Florida Panthers vs. Boston Bruins Series Recap

Bobrovsky and Swayman in the handshake line following Game 6. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

In a rematch of round 1 from last season, Florida and Boston squared off once again in the playoffs. Boston was looking for redemption after failing to finish off the series when they had a 3-1 lead, and Florida was looking to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for a second straight year. The Panthers had dispatched Tampa Bay in five games while the Bruins series went the full distance, and they came in off an emotional overtime victory. There was a lot of discussion online surrounding this series and the way things played out, especially when it came to the officials and Sam Bennett, who returned in Game 3. Florida completely dominated the Bruins for stretches of the series, and the latter games were tight, with hard-fought wins for both sides. What’s unfortunate is that discourse with this series has been solely about the controversy and virtually nothing about the actual play. Aleksander Barkov played one of his best playoff series, Anton Lundell continues to prove that he’s an important piece of this team, and the Panthers’ depth scoring proved to be too much for the Bruins to handle. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fantastic play of Boston’s Jeremy Swayman. He was easily the best player for the Bruins and the only one that played consistently throughout the series. Swayman came into this series as the best goalie in the playoffs, and he’s the reason why Boston won two games while keeping the last two games close, with just one goal being the deciding factor.

Game 1:

Florida had had a week off between Game 5 of the Tampa series and Game 1 of the Boston series. Meanwhile, Boston was coming into Game 1 off of an emotionally charged Game 7 overtime win against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Boston was also in a playoff rhythm of playing every other day. Florida didn’t look like the team they could be as the puck handling was poor, and the team was coughing up turnovers left and right: several turnovers and an inability to clear their own zone led directly to Boston’s goals. The Panthers as a whole looked like a team that hadn’t played in a while, and the Bruins made them pay for it with a blowout win in Game 1. Tkachuk opened the scoring midway through the second period after Barkov forced a turnover which then passed it to him. He beat Swayman on the stick side and that would be the only goal for Florida. Boston then proceeded to score five unanswered goals, with Geekie, Lohrei, Carlo, Brazeau, and DeBrusk all getting pucks into the back of the net. Sloppy defense and puck handling hurt the Panthers. A couple of bright spots in their game were the penalty kill, the SOG, and being great in the faceoff circle.

Game 2:

Game 2 was quite literally the reverse script of Game 1. Boston scored first and then Florida went on to score six unanswered goals. The Panthers proved that Jeremy Swayman is indeed human and that it’s possible to put more than two goals on the board against him. The physicality picked up in this game, it was high in Game 1 but more so here, with 70 hits for Boston and 76 for the Panthers. The Cats completely dominated this game only allowing 15 SOG for the Bruins while having 33 themselves. Coyle opened the scoring midway through the first period, but Lorentz got Florida on the board to tie the game just under two minutes into the second period. That got a jolt of energy into the players and the crowd and unleashed the Panther offense. Barkov scored eight minutes later to give the Cats a 2-1 lead, and Forsling’s shot beat the buzzer to put the team up 3-1 heading into the second intermission. Luostarinen scored a minute and a half into the third period to put the game out of reach. After that goal at the midway point of the period, things descended into complete chaos. Maroon and Cousins were the first players thrown out with game misconduct. Barkov scored to give Florida the 5-1 lead which led to more fighting, Kulikov, Brazeau, Luostarinen, and Frederic were the next four to get tossed with game misconducts. Montour then scored short-handed, and his celebration was right in Marchand’s face, which set off yet another round of fights with Marchand, McAvoy, Reinhart, and Mikkola getting thrown out. Tkachuk and Pastrnak got into a 1 on 1 fight, with both of them heading to the dressing room afterward. By the time it was all said and done, there was barely anyone left on the benches and seven minutes of the game left to play. Florida took Game 2 with a 6-1 win and Sam Reinhart set a franchise record four assists in a single playoff game.

Game 3:

