This was a tale of two teams: one almost fully healthy, playing at the top of their game and on a five-game win streak, and the other team very wounded, missing seven forwards and icing two lines comprised primarily of AHL call-ups. Taking all that into account, you would expect the former to shell the latter, and that's exactly what happened, as the Bruins simply dominated the Panthers, beating them heartily by a score of 8-0. Head coach Kevin Dineen didn't have much in the way of resources to draw from during this game, and might now appreciate what former Panther head coach Peter DeBoer used to deal with for entire seasons. Thankfully, that will change at some point soon for the Panthers and Dineen.
The Bruins came out with some good initial pressure, but both teams started getting chances as the game moved on. Both Rask and Theodore had to make some tough stops early, but they were both up to the task. The first penalty of the game was awarded to Florida after former Panther Gregory Campbell got caught high sticking. The Bruins started the powerplay off for Florida in horrible fashion, scoring a shorty off the stick of Brad Marchand. It was one Theodore would've liked to get back as it snuck underneath his left arm. The Bruins kept up the pressure shorthanded and didn't let Florida get set up once, killing off the man advantage with almost no trouble. Theodore then stoned a Bruins three-on-one after the Panthers forwards were caught sleeping, keeping the game at 1-0. Florida managed to generate some pressure for the next few minutes, testing Rask with some quality chances, but couldn't put one home to even it up. Boston then got their first powerplay as Ed Jovanovski gets called for roughing, and the Bruins would convert quickly as Milan Lucic tapped in a rebound off the boards from a point shot. Krys Barch then went at it with Shawn Thornton for the second time this season in an attempt to jumpstart the Cats, but to no avail. The Bruins would go back on the powerplay late in the period as Kris Versteeg ended up in the box for roughing. Boston would take a tripping call on the ensuing powerplay, evening it up as both teams skated 4-on-4 for 1:37. Boston didn't seem to mind as Benoit Pouliot would just undress Dmitry Kulikov and Theodore, going coast to coast and making it 3-0 Boston. To rub some more salt in the wound, the Bruins would score one more time before the period would end, as Dennis Seidenberg would rip a slapshot home from the point. The Cats would go into the dressing room down four goals and quite demoralized. Yikes.
To no one's surprise, the Panthers pulled Theodore and gave Scott Clemmensen the nod in goal. Florida started the second and took an immediate penalty as Kulikov hooked Patrice Bergeron during a footrace to a loose puck in front of the Panther net. Boston didn't convert on the powerplay, but Boston scored easily on Clemmensen as Gregory Campbell beat him with a high wrister from the slot. The Cats would attempt to keep the game in control with some stretches of pressure, but Florida was clearly outmatched as Boston had the majority of the shots and chances through most of the second. The Bruins would get another powerplay as Kulikov sat in the box, but Florida was able to kill it off. However shortly after, Boston would go right back on the man advantage as Erik Gudbranson would get called for cross checking. The Bruins wouldn't miss this time around as Bergeron got a fortunate bounce off Jovanovski's skate and would take an insurmountable 6-0 lead. The Bruins would continue to dominate the remainder of the period, controlling the flow of the game and topping the Panthers in puck possession. Luckily for Florida, they didn't allow a seventh before the end of the second.
The hits would keep on coming as Florida got caught watching the puck in their own zone and Marchand would score his second of the night off a weird deflection, making it 7-0. Boston would continue to toy with the Panthers, though Florida would get a few chances in between stretches of neutral zone play. The period was mostly a snoozer for Panthers fans, and the only thing that kept you interested was the thought of ruining the shutout for Rask. Marchand would score his third of the night, making it 8-0 Boston and sending a rain of hats down on the TD Garden ice. Florida kept trying to pressure the Bruins but mostly just tried to staunch the bleeding and get back home to lick their wounds.
- After a spirited first five minutes of the game, the Panthers looked not only like a team coming off back-to-back games, but also a team that lacked the depth and legs to compete with a top team like the Bruins. These injuries are really noticeable in games like these.
- Looking for a bright spot? Matthias centered the first line between Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann, and looked pretty good doing it. He's no Stephen Weiss, but he's going to be centering the second line for awhile if he keeps working hard and performing like he's been.
- Theodore didn't look sharp at all tonight, letting up four in the first, and three of them could've been stopped. He was mercifully yanked by Dineen before the start of the second. Hopefully he bounces back after the holiday.
- These are the kinds of games where you realize that despite the great drafts the last two seasons, the Panthers organization still does not have much depth in regards to the NHL parent club. It's still a work in progress, folks, and it'll be another season or two before we really see the kind of depth that clubs like Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Boston have.
- Dadonov was visible in this game, getting several opportunities on Rask but not converting on any. If Dadonov wants to stick in the NHL, he'll have to start finding his scoring touch on a consistent basis.
- The Panthers didn't exactly lay down and die, despite the score saying otherwise. There was still a fair amount of hard work by several players in this game wearing a Cats sweater. Overall though, the team looked flat-footed and not ready to face off against the reigning champs.
- Oddly enough, Dineen put Gudbranson up as a forward with Dadonov and Santorelli at times. He didn't do too bad either and sadly at times looked like a better forward than anyone playing on the third or fourth lines.
- Boston looks simply awesome. They are looking better than last year, when they won the Cup, and in my mind are the team to beat in the entire NHL. No team in the league has a bigger goal differential (even before this blowout), and Tim Thomas and Rask are as good a one-two tandem in net as you're going to find in the NHL. It'll be a surprise if they don't win the East, let alone the ultimate prize, for a second consecutive season.
- Florida really got beat up in this game physically as Boston drastically outhit the Panthers, and many of them were big hits. The Cats could've at least made Boston pay a bit with some physical play of their own, but the Cats just didn't seem up to it.
- The Panther defense looked timid and afraid to pressure the Bruins forwards, often gliding backwards too deep into their own zone and ceding the shooting lanes through the middle of the ice. That's a pretty uncharacteristic trait for the Florida defense so far this season.