5 storylines to watch in Bruins-Panthers: How they stack up, roster questions, revenge and more

BOSTON — The Boston Bruins want revenge. After eliminating the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night, the Bruins are set for a rematch against the Florida Panthers, the team that beat them in the first round last year.

Game 7 of this series was the last time Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci played for the Bruins before their retirement.

“It was something that ended our season last year,” Jake DeBrusk said. “We don’t want this to happen again.”

This time, the Panthers will play at home as the number one team in the Atlantic Division. Florida eliminated the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games in the first round. The first game will take place Monday evening at Amerant Bank Arena.

Athleticism We’ll know more about the matchup in the coming days, but here’s a first look at five storylines to watch out for.

Bruins undefeated against Panthers

The Bruins have won all four regular season meetings against the Panthers this season. Pavel Zacha led them with two goals and three assists.

Their third confrontation was the most emotional of the four clashes. