NHL Playoffs: Florida Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Game 1 Recap | 04/21/2024

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As advertised, Game 1 of the Battle for Florida did not disappoint. The in-state rivalry kicked off with a lot of pace from both teams, very strong defense, and a bit of chippiness, but no major fights yet. Florida made a couple of big hits on Tampa, and the Lightning responded in kind. It was a very physical game, even if it didn’t always look like it – there were 109 hits between the two teams. Stout goaltending on both sides made goals hard to come by, but Florida walked away with the Game 1 win. I said in my series preview that someone fans should watch was Gustav Forsling, who was all over the ice Sunday afternoon and picked up an assist while he was at it. Aleksander Barkov also had an impressive Game 1 with his plays and puck handling looking next level. Florida’s playoff gear in their game was on full display, and the strong defense kept most of Tampa’s heavy goal scores off the score sheet.

Forsling and Barkov:

As I pointed out in my series preview, Forsling and Barkov only allowed nine goals in the 450 5v5 minutes they played together, and that level of play was out in full force in Game 1. Forsling got an assist while Barkov had two, including a beautiful pass across the ice to Verhaeghe, who put his stick out to tap the puck into the net for a goal. Barkov and Forsling played heavier minutes than some of the rest of the team due to the special teams play; only Reinhart and Montour logged more ice time than them. However, every time they were on the ice, they made plays, whether offensive or defensive. Forsling took several shots to the net, and Reinhart tipped one in for the goal. While Barkov didn’t take as many shots, he did make great stick plays to force turnovers and made a fantastic initial hit on Kucherov, which Tarasenko followed up with another hard hit. These two were gamemakers in Game 1, and fans should expect to hear their names called often during broadcasts.

Strong Defense:

This game was a defensive masterclass on both sides, but Florida did a great job of holding the Lightning in their own zone and not allowing shots. The Panthers did allow more chances from the slot than we’ve seen over the last few weeks, but they held Tampa to just 19 SOG, so Bobrovsky went through long stretches of the game where he didn’t see any pucks at all. But he was still locked in a made both impressive and timely saves to keep the game either tied or the Cats with the lead. At no point during the game did the Lightning have the lead, Florida had all the momentum. The Panthers had 16 takeaways and dished out 54 hits. The penalty kill did a good job on the two power plays that Tampa Bay had, and while they did let on PP goal through it was in the final seconds of the game and the Lightning had pulled Vasilevskiy to get a 6v4. The Florida defense frustrated the Tampa players for nearly the whole game, Kucherov, Point, Raddysh, Paul, Hedman, and Duclair all ended in the +/- negatives.

Florida’s Playoff Gear:

The last month and a half of the regular season left some fans feeling uncertain as to how the Panthers would play come the Playoffs, myself included. There were games that they could’ve won if they’d just played a full 60 minutes instead of looking like they put things on auto-pilot or cruise control. The most glaring one that comes to mind is the game against Toronto in early April, where they nearly erased a four-goal deficit in a single period. But with all that said, the healthy Panthers’ lineup came out strong and looking like the team fans got a glimpse of in February, the team that won all but two games in that month. The speed and pace were there, matching Tampa well, and the Cats skated a clean game, only taking two penalties. That’s not bad, considering they were the second most penalized team in the NHL during the regular season. Every single player got at least one hit with Luostarinen leading the team with six hits. Most importantly the Panthers were a disciplined team and didn’t take any reactionary penalties, we’ll see if that holds as the series continues. I’d say an area of improvement could be in blocking shots, but they blocked 12 shots, and Tampa only had 19 SOG, so with that in mind, they did a great job blocking the shots that were there. This team is hungry to finish what they fell just short of last season, winning the Stanley Cup. Florida has all the pieces to make another deep run, and now they have the experience of getting to that final series. Game 2 is set for Tuesday night, 7:30 ET/6:30 CT.

We Got The Jack Inside The Rink

In episode 8 of the Inside The Rink podcast, Matty and Smitty are joined by new co-host Conrad Jack. After the long hiatus, we get back to hockey with a PACKED episode!Matt Rempe & the Devils vs. Rangers Line BrawlCould the Vancouver Canucks squander a playoff opportunity? Have the Winnipeg Jets finally figured out their lines?Flyers Head Coach John Tortorella is a sound byte MACHINEOvechkin is on his way to 895, Who is next?McDavid joins elite company with 100 Assists in a seasonRyan Hartman was suspended 3 Games, was it worth 3 games??Can Auston Matthews hit 70 Goals this season?The Eastern Conference Wild Card race is heating up, who lands the two playoff berths?For all of your hockey news and more from the show, visit us at insidetherink.com and watch us on YouTube! How to support us and our sponsors:TicketmasterColumbia Sports ApparelESPN+ SubscriptionFanaticsDraft Kings – CODE ITR
  1. We Got The Jack
  2. Episode 7. Player Safety First!
  3. Episode 6. Early Trade Season
  4. Episode 5. Longing For The Chiarelli Years
  5. Episode 4. Ottawa’s On Fire

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