Did the Panthers win? Or the Bruins who lost? Or the Panthers who struggled not to lose? Or the Bruins who dropped the ball?
We are still scratching our heads trying to find the answer. The result, however, is unequivocal. By winning 7-5 on Friday, the Florida Panthers avoided elimination for the second game in a row and forced a seventh and final duel against the Boston Bruins. Suddenly, the status of favorites for men in yellow and black is hanging by a thread.
The viewer certainly got his money’s worth. Tons of goals, a tight scoreline until the very end, controversy – a hand-on-goal pass denied to Patrice Bergeron, really? In short, some damn good television.
Now, what to take away from this encounter? Quite simply that no longer any form of logic holds water.
The Bruins, first. No one expected their opponents to give them a second-round ticket as a gift. But that’s no longer funny.
In 102 minutes played 5v5 in the last two games, they scored only two goals. This is barely more than a third of their cruising speed for the season. It’s not bad luck: The Natural Stat Trick website estimated that the Cubs generated just four high-quality scoring chances in Friday’s game, compared to 15 for the Panthers. This despite the return of David Krejci to training.
With the exception of the power play, which now boasts a crazy 39% success rate, nothing really seems to be working. The famous “depth”, supposed to be a force, is very timid. In defense, Connor Clifton had a miserable evening. Garnet Hathaway did not scare many people.
However, the most serious problem of the hour is perhaps in front of the net. Linus Ullmark had already been one of those responsible for the defeat in game number 5. He is certainly at the forefront of the results of this game number 6. With the exception of a spectacular save against Carter Verhaeghe in the very beginning dating, he was never able to tell the difference.
The two leads his club finally gave him in the third period lasted 208 and 28 seconds, respectively. The Swede is shaken, it’s not even subtle.
After the game, head coach Jim Montgomery lamented to reporters on site that his men had given the Panthers a lot of space in the enclave. He also said he toyed with the idea of removing Ullmark in favor of Jeremy Swayman. However, his assistants and him agreed to stay the course, remembering that on many occasions, the Bruins had emerged winners of duels of the kind during the season.
Obviously, the model is not infallible.
It would obviously be unfair not to pay tribute to the Panthers, who worked tirelessly to reach this seventh game.
Their roster, at all positions, is lower than the Bruins. Their goaltender hasn’t been part of the NHL’s elite for quite a while now. But they don’t give a damn about it. They played a strong game, especially at even strength, and deserve what’s coming to them.
However, one of the reasons for their current position, perhaps the biggest reason, is Matthew Tkachuk.
With 109 points during the season, Brady’s brother was the heart and soul of the Panthers. We will not be surprised for a second if he is nominated for the Hart trophy.
In this series, he is simply sublime. He is in all the battles, all the highlights.
The epithet “gamer” translates very badly in French. This will designate a player who rises above the fray in the most crucial moments. A fighter, let’s say.
“Isn’t he a gamer’s (explicit language)?” exclaimed head coach Paul Maurice after the previous game. The remark, which we report as is, sums up everything about Tkachuk.
The Panthers are still not penguins. Defenseman Brandon Montour, in his late twenties, is experiencing an explosion that was no longer expected. Carter Verhaeghe continues the momentum started in the playoffs last year. Aleksander Barkov, more erased offensively, finally scored on Friday.
However, if this team manages to cause the surprise of the year by eliminating the evil Bruins in the first round, it will be thanks to Tkachuk. All eyes are on him, and he certainly doesn’t ask for more.
One of those two teams had the best season in NHL history. The other entered the postseason narrowly. None of that will matter on Sunday, when it’s time to end it once and for all.
To hell with logic, finally. And that’s perfect.