With just over a month left in the season it’s that time of year where we look at potential playoff matchups for the Bruins. These articles will look at potential first-round matchups. With Stamkos now out the rest of the regular season the Bruins have the top spot in the Atlantic division virtually locked up. With that in mind, these will be matchups against wild card teams so Metropolitan and Atlantic Division teams.
This article will focus on looking at the Florida Panthers. With a record of 33-26-7 and 73 points, the Panthers sit five points out of third in the Atlantic as well as the final wild-card spot. The Panthers have not been playing their best hockey lately, currently on a three-game losing streak and going 3-6-1 in their last ten games. However, with nine of their last sixteen games against non-playoff teams they will have some opportunities to pick up some valuable points.
The Panthers have some very skilled players in their forward group as well as some solid and familiar depth. At the top they have players like Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Mike Hoffman, and Evgenii Dadonov. Both Huberdeau and Barkov topped 90 points last season, with Huberdeau looking to hit that mark again with 77 points in 66 games. The Panthers also have a trio of ex Bruins making up the bulk of their depth forwards. Frank Vatrano, Brett Connolly, and Noel Acciari are all having great seasons for Florida,scoring 16, 18, and 20 goals respectively. Now this group doesn’t have the same depth and talent as the Bruins do, but they are still dangerous. Trading Trocheck is a big blow, but they did gain some valuable depth in Haula and Wallmark coming back.
On defense Florida also has a few big-name players like Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad. The offseason addition of Anton Stralman brings plenty of veteran leadership and playoff experience. Stralman has played almost twice the amount of playoff games as the rest of Florida’s defense. The Panthers have also relied on a few younger defensemen like MacKenzie Weegar, Riley Stillman, and Mike Matheson, who between them have five games of playoff experience. While the Panthers have allowed the second-most goals in the league some of that can be attributed to some rather poor goalie play behind them. This is one area the Bruins have a big advantage, not just with experience but just in overall talent.
This was supposed to be the year Florida put it together, and the offseason signing of Sergei Bobrovsky was going to be a big part of that. So far the ten million dollar man has not lived up to his new contract, or even his old one for that matter. Bobrovsky earned his current deal after shutting down the Lightning in the playoffs last season. With two Vezina trophies to his name, his 3.23 goals against and .900 save percentage have been almost shocking. Could his numbers have been a product of playing for a very defensively responsible Blue Jackets team? If the Panthers are going to go on a run to secure one of the wild card spots Bob will need to find his old form and soon. Just looking at this year alone you would think this is where the Bruins blow Florida away in this goalie battle. If both are in top form though this is probably the closest Florida comes to beating the Bruins. When Bobrovsky is on his game not many goalies are better. Fortunately for the Bruins, Rask is one of those few goalies.
I don’t see this series going more than five games, and that’s if Bobrovsky is able to steal one for Florida. With an advantage in forward group, defensemen, and at goalie the Bruins should make quick work in this potential series. The Bruins superior defense will throw everything at shutting down Huberdeau and Barkov. If they are successful the rest of Florida’s offense won’t be able to overcome the talent gap. With two games still to play in the season series, the Bruins could make this series even less likely with two wins. Don’t forget to check out our other team pages and check back for the next part in this potential first-round matchup series.
Featured image courtesy of WHDH.com