So, yes, 2013-14 was not kind to the Panthers when playing the Bs, as the team went 0-5 vs. the boys from Boston, and the games were not really even close. Oh how things (may) change in the course of an off-season. One thing that is certain: these two teams are not the same clubs that faced each other a year ago.
More importantly for Florida is that many believe the Cats stole the very heart and soul of the Bruins, Shawn Thornton. Of course, the reality is that this game will likely be decided by far more relevant factors than that single acquisition.
The Bruins and Panthers head into the week at 15 and 16,respectively, on the ESPN NHL power rankings, with both teams facing the dreaded injury bug.
For the first time in years, Zdeno Chara will not play in this game due to injury. Yes, that's big (pun intended), as the Bruins' defense has struggled with the lack of Chara and the traded-to-the-Islanders Johnny Boychuk. Hockey observers have noted the lack of high-end speed in Boston, and the ability to deal with teams that have such speed. Boston - like the Panthers - are also suddenly lacking in a first line right wing since the departure of Jarome Iginla. The men in yellow and black have yet to find an answer to replace his offense, and must now face stingy Florida, which has allowed the fewest goals in the league this season. In short, these are not your Stanley Cup champion Bruins, but they are sill a dangerous team with a 7-6-0 record with 36 goals for and 32 against.
Post-game comments from Philadelphia Flyer Wayne Simmonds (posted here on LBC) took note of the new look Cats and their speed. The Panthers have quietly been going about their business, which has generally entailed playing defensive hockey with middle-of-the-road possession numbers, while giving up lots of shots. Roberto Luongo has been amazing, and the fact that nobody outside of South Florida seems to have taken note of this is mind-boggling. Question marks abound for tonight, with the injury and illness bug having hit the Cats hard as well. Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau are both questionable for tonight, while Brandon Pirri, Sean Bergenheim, and Dave Bolland remain out of the lineup and home in South Florida. The Panthers practiced with the Vincent Trocheck, Rocco Grimaldi, Colby Robak line together. In roughly 5 minutes of ice time the 3 rookies performed quite admirably against Philadelphia.
The Bruins are known for their physical and bruising style of play. The Panthers have size and physical players of their own with Gudbranson, Olsen, Mitchell, Kulikov, Ekblad, Thornton, Kopecky, Upshall, Hayes, Bjugstad and Robak in the lineup. How the Bruins deal with the Cats speed will be the big question heading into tonight's game. Perhaps of greater importance is whether David Krejci will play tonight as he was scratched due to a hip injury on Saturday night.
Pay a visit to our friends who have problems with the enunciation of the letter "R" over at Stanley Cup of Chowder, as fun a bunch as you'll find north of LBC, and check in on tonight's GameThread right here at 6:30.