Record setting Bruins eliminated from playoffs 


The Florida Panthers pulled off the biggest upset in NHL history. The Florida Panthers defeated the Boston Bruins 4-3 in overtime at TD Garden on Sunday night and won the series four games to three. The Bruins, who shattered the record for most wins and points in a single season, went down in a heartbreaking finish for Boston fans. They went up three games to one against a team that finished 43 points behind them in the standings. The Panthers fought back to win game five 4-3 in overtime, took a back and forth game six 7-5, and then finished it off with the 4-3 clincher in game seven. 

“We just  did what nobody in the world thought we could do,” Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk said post-game. Tkachuk, who came over last offseason in a blockbuster trade with the Calgary Flames, was instrumental in helping the Panthers move on. He had a career year this season, leading all Panthers in points during the regular season. Then in the playoffs, he tied for the team lead with five goals, six assists, and led them with 11 points. His biggest moment was when he won game five in overtime off a Linus Ullmark turnover to extend his team’s season. 

“I don’t think you can find a harder team to play against then the Boston Bruins,” said Panthers head coach Paul Maurice in his post-game press conference. “There isn’t a weakness in their game…so it’s a proving ground that you get to keep what’s most important but you get to keep that for a while. The players here now have a shared experience of [how hard it is].”

It wasn’t easy for the Panthers, who barely squeaked in as the second wild card. Brandon Montour, who set the franchise record for points in a season by a defenseman, had a big series. He set the record for most goals by a Panthers defenseman in a series with five, and also had three assists. Carter Verhaege, Aleksander Barkov, Sam Bennet, and Sam Reinhart all had five or more points. To start off the series, Alex Lyon got the start in net for the Panthers. After a few struggles, he was replaced by Sergei Bobrovsky midway through game four. Bobrovsky played the rest of the series and had a 8.91 save percentage. He came up huge, kept his team in the game, and made big saves when he needed to, including 44 stops in game five. The Panthers were the best team in the league last season with 122 points. After a steep decline this season, as well as harsh criticism from fans, they proved they are still one of the top teams and can go toe-to-toe in this series. For the Bruins, it is a depressing way to end a remarkable year. 

Brad Marchand and trade-deadline acquisition Tyler Bertuzzi each led them with 10 points in the first round, while Dimitry Orlov and Taylor Hall each had eight. David Pastrnak, who scored 60 goals this year, had five in the opening round. Overall though, the Bruins were not as tough as the Panthers were. They were slower, more conservative, and at times looked cocky and unprepared. “The only thing I can look at right now and say I would have done differently is at the start of Game 5 I would have had (Patrice) Bergeron and (Brad) Marchand together,” head coach Jim Montgomery said. “Took me eight minutes to get there. Don’t know if it makes a difference. That’s the only thing that I look at that I would change. I don’t really have much regret with anything that we did. That’s why I said I have to analyze more of the series and have a better, more intelligent answer about where we went wrong.”

Another controversial move was the goaltending situation. Linus Ullmark, who had a remarkable regular season with 40 wins in 48 starts and is the front runner for the Vezina Trophy(top goalie during the regular season), struggled with a 3.36 goals-against-average and 8.96 save percentage. Despite winning three of the first four games, the expectation was that they would turn to goalie Jeremy Swayman with a chance to close out the series at home. They went with Ullmark who ended up costing his team the game, turning the puck over behind his own net in overtime, letting Matthew Tkachuk score on a wide open net. He struggled again in game six allowing seven goals. Swayman got the start in game seven, but his solid performance wasn’t enough. “I felt like we had the right personnel, and I have to take some responsibility for not being able to get us to play north quicker,” Montgomery said. “If I can answer that right now, it lies on me.”

For the Bruins, General Manager Don Sweeney and team President Cam Neely will start to look at the offseason. Forward Patrice Bergeron is an unrestricted free agent and might retire. The 37-year old has played his entire 19 year career with the team. Forward David Krejci is also a free agent and is 37 too. As for the Panthers, they will face the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second round, beginning the series on the road for game one on Tuesday.