Aleksander Barkov, Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers, Matthew Tkachuk, Patrice Bergeron, Sergei Bobrovsky

Panthers Can Beat the Bruins If…

So, there’s no real precedence for facing a playoff opponent whose regular-season credentials set an NHL record for points and wins. And, no, it will not be easy for the Florida Panthers to pull off an epic upset of the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Boston Bruins.

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But the Cats can push the Bruins to a seventh game and possibly win this series if they can do the following:

Stay Out of the Penalty Box

The Bruins’ regular season power-play ranking was slightly out of the top ten, ranked 12th, but giving players like David Pastrnak, who potted 18 power-play goals on the season, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, and Jake DeBrusk chances to score with the man advantage is not the Panthers’ best interest, especially since the Bruins have home-ice, where they only lost four games in regulation (they only gave up 10 goals in those four losses, too).

David Pastrnak Boston Bruins
David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

What’s even more problematic is that the Panthers averaged the second-most penalty minutes per game this season and ranked in the bottom third on the penalty kill. Special teams could prove to be the difference in the series.

“You’re not a good team when you can’t stay out of the penalty box,” head coach Paul Maurice told the Miami Herald. “The best way to get better is to stay out of the penalty box” (from ‘Panthers are by far NHL’s most penalized team. It’s a big problem, no matter what they say,’ Miami Herald, 3/12/2023).

Related: Panthers’ To-Do List to Reach the 2023 Playoffs

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If the Panthers have any chance of advancing, they must not take more than two penalties a game and capitalize at five-on-five. The Panthers were shorthanded twice in Game 1, and Pastrnak scored the opener on the power play.

Don’t Cheat for Offense

Maurice can strategize his forecheck, and players like Matthew Tkachuk, who had a career season and became the engine of this Panthers team, work effectively when they crash and bang in the offensive zone. Florida must not abandon the passion and drive needed to turn pucks over and create offense.

Matthew Tkachuk, Florida Panthers
Matthew Tkachuk, Florida Panthers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The underlying key for the Panthers is to be patient. The offense will come, but they need to choose their spots and their defensemen need to be very selective when pinching down low. Yes, their defense corps tied a franchise record with 53 goals this season, but they cannot rely on them for offense in the playoffs. There is enough potential with their star players, who can score in bunches, like Tkachuk, Carter Verhaeghe, team captain Aleksander Barkov and Sam Reinhart to get enough pucks into the net.

“I think we did some good things in the offensive zone. We gave up three or four solid chances off aggressiveness and decision-making,” Maurice said to FLA Hockey Now after losing the opener. “I think we can fix that, it is solvable. There are places we can execute better as in how we move the puck.”

The Bruins are an excellent transition team and will capitalize on the Panthers’ mistakes, so they can’t make too many of them. No deep pinches. Forecheckers cannot get trapped deep. Get the cycle going but don’t allow three players with a Panthers crest to be sucked into a vortex behind the Bruins’ net.

Related: Panthers Need to Relocate to Find Long-Term Success

They must keep three or four skaters high – above the puck.

Get Insane Goaltending

Maurice decided to go with Alex Lyon as his Game 1 starter. Not a bad decision. He went with the hot glove, and why not? It’s always good to enter the playoffs on a winning streak, and goaltending typically plays into that. Also, it gives Sergei Bobrovsky a chance to come in and give the Panthers a boost should the team fall behind after the first two games in Boston. However, giving Alex the Lyon share of duties does question the long-term security of Bobrovsky as the Panthers’ No. 1 goalie, but this is the playoffs, so who cares?

Alex Lyon Florida Panthers
Alex Lyon, Florida Panthers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Lyon is a 30-year-old journeyman who deserved the start after carrying the team to a 6-1-1 record to make the playoffs.

“He is a great guy, great goalie, and he is really confident right now,” Barkov told FLA Hockey Now. ”We love playing in front of him. He gets everyone going, and when you have that type of guy in the net, you want to play your best and play as hard as possible in front of him.”

Lyon also beat the Bruins on the second night of a back-to-back earlier this season.

“I think the win against Boston, for him, was kind of the connection to the team that he needed,” Maurice said. “[After that,] he could step back into the net the next time, and there was a real comfort level with him, and the belief that he could do it.”

Whoever ends up playing more minutes between the pipes must be the factor in this series. Lyon played well in Game 1, but he was not perfect. The mistake and softie given up to Brad Marchand cannot happen again.

Score the Opening Goal

The best way to put pressure on the Bruins is to make them chase the game. They will inevitably make mistakes trying to come from behind. With an early lead, the Panthers can afford to trap a little in the neutral zone and chip pucks out without leaving themselves in a vulnerable position, trying to transition in a frenzy to create offense.

The Panthers did not score first in Game 1 and lost 3-1. Finding a way to score that first goal is something Tkachuk knows is essential for Game 2 on Wednesday at TD Garden in Boston.

“There were parts of our game that were good, and I feel like [the Bruins] got a little bit better as it got on,” Tkachuk told “Especially when you have a two-goal lead, it’s easier to play. You’re playing safer, and they packed it in pretty good on us, but I’m confident in our team, in our game, and seeing a lot of things that I think we could hang with these guys.”

The Panthers must score first to give them some momentum against a dominant Bruins team. The Panthers need to play as close to a perfect game as possible to compete with Boston. Obviously, the Panthers need to limit mistakes, but they need to keep out of the penalty box, get stellar goaltending from whoever Maurice chooses to play and put pressure on the Bruins by scoring first. If not, this series will be over in four games.

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