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HomeSportsWhat we've learned from Panthers' playoff run, what's next

What we’ve learned from Panthers’ playoff run, what’s next

The Florida Panthers waited out the Boston Bruins in their second round Stanley Cup playoff series.

And patience paid off.

The Panthers and Bruins were knotted 1-1 in Game 6 on Friday until defenseman Gustav Forsling broke the stalemate for Florida with just over ninety seconds left in regulation. Boston goalie Jeremy Swayman let out the juiciest of rebounds he’d love to have to back and Forsling made no mistake punching the Panthers ticket to an Eastern Conference final against New York.

Now that should be a high scoring affair.

How the Panthers got there — and what to expect from their series with the Rangers — is here.

Savvy Sergei

Most goaltenders will admit it’s better to stay busy. And in this series against Boston, Sergei Bobrovsky decidedly was not. Boston averaged the fewest shots on goal among remaining playoff teams (25 per game), and there were lengthy stretches where Bobrovsky didn’t have much to do.

It would be easy to dismiss his contributions to Florida’s success by just looking at the numbers then (.896 save percentage, 2.51 goals-against average) but that doesn’t tell the whole Bobrovsky tale.

The Panthers got the timely saves from their veteran. He wasn’t leaky at the wrong time, despite being underworked. Plus, if you take out the Panthers’ 5-1 loss in Game 1, Bobrovsky didn’t allow more than two goals in an outing the rest of the way.

Being dialed in at crucial moments is how goaltenders set themselves apart in the playoffs, and that’s what Bobrovsky did for Florida throughout the second-round run.



Bobrovsky makes back-to-back saves in heroic fashion

Bobrovsky makes back-to-back saves in heroic fashion
Sergei Bobrovsky makes two consecutive saves in the final minutes of the second period.

Bolstered by balance

The Panthers tapped in with 12 different goal scorers against the Bruins, with all but three of their forwards landing on the scoresheet with at least one. There was no singular scoring star (although Aleksander Barkov came closest to that moniker, by pacing the group with three) and so Boston had its hands full trying to keep all four lines from running through them.

Florida didn’t need it’s top skaters to do all the heavy lifting, and that’s a critical component at playoff time. Bruins netminder Jeremy Swayman was terrific again in this series against a Panthers’ group firing the second-most shots on net among remaining playoff teams (36.5 per game), and that’s a difficult ask for any goalie to stand up to when they’re not offering the sort of goal support Florida does. That’s a major reason why the Panthers are moving on — and Boston’s headed home for the season.

No sleeping on special teams

It’s the great equalizer, right? Generally, the team who wins that special teams battle comes out on top in a series.

Florida was the unequivocal victor there against Boston.

The Panthers ripped in six power-play goals — and one shorthanded score — while the Bruins managed a single goal on the man advantage. The difference that makes in undeniable in the final outcome for both sides. Florida won by larger margins in this series — including two games by four goals or more — than they did against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round — where only two wins were by two goals or more — but the Lightning matched them on special teams.

When the Bruins fell down in that area, the Panthers pounced all the way to a series win.

Postseason poise

There’s something to be said for owning the moment. Florida did just that.

The blowout in Game 1 could have rattled the Panthers and set an ominous tone for the series ahead. Instead, it seemed to settle them down. There’s confidence that comes from overcoming early obstacles, and any challenges the Panthers faced from there were met with composure.

Florida wasn’t ruined without Sam Bennett in Game 1 and 2, while the Bruins fared worse without Brad Marchand in Game 4 and 5. The Panthers could stay on course when Boston was up 1-0 after the first period in Game 4 and eventually chipped their way back to victory. Yes, there was a controversial goalie interference sequence that factored into Florida’s win, but the call was out of their control.

The Panthers focused on what they could do to succeed, and it paid off with a consecutive Eastern Conference finals bid.

How the Panthers match up with the New York Rangers

A conference finals matchup between the Rangers and Panthers could break records for playoff goal scoring.

No, seriously.

Florida and New York are the third and fourth top offenses in the entire playoff field, averaging 3.70 and 3.50 goals per game respectively. Their power plays are excellent (31.4% for New York and 23.7% for Florida) and the Panthers are second in shots on net (34.0 per game) which would only add to the potential firepower these two teams could generate on one sheet.

Matthew Tkachuk (four goals and 13 points in the postseason), Barkov (five goals and 13 points), and Carter Verhaeghe (six goals and 10 points) would give the Rangers’ elite a run for their money trading chances though, especially if the rush game opens up.

New York’s defense would have to improve over its second-round performance to keep them from running wild. However, the back-and-forth that could come out of this series would highlight what made both Florida and New York so entertaining in their second-round series respectively (although the Rangers stumbled a bit towards the end attempting to close Carolina out).

Another interesting aspect of a Rangers-Panthers series is, of course, in the crease. Sergei Bobrovksy’s numbers (.896 SV%, 2.51 GAA) aren’t exactly on par with Igor Shesterkin‘s (.923 SV%, 2.40). But Bobrovsky wasn’t tested often by Boston and that, as mentioned above, can affect how a goalie performs.

Regardless, Bobrovsky was terrific when he had to be. Shesterkin has been that and more for the Rangers throughout the playoffs. New York’s bread and butter though has been its attack up front plus excellent netminding, and a series against Florida would give them the opportunity to lean on both.

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