Emotions were still running hot and high going into Game 3 in Boston. Big news for Florida as Sam Bennett was cleared to play and was back in the lineup. I said that special teams would be the difference in this series, and the Panthers proved that in this game, scoring four goals on six power plays. Bennett made his presence known early delivering a big hit on Pastrnak. Rodrigues got the Panthers on the board first, tapping in a puck over Swayman’s shoulder and having enough ice awareness to keep his stick below the crossbar, negating a possible high stick call that would take the goal off the board. Lorentz got hit with a high stick that drew blood and gave the Cats a four-minute power play. This was the difference maker in this game, as Florida scored on both parts of the double minor. Tarasenko scored first off a great shot from the right-side faceoff dot, and then Verhaeghe tapped in an incredible pass from Barkov that went through traffic. Florida held a 3-0 lead going into the third period. Montour made it 4-0 off another power-play goal, however, instead of descending into fighting like the last game Boston pushed back. The Bruins got two goals back, one from Lauko and one from DeBrusk. Reinhart put away an empty net goal, and Rodrigues scored on a late power play, giving Florida the 6-2 win. However, this game was where the officiating really started to become a talking point. In the third period, there was a confusing goalie interference call on Lauko, and Ekblad had pretty clearly been holding him, but that didn’t get called. While the Lauko penalty did lead to the Montour goal, taking that penalty and goal away wouldn’t have changed the outcome of this game. The other talking point coming out of this game was Sam Bennett’s hit on Brad Marchand in the first period. Plenty of people are split on whether or not Bennett deliberately tried to punch Marchand in the face while bracing to take a hit from him. Depending on the camera angle you look it it both does and doesn’t look like it, it didn’t look like in real time that’s for sure. The other thing to keep in mind is that Marchand was going in for a hit on the side, where Bennett still has a partially injured hand. Bennett wasn’t taking faceoffs and was high-fiving his team with his opposing hand when he did score in a game. During the handshake line following Game 6, it looked like there were no hard feelings between Marchand and Bennett for what happened.

Game 4:

Boston tempers hadn’t calmed down following the Marchand incident in Game 3. Maroon specifically was out looking for Florida players to go fight. The Panthers weren’t taking the bait, however, and frustrated the Bruins further by not engaging. A tough start for the Cats meant that they went into the first intermission down 0-2, with the Bruins getting goals from Pastrnak and Carlo. Pastrnak’s came on the power play, and it was the only power-play goal they’d get for the entire series. A hardworking shift by the fourth line put Anton Lundell in a great position in the offensive zone, he took a sharp angle shot that was near level with the goal and got the puck into the back of the net to cut the deficit to one. Lundell’s stepped up and been a big part of this Florida team and has really elevated his level of play during the playoffs. Florida’s next goal came from Sam Bennett on the power play, which has also been the subject of great controversy and the continuing question of, ‘What is goalie interference?’. Boston had challenged for goalie interference, and the official ruling after review said, “Video review supported the Referees’ call on the ice and that the shove by Florida’s Sam Bennett on Charlie Coyle and the subsequent contact with Jeremy Swayman did not prevent Swayman from playing his position in the crease prior to Bennett’s goal.” The key part of this that most people overlook is that Swayman was able to make the initial save on the first Florida shot and that Bennett’s goal came off a rebound. Per the rules on rebounds and loose pucks, “In a rebound situation, or where a goalkeeper and attacking player(s) are simultaneously attempting to play a loose puck, whether inside or outside the crease, incidental contact with the goalkeeper will be permitted, and any goal that is scored as a result thereof will be allowed.” In this specific instance that seems to be why the goal was upheld. Contrast with the goalie interference on Duclair from the Tampa series, where Duclair’s skate was in the blue paint and made direct contact with Bobrovsky’s glove, preventing him from making a save on the initial Tampa shot. Barkov then made an incredible play and skated his way through three Boston defenders to put the puck in the net for the game-winning goal and a 3-2 win for the Panthers. Okposo, who was playing up on the Barkov line after Reinhart left the game having taken a puck to the face and was bleeding, made a great pass to Barkov at the blue line and allowed that play to develop. For a third straight game, the Panthers suffocated the Bruins and allowed fewer than 20 SOG. Florida headed back to Sunrise with a 3-1 series lead.

Game 5:

Following two very emotionally charged games in Boston clouded over by controversial discourse online, the series headed back to Sunrise. Just like in round one, Florida didn’t close out the series on the first try, and Boston played with a desperation edge that got them the win. Swayman played like a man on a mission to not see his team’s season end just yet, while the Bruins decided to stop trying to fight every Panther player they could and just play a hockey game. It was a hard-fought and grinding game for both sides. Things finally leveled out and the SOG were about even, Boston held the advantage in blocked shots and hits, and Florida held the advantage in the faceoffs. Morgan Geekie used his patience and outwaited Bobrovsky to open the scoring just under five minutes into the first period. Reinhart tied the game six and a half minutes into the second period following what appeared to be a rather spirited talking-to from HC Paul Maurice on the bench. He joked in his post-game interview that he just felt that the team needed some profanity in their lives. McAvoy scored again for the Bruins a minute later and this time Florida challenged for goalie interference. The challenge was unsuccessful, with the video review determining that Bobrovsky’s stick was outside the crease and was knocked out of his hand by his teammate. Florida had their fair chances to tie the game in the third period but Boston and Swayman were locked in and were both blocking shots or saving them to hold onto the one-goal lead for the win to force a Game 6.

