Last night the Boston Bruins completed a stunning sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Nobody expected Pittsburgh to be so thoroughly outplayed and the sudden conclusion of the series has experts grasping for answers. The reason for the sweep however is quite obvious and I am surprised nobody has figured it out yet. The Boston Bruins currently have three ex-Panthers on their roster while the Penguins barely have one. Everybody knows, ex-Panthers are the most impactful players in the league and simple math dictates that the Bruins, because of their 3 to 1 ex-Panther advantage, should have been the clear favorite against the Penguins.
Here is a look at some names Panther’s fans may be familiar with that are currently competing under different banners in this year’s playoffs:
Okay so the only competing the Pens will be doing the rest of the way is fighting over golf-kart driving privileges, but still let’s take a look at how they got to this point. The only ex-Panther on their roster to see ice time in the post-season was Tanner Glass who played in 44 games for the Panthers between 2007-09 and only recorded two points. Glass played in five Penguins playoff games and recorded one goal thus explaining Pittsburgh’s shocking playoff exit.
The Chicago Blackhawks playoff success have come because of their impressive depth up and down the lineup. They have players with specific roles with the proper talent to fulfill those roles. Ex-Panther Michael Frolik is one of those players. When he was a 20 goal scorer for the Panthers, Frolik was called baby-Jagr because of his Czech heritage and his impressive skills. His scoring petered out towards the end of his Panther tenure and when he was traded in 2011 for Jack Skille, his NHL future was doubtful.
With the Blackhawks, Frolik has developed into a penalty killing specialist which is somewhat of a surprise considering the skill-first type of player he was in Florida. Frolik is just another example of Chicago’s ability to get what they need out of their players. In the playoffs, Frolik has played in 16 games scoring three goals and three assists. He only averages 11:53 of ice time per game but he leads all Chicago forwards in shorthanded time on ice per game at 3:14.
Los Angeles Kings:
The Kings realized early on this year that if they want to repeat as Stanley Cup champs, they would probably need to add some ex-Panther firepower. The result of this realization was a February trade for defenseman Keaton Ellerby. The Panthers were willing to part with Ellerby because they had an excess of one-way contracts and he was the odd man out of a crowded blue line. Ellerby has filled a similar role for the Kings as he did with the Panthers, as the fringe sixth or seventh defenseman who may or may not be a healthy scratch on any given night. In the playoffs, Ellerby has only played in five games and has zero points and a +/- rating of zero.
The Boston Bruins have to be the obvious Stanley Cup favorites, not because of their resounding statement sweep of the Penguins but because their team has a trifecta of ex-Panthers who fill a number of key roles. Nathan Horton is a top-six scoring threat, Gregory Campbell is a pesky grinding fourth line center and Dennis Seidenbergis a defense-first defenseman.
While much of the one-sided trade talk in Boston is dedicated to the Phil Kessel deal, the trade that netted the Bruins Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell could be an even bigger steal. In the June 2010 deal, Boston sent Florida defenseman Dennis Wideman and a 2010 1st rounder (Derek Forbort), and a 2011 3rd rounder (Kyle Rau). The pick used to select Forbort at 15 in the 2010 draft was flipped to the Kings in exchange for two picks one of which was used by the Panthers to select Nick Bjugstad. The point though is, as of now, the Panthers have gotten nothing out of the pieces they received from the deal while the Bruins have won a Stanley Cup and are on their way to compete for a second. For this trade to eventually even out, Kyle Rau and Nick Bjugstad would have to develop into franchise offensive stalwarts.
But back to the Bruins… Nathan Horton has been one of the best players in the playoffs. He is second in playoff scoring with 17 points (7 goals 10 assists) behind only teammate David Krejci, and his +21 player rating is by far the best in the league. Gregory Campbell has been dominating in his own way. A huge part of playoff success involves getting production from all four lines and Campbell has centered a Boston unit that can create matchup problems with just about any fourth line remaining in the playoffs. In 15 games so far he has three goals four assists and a +7 rating.
The Bruins have the look to them and whoever they face in the Stanley Cup Finals will have a hard time beating such a complete team. While their trio of ex-Panthers might not be the only reason for the team’s success, it is at least something for down and out Panther fans to cheer for.