A few hours before the meeting, Matthew Tkachuk had decided to play the card of humility.
“To win a game in this series, it’s going to take almost perfect effort,” he told reporters in Boston, referring to the Bruins’ monstrous roster and historic season they’ve just had.
His prediction came true. The Florida Panthers have been very good. But perfect? Far from there. So much so that it was the Oursons who emerged victorious from this first duel disputed with great intensity.
To be perfect, Panthers players had to exercise discipline. The game sheet tells us that they received only two penalties, which is excellent. The fact that they did it in the first five minutes of the game is more problematic. Especially when you consider that the Floridians’ penalty kill has been one of their big weaknesses during the season. David Pastrnak did not ask for so much. 1-0.
To be perfect, the felines had to win the goalkeeper battle. Alex Lyon has certainly made some sensational saves. But his inability to catch a harmless shot from Brad Marchand with his mitt at the start of the second period was a bit embarrassing. 2-0.
At the end of the engagement, the same Lyon was convinced to have immobilized the disc. The object, however, was lying on his leggings. He couldn’t believe his eyes when Jake DeBrusk pushed the puck behind him. 3-1.
To be perfect, finally, the visitors had to pick up the pace in the final twenty, having generated a more than appreciable amount of chances to score until then. This was, however, their least prolific period.
The Bruins, who are not on their first barbecue, sealed the game. The Panthers did not know how to react. Before an Anton Lundell shot hit Linus Ullmark with 21 seconds left in the game, it had been almost four minutes since the goalie in black and yellow had received a puck.
The worst part is that Paul Maurice’s men, if not perfect, were, for a long time, the better of the two teams on the ice.
The Bruins, it’s worth mentioning, were weakened by a virus that apparently affected several players, according to local media reports. We did not get the fine detail of this epidemic. Only one player had to skip the game: Patrice Bergeron.
Starting a series without its main center player, indisputable leader of the group in all situations, is not optimal, at the very least. With all due respect to Pavel Zacha, his presence between Brad Marchand and Jake DeBrusk early in the game gave the first line a flavor…different?
In his first career playoff game, Tyler Bertuzzi was a dud. Two assists, including a perfect pass on his club’s first goal, and an entire evening disturbing the opponent. In particular, he was seen stealing Nick Cousins’ stick and breaking it on the ground once on the bench. Pain Level: Elite.
Garnet Hathaway, for his part, confirmed that he was tailor-made for the fourth line of this team. He was logically denied a goal late in the third period after he pulled the puck out of Alex Lyon’s mitt. But, goal or not, his mission was accomplished: the 30-year-old goaltender, whose first career start in the playoffs was, was destabilized.
200 feet away, Linus Ullmark simply added one more game to his already remarkable season. He too, at 29, had things to prove. His only two career starts in the playoffs, also obtained last year, ended in as many defeats. If there was any doubt about it, let’s consider it dispelled. In any case until proven otherwise.
We knew the Panthers would have their hands full to defeat the Bruins. In this, the victory of the regular season champions is not a surprise. But delivering such a good offensive performance and ending the evening empty-handed can leave its mark.
At the end of the night, Brad Marchand was right to say that his team “can and must” be better. If that other prediction comes to fruition and the Bruins quickly get back to full cruising speed, their opponents could find the clock ticking. Or the short series.