After splitting last year’s season series, Beantown’s hockey club went on a resurgent playoff run, looking the strongest they had in years. Now, Florida have to know how to respond.
The Boston Bruins rekindled their dominant form in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season after splitting their four-game set with the Florida Panthers in the regular season. Showing resilience and strength, they overcame four different deficits while trailing in a series, pushing all the way to game seven of the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals.
Their first-round series, another seven-game series with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Bruins never led in that whole series, losing games one, three, and five. This shows some serious guts to be able to bounce back on three separate occasions to stay alive in the series, especially with two of those games in Toronto.
The series had clearly taken a physical beating on the Bruins. They didn’t start their second-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets the same way. They failed to win in regulation in the first three games, going down 2-1 to a team with all the momentum in the world after their first-round sweep.
Yet again, this shows how their ability to overcome challenges. Boston go on to win their next eight games, getting past Columbus in six, sweeping aside another red-hot team in the Carolina Hurricanes, and winning game one of the Stanley Cup Finals against St. Louis.
For as much as fans may annoy each other at games, the Florida Panthers need to find a way to figure out how to have as much resilience as the Bruins. You don’t have to like them, but you have to respect how well-run they are and how motivated they are to overcome challenges, especially in the postseason.
The Bruins are also a pretty loaded team, with talent coming on each line and pairing. Names like Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, three of the top forwards in the NHL. Bergeron has been one of the best two-way players in the game for his whole career, Marchand is capable of 100 points every season, and Pastrnak, the youngest of the three, broke his career-high in points last season with eighty-one in just sixty-six games.
What’s even worse is that’s only their top line. Beneath those three, the Bruins are loaded with solid depth with guys like David Krejci, Charlie Coyle, Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen, and David Backes. Their depth is a healthy mix of youth and veterans, with more youth still to come through Boston’s promising AHL team.
On defense, the Bruins have done well to build around captain Zdeno Chara, surrounding the forty-two-year-old with flexible two-way defensemen. Next to Chara sits Charlie McAvoy, one of the better up-and-coming defensemen in the NHL. While he’s struggled with injuries, McAvoy is capable of reaching 40 points in the next few years of his career and should be a very promising player to watch.
Below their top pairing sit a lot of reliable defensive options. Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo, John Moore, and Kevan Miller may not be the most exciting options, but they know their role and serve them well.
In net, the Bruins mix veterans Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak between the pipes. The two were brilliant last year, with their GAA’s under 2.50 and their save percentages both hovering around the .920 range.
Rask may have struggled during the regular season, but turned back into the Rask that most of the NHL knows in the playoffs, dominating through multiple games to keep the Bruins in close-contested games.
So, how are the Panthers going to match up with Boston this season? For one, they will be a lot younger.
This is one of the key areas that Florida has to expose Boston this season, through youth and speed. Boston aren’t exactly slow either, but the Cats are seriously younger. Bergeron is 34 while Aleksander Barkov is just 23, Marchand is 31 while Jonathan Huberdeau is 26, and Krejci is 33 to Vincent Trocheck‘s 26. That’s three top positions where the Panthers are significantly younger.
To me, this is where the Panthers need to exceed over Boston. If the Panthers can exhaust the Bruins over the early portions of the game with speed, it will become significantly easier for Florida.
It’s also going to be crucial the depth play their best games against Boston. The Bruins’ bottom six aren’t the most impressive compared to the rest of the league, with Backes, Joakim Nordstrom, and Sean Kuraly as the best three. Florida’s bottom six could be better this season, with Henrik Borgstrom, Brett Connolly, Denis Malgin (if he signs), and ex-Bruins Frank Vatrano and Noel Acciari.
If the Cats can get the best out of the depth, as well as the speed from the top six, the Panthers may legitimately be the better team this year. The two coaches between the benches will be working all angles in this matchup, with Joel Quenneville and Bruce Cassidy both looking to exploit mismatches.
The Panthers also need to make sure their defense steps up. Sergei Bobrovsky is going to give the Panthers a better chance, but not if he’s being forced to make 33+ saves per game.
The Panthers and Bruins play the first time this season on November 12th at TD Garden. The Bruins come to Sunrise this season on December 14th and March 5th, with the final matchup of the regular season coming on March 28th.