The streaky Panthers up to today have now lost two in row, and that includes a loss to an Eastern conference rival on Monday, 4-2 to host, the New York Rangers. Florida, enters Wednesday tied for first place with in-state rival the Tampa Bay Lightning, and they also have three points ahead of Boston in the Atlantic Division. But that cushion is quite small, especially since they are 0-2-1 against the Bruins this season.
If you go back, they’ve lost nine consecutive games in the TD Garden, going back to 2011. Reilly Smith, who used to play for the Bruins the past two seasons before being traded for Jimmy Hayes, has 23 goals and 46 points with a plus-12 for Florida, where as Hayes has 13 goals and 29 points with a minus -10 for Boston, so that’s gotta sting.
The Bruins are not doing as well either, they are coming off a three-game losing streak on the West Coast road trip before they’ll be trying to end it with a point against the Rangers in a game on Wednesday night in New York. Bruins goalie, Tuukka Rask, has lost three of his past four games but he only allowed nine goals total, and is 15-2-1 with a 1.46 goals-against-average versus the Panthers. So he will mosr definitely start. Panthers’ netminder, Roberto Luongo will most likely return to the net after sitting out Monday’s loss which should give the Cats a boost, despite having their D-man Erik Gudbranson and center Derek MacKenzie out with foot injuries.
The Rangers who will give the Bruins a hard time tonight, served a 4-2 loss to the Panthers, a game that included a disallowed goal and an out of position official. Hopefully Florida will have more luck in a crucial game for both teams as they fight for points to get into the post-season.
Florida head coach Gerard Gallant “carefully” questioned the officiating after the game, but he also tore into his players for only bringing game for 15 minutes when they really needed to play a full 60 for the win:
“We can’t show up and play 15 minutes, and that’s all we played tonight. The Rangers dominated the first two periods and there is no excuse for that.”
The Panthers still lead the Atlantic Division by two points over the Tampa Bay Lightning and three over the Bruins, But Tampa has a game in hand and would win the ROW tiebreaker if it comes to that. But Florida knows, that they have to clinch first place in the division if they want to avoid a first round playoff matchup against the Bruins or Lightning. Unfortunately, the season series also is favouring the Bruins who have dominated the Cats this season.
In their last meeting with the Bears in Sunrise FL, the Panthers did get the game to overtime but still lost, but maybe this time their rejuvenated third line will be able to push the team to victory this time on Thursday. Their coach won’t settle for less.
Newly acquired Jiri Hudler has lead the way for the Panthers in their last games, getting two goals and an impressive six shots on net. Hudler, Teddy Purcell, who was also acquired from the Edmonton Oilers at the trade deadline have joined Nick Bjugstad on that third line. And their chemistry now seems to have produced instant results, which is now a line that can be counted on to provide some much needed scoring depth. Bjugstad has been lit on fire in the past five games scoring three goals and five points while Purcell has added two goals and four points in that time span. They will be game changers in the stretch.
The real one to watch will be Jaromir Jagr.Panthers’ GM Dale Tallon is also pointing to Vincent Trocheck as the reason the Panthers have a chance to fight for the division crown.
“He saved our team this year,” Tallon said of the 22-year-old.
Alongside that dynamic talent, veterans like Jagr and Luongo, and dynamic young talent like Aleksander Barkov and Aaron Ekblad, will carry the team into the playoffs. Where they end up in the standings is up to how they decide to play.
A troubling stat in the Panthers’ recent record is their play against playoff-bound team like the Bruins. In their past 10 games, the Panthers have lost five games to teams currently in a playoff position. That is something that will definitely need to change in their last 10 games if they are going to be considered serious playoff contenders. The team needs to put a little bit more distance between them by getting a win in Boston, and Monday’s wake up call, should do just that.
Our Pick: Panthers over Bruins, 3-2