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Preview: Tale Of The Tape For Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers



Boston Bruins

BRIGHTON, MA – All the chatter, the regular season backslapping, and the Stanley Cup playoff hype is nearing its end, and we’ll all have Stanley Cup playoff hockey to watch on Monday night with the Boston Bruins getting going. The B’s have, of course, elevated expectations to a sky-high level with an NHL-record 65 wins and 135 points during the regular season and enter Monday night having tried everything they could to prepare for a long postseason run.

All the best laid plans sometimes don’t matter as we’re seeing be proven out with Patrice Bergeron’s status up in the air due to injury and/or illness, and the B’s being cagey as to whether Linus Ullmark is going to be the starting goaltender. But regardless of who ends up in the Game 1 lineup on Monday night, the Boston Bruins are ready to go after building all season to these Stanley Cup playoff moments in what might be the final playoff go-around for Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci in their amazing NHL careers.

“It shows what we’ve done throughout the year, it’s not something that was a fluke,” said Boston Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark, who was not on the ice on Monday morning at Warrior Ice Arena ahead of Game 1 tonight at TD Garden. “We’ve earned it. We put our bodies on the line throughout the season and we’re going to continue to do that.”

Ullmark has probably earned a few more honors and awards when the season is over as well. Here’s a position-by-position breakdown of the Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers and a prediction as they ready for Monday night’s first round series:

Forwards: It would certainly be foolish to sleep on the Florida Panthers forward group. Facing the abrasive, talented Matthew Tkachuk is going to leave bumps, bruises and scars for the Boston Bruins even if they advance past the Panthers, and he will undoubtedly become Public Enemy No. 1 in Boston during the series for his goal-scoring and his rabble-rousing. Aleksander Barkov is Florida’s version of Patrice Bergeron but 10 years younger and is in the prime of an All-Star career where he could help effectively lock down whatever line he’s matched up against. Carter Verhaege and Sam Reinhart give Florida good depth in the scoring department, and they have veteran leadership in Eric Staal that’s been to the mountaintop before. But they are going to miss Sam Bennett, a heart and soul player that’s battling groin problems right now. On the other side, the Boston Bruins have overwhelming depth that puts Taylor Hall on the third line, has a 60-goal scorer on the second line and could pose a big advantage when it comes to third and fourth lines that are a different class than Florida in terms of depth and overall talent. It’s difficult to see any team, never mind a hockey club with goalie and defensive zone questions like the Panthers, holding down both of Boston’s top two forward lines. Advantage: Bruins.

Defensemen: Once again the Panthers have some talent here with Aaron Ekblad playing good two-way hockey and Brandon Montour making things happen offensively. And Gustav Forsling is a solid third defenseman that was well over 20 minutes of ice time per game as well. But they don’t really compare with Boston holding two Norris Trophy-level defensemen in Charlie McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm in the prime of their NHL careers, and Dmitry Orlov sliding in at the NHL trade deadline as a third D-man that gives them three bona fide frontline blueliners. Derek Forbort getting healthy will buoy Boston’s penalty kill once he knocks the rust off and Matt Grzelcyk, Brandon Carlo and Connor Clifton are absolutely better than the bottom pair-types that the Panthers will be rolling out for this series, whether it’s Radko Gudas, Marc Staal or somebody else. Advantage: Bruins.

Goaltending: The Panthers have a marquee name in Sergei Bobrovsky, but it sure doesn’t feel like he’s going to play as he hasn’t seen any game action since March 27 when he ceded the pipes to youngster Alex Lyon. He’d been brutal in three straight games while giving up 13 goals at the end of March in three straight Panthers losses, and it took Lyon riding in and posted a 9-4-2 record with a 2.89 goals against average and a .914 save percentage while backstopping the Panthers to the postseason. Lyon is extremely unproven at the NHL level, however, and 34-year-old Bobrovsky may not be the goalie he once was when he stood tall for the Columbus Blue Jackets against the Boston Bruins in the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs. On the other hand, the Boston Bruins have the NHL’s best goaltending duo in Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman with Ullmark as the favorite for the Vezina Trophy after leading the NHL in wins, goals against average and save percentage. It’s expected that Ullmark is going to start Game 1 and probably go for as long as he remains effective and the B’s play well in front of him, but they also should have high confidence in Swayman if he’s needed as well. This is a massive advantage for the Bruins and really could decide the series when it’s all said and done. Advantage: Bruins.

Special Teams: The one area that’s been a weak spot for the Boston Bruins at times this season has been a power play that finished pretty average in terms of the NHL standings. The B’s have the NHL’s best penalty kill that snuffed out 87.3 percent of the penalties they faced and should be getting back PK ace Derek Forbort at some point during the series. The Panthers have a slightly better PP than the Bruins that could do some damage during the series, but they had one of the worst penalty kill units in the NHL this season. The Panthers were 23rd in the NHL killing just 75.9 percent of the PPs they faced and could really get victimized by David Pastrnak as he’s effectively mixing up his plan of attack from the left circle these days on the man advantage. Advantage: Bruins.

Coaching/Intangibles: Everybody likes Paul Maurice and the fun sound bites he can offer to an NHL hockey game, and there’s no doubt that Matthew Tkachuk is going to bring an intangible of trouble and danger that could pop up at any point in the series. If there’s a player that could get Brad Marchand to temporarily lose his composure out there on the Stanley Cup playoff ice, it might just be Tkachuk. But at the end of the day, we’re talking about a Florida Panthers core group that has underachieved a bit, punctuated by last season’s first round playoff loss after winning the President’s Trophy. We’re also talking about a Boston Bruins group that has Stanley Cup champions and is led by the ultimate winner, Patrice Bergeron, who has won more games, regular season and playoffs, than anybody else over the last 10-12 years. Not to mention, Jim Montgomery has been the perfect fit for the Boston Bruins this season, though he will be undoubtedly tested on the bench in the playoffs even more than he was in a regular season where the Bruins won 65 games and set NHL records. Advantage: Bruins.

Prediction: A gentlemen’s sweep as the Boston Bruins will win it in five games after maybe taking a game to get going in the series and celebrate advancing to the second round on home ice next week.

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