making an impact on the PK unit, and the 5v5 scoring is getting better. There were also plenty of penalties to go around on both sides, with a combined 36 PIM. Despite losing, there was a solid effort from the team and they’re playing at a level that’s ready for the playoffs.

Barkov and Forsling Back:

Two key pieces that have been out of the lineup were Barkov and Forsling. Barkov’s presence was felt immediately as his line started the game and scored just 27 seconds into the match. Barkov’s been a dominating force in the faceoff dots which has been sorely missed over the last few games. Barkov’s passing and puck handling had also been missed as he’s so consistent and reads the game so well to set his linemates up for success. Barkov’s leadership is also a game-changer for Florida, and while Tkachuk has done a good job stepping up, it’s always best to have your Captain on the ice. Florida’s top defenseman, Gustav Forsling, was also back after being out with an illness. He plays heavy minutes for the Cats and makes great defensive plays that disrupt the other side. Forsling played nearly 25 minutes Tuesday night with 2 hits and a blocked shot. Forsling covers a lot of ice, and his ability to break up chances for the opposition shouldn’t be underestimated. Having both of them back into the lineup brings Florida one step closer to being the nearly unstoppable team fans saw in February.

Balinskis Making An Impact:

Balinskis has taken his opportunity and ran with it. He’s been playing with Mikkola, and the pair have done well together. He’s made some great defensive plays to break up passes or block shots from opponents. Balinskis has also earned himself time on the secondary PK Unit where he plays with Barkov, Reinhart, and OEL. With Ekblad’s return looming, Balinskis is making a great case for himself to be in the lineup next season. He also adds great depth to the Florida defense. While playing in Charlotte, he’s had 3 goals and 18 assists in 35 games. His 21 points in the AHL puts him above both Kulikov (17) and Mikkola (13) on the Panther roster. While Balinskis may not be with Florida for the Playoffs if everyone is healthy, he’s an impactful callup and slots in nicely to the Cats’ defense for added depth.

Fight Club:

There was no shortage of animosity between Florida and Boston. Fans in attendance got their money’s worth with the amount of fighting and penalties that got called. Three power plays for Florida and four for Boston but only one goal of the seven total got scored on the man advantage. Boston hasn’t let the playoffs from last season go, and players went after Tkachuk at any chance they got. More than one full team fight broke, but the one-on-one fights were between Bennett and Lindholm and Mikkola and Marchand. Bennett & Lindholm both got 5-minute majors for fighting, while Mikkola & Marchand were each given double minors for roughing and cross-checking. The majority of the 2nd period was spent on special teams as the penalty box just became a revolving door with players in and out for the whole first half of the period. Florida was actually the better 5v5 team but gave up a power play goal and a goal that got an unlucky bounce off a stake that resulted in a Bruins win. The Panthers take on the New York Islanders on Thursday in Sunrise.

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