The Florida Panthers are in a dogfight for the top spot in the Atlantic Division, tied for first with the Boston Bruins with a record of 46-20-6 and 97 points. On Tuesday night, the teams will face each other.

Last week, the Panthers were in a rough slump, losing five straight before their 4-1 on Sunday night against the Philadelphia Flyers. Meanwhile, the Bruins have been in the same boat, losing two in a row and three of their last six games. Tuesday’s matchup is the game to watch. Given the standings this late in the season, this is a must-win game for the Panthers.

Panthers vs. Bruins

The Bruins know exactly what happened in the first round of the 2023 NHL Playoffs, and they have taken out their anger on the Panthers in the regular season.

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In their previous two meetings, Boston took home four points from Florida with their first matchup being a 3-2 loss in overtime and their second being a 3-1 loss in regulation.

Panthers’ Defense Shorthanded

The Bruins are one of the most dangerous teams offensively, and the numbers don’t lie. They rank 10th in the NHL in goals per game, averaging 3.31, and have the eighth-ranked power play with a 23.6% success rate. One of the biggest reasons for their success upfront is forward David Pastrnak. He is tied for fourth in the NHL in points with 99 and goals with 44. Additionally, forward Brad Marchand has been no pushover with 27 goals and 35 assists through 72 games.

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However, the Panthers’ defense is shorthanded this time around, as Aaron Ekblad will be out with a lower-body injury until next week. The team will have some reinforcements after Dmitry Kulikov returned from his two-game suspension on Sunday. If Florida wants to win this game, they must contain the Bruins’ offense. They’ve shown they can do it, leading the league in goals against per game with 2.41, but they need to be clutch, considering Boston has averaged three goals a game against them this season.

Panthers’ Offense Needs to Fire on All Cylinders

The Cats are known for their high-octane offense. The statistics back that up, with the fourth-ranked power play with a 26.2% conversion rate. Their top forward, Sam Reinhart, has been a big piece in their offensive success as he leads the league in power-play goals. Also, he is second in the league in goals with 50, making him the second 50-goal scorer in Panther history behind Pavel Bure.

Sam Reinhart Florida Panthers
Sam Reinhart, Florida Panthers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

However, the Panthers are seventh in the NHL in goals allowed per game with 2.74 and are tied for seventh on the penalty kill with an 81.9% kill rate. The defense has to show why they have those stats to win this game.

Panthers Need Strong Goaltending

This goaltending matchup should be one for the ages. Sergei Bobrovsky has entered the conversation for a potential third career Vezina trophy and his stats make a good argument. He leads the league in goals-against average (GAA) with 2.38. He also ranks seventh in save percentage (SV%) with a .916, and he’s tied for sixth with four shutouts.

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His opponent tonight is just as strong. Goaltender Jeremy Swayman has been a rock in net for the Bruins. He’s tied for second in the league in SV% with a .917 SV% and ranks ninth in GAA with a 2.57.

If Florida Wins, They Have a Chance to Clinch

The Panthers have a chance to clinch a playoff spot tonight. If they win tonight or lose in overtime, and the Detroit Red Wings lose in regulation to the Washington Capitals, they will punch their ticket to the postseason. Of course, they will get other chances to clinch before the end of the season, but the sooner they get in the dance, the better.

Can Panthers Get the Job Done?

This will be one of the toughest games of the season for Florida, but they have faced adversity many times before and have managed to come out on top. The road to the playoffs is never an easy one. But the team can show they’re still one of the strongest teams in the league with a win on Tuesday.


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