The Florida Panthers are gearing up for their Round 1 matchup against the Presidents’ Trophy-winning and record-setting Boston Bruins. During the regular season series, the Panthers and Bruins split their four meetings with the most recent being Florida’s final game before the All-Star Break, a 3-2 overtime victory.
The Bruins are a strong team, but history shows that breaking records and having the best record in the league often comes with a massive catch. No Presidents’ Trophy winner has won the Stanley Cup since the 2013 Chicago Blackhawks. Furthermore, the last team to hit the record for most wins in a regular season, the 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning, was swept in the first round.
The Cats also have some history of their own to back them up. In the “Year of the Rat” in 1996, they finished the regular season by clinching a playoff berth with 92 points. Ironically, their first round opponent was the boys from Beantown, who they beat 4-1. However, despite everything in the history books, it will not be enough to beat the Bruins this go around.
Defense Will Cost The Panthers Dearly
The defense has been the weak point for the Panthers all season. They do have some bright spots in Brandon Montour and Gustav Forsling. Past that, it’s been nothing but disappointment on the back end. The team was 21st across the league with 3.32 goals against per game and 22nd in shots allowed per game with 31.7.
Lack of Discipline Will Ultimately Do the Panthers In
The only chance the Panthers have at winning will be their ability to stay out of the penalty box. But it’s hard to have confidence in them doing so. They were second in the league in penalties taken with 388, one less than the league leader in the Ottawa Senators. Furthermore, they also had the second-most penalty minutes in the league with 998. It should be noted that two Panthers also cracked the top 10 in penalty minutes (PIM) this season with forward Matthew Tkachuk being fourth in the NHL with 123 PIM and Montour at ninth with 107.
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It does not help that the Cats were 23rd in the league on the penalty kill with a 76 percent kill rate. This is something they must figure out in the future or it could mean more than just another first round exit.
Paul Maurice Has a Losing Postseason Record with His Past Teams
Panthers head coach Paul Maurice was brought in to give the team someone who’s been through the wringer in the postseason and his resume can back that up with 92 playoff games. Unfortunately, he has a sour history when it comes to the dance. He’s only had a playoff record above .500 twice with one being a Stanley Cup Final appearance with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2002. Since then, it’s been nothing but misery.
In his time as the Winnipeg Jets head coach, he had an all-time record of 16-23. In Carolina, it was slightly better but still under .500 at 25-28. His total playoff record comes out to 41-51. It is unknown if he’s figured out the secret to playoff hockey, but history shows he has yet to do so.
Injuries Caught Up to the Panthers
All season, the Panthers were banged up in some shape or capacity with injuries. One notable piece was forward Sam Bennett, who has been a huge piece of Florida’s most recent playoff appearances. Due to an injury that has sidelined him for nearly a month, it is unknown if he will be ready for Game 1.
In addition to Bennett, forward Patric Hornqvist went out for the season months ago. His endless playoff experience could have been a big help to the lineup on the ice. The infirmary was overstocked for Florida and it’s truly going to bite them in the rear end at a very important point of their season.
Start Cleaning Out the Lockers?
The NHL postseason is always unpredictable. But given how the Panthers barely edged out their competition to get in says a lot about how they handle adversity. Florida is a huge underdog in this opening series for good reason.
History may be on their side, but it will not be enough for them to overcome the sheer magnitude that is the Bruins. On the bright side, this will be a learning experience for a lot of their younger players regardless of the turnout. Valuable lessons must be passed down to the youth in order to succeed in the NHL. Unfortunately, this one is going to be a harsh lesson in learning how to overcome a bad playoff exit.