Game 6:

Few teams have been as successful as the Panthers have been in TD Garden during the postseason. Heading into Game 6 the Cats had won five straight playoff games in the Boston arena. The Bruins had chances early in the first, and a defensive breakdown, along with a mis-timed aggressive play by Bobrovsky, allowed Zacha to score his first-ever playoff goal. However, after that, Bobrovsky was in the zone and made some fantastic and timely saves for Florida, keeping the game close. This match felt like a goalie fight more than just an elimination hockey game, both goaltenders were playing fantastic. Just under nine minutes into the second period, Verhaeghe made a play on a loose puck that poked it toward Lundell, who buried it into the net to tie the game. Good defense from both teams meant a lot of shots were getting blocked – Florida blocked 23, and Boston blocked 24. The most important blocked shot for the Panthers came from Barkov in the third period, where he blocked a shot with his hand and saved a game-tying goal. Gustav Forsling jumped up into the rush in the final two minutes of regulation and buried a rebound shot without looking at the net. He beat Swayman on the short side, threading the puck through a small gap between Sway’s pad and glove. Forsling said in the post-game interview that he didn’t even see it go in; he saw someone else’s reaction and knew he scored. The Cats have now won six straight playoff games at TD Garden. Swayman got a lot of kudos from the Florida side during the handshake line and it was much deserved, he played a great series. The Panthers advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight year.

My Takeaways:

I think it’s a shame that this series isn’t going to be remembered for the great play that was on the ice. It’s been too overshadowed by the controversies and the lengthy discussions about the officiating. While those discussions are warranted, as there’s been questionable officiating across all the games in the second round, it feels like it takes away from the achievements of the winning team if fans are saying they only won because of the refs. Anton Lundell continues to grow into an incredible player, it’s easy to forget that he’s just 22 years old but he’s blossoming into a great two-way center just like Barkov is. Gustav Forsling made two big goals, a buzzer-beater and a game-winner, and his defense continues to be a major factor on the ice. Barkov and Reinhart are the best forward duo for the Cats – they set franchise history by becoming the first duo to record an even-strength, power-play, and short-handed goal in the same game. Barkov became the third player in franchise history to have eight points over a three-game span. Reinhart’s goal in Game 5 put him in second place on the franchise’s all-time goal list in potential clinching games. Florida’s depth-scoring and 5v5 scoring is a great strength for this team. The Panthers got goals from every line at some point during the series which makes the offense harder to shut down. Brandon Montour stepped up in this series with a couple of big goals and has been great on special teams. Florida completely dominated the Bruins for three straight games, keeping them to under 20 SOG, and actually made Bob’s job harder as he went through long stretches of game where he didn’t see any shots. It’s a testament to his ability as he still made big saves on the few shots that he did see, the stat sheet will tell you he’s not playing great but the eye test would disagree with that assessment. Florida’s defensive game and forechecking ability have proved to be a huge problem for other teams to deal with so far. They’re also a team that’s comfortable in tight one-goal games whether they’re up or down a goal – if they’re down, they always make a good offensive push to try and tie the game. The Rangers are one of the hottest teams left in the playoffs but the Hurricanes proved that they can be beaten as they pushed the series to six games. The Eastern Conference Finals is going to be a great series against two teams that have fantastic goaltending and dangerous goal scorers. Game 1 is set for Wednesday in Madison Square Garden at 7 pm EST/6 pm CT.

Season 3. Episode 44. Yay Or Nay Bruins Benders Podcast

The Benders go through who they would want in free agency or trade for the Bruins. Jay Leach is back and so is Kathryn Tappen! Celtics win, now it’s the Bruins turn. Let’s get back into the first round of the NHL Draft. Plus much more! DraftKings Sportsbook – Boston’s hometown Sportsbook is LIVE right here in Massachusetts! Bet local on all your favorite sports from the comfort of your own home with DraftKings. To celebrate, ALL new customers will receive up to TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS in BONUS bets when you sign up for DraftKings Sportsbook using code ITR! You can now bet local on money lines, spreads, props, and more with one of America’s top-rated Sportsbooks – DraftKings Sportsbook!  Download the DraftKings Sportsbook app and sign up with code ITR to get up to TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS in BONUS bets to use now that mobile sports betting is live in Massachusetts. That’s code ITR only at DraftKings Sportsbook. If you or a loved one is experiencing problems with gambling, call 800 327-5050 or visit helplineMA.org to speak with a trained specialist, free and confidentially, twenty four seven. 21+. Physically present in MA. Eligibility restrictions apply. Subject to regulatory licensing requirements. Eligibility and deposit restrictions apply. Opt in required. Bonus issued as free bets. Terms at draftkings.com/MA.
  1. Season 3. Episode 44. Yay Or Nay
  2. Season 3. Episode 43. Goal Scorers and A-Holes
  3. Season 3. Episode 42. Long Off-season Week 2
  4. Season 3. Episode 41. Long Off-Season Week 1
  5. Season 3. Episode 40. There’s Always Next Year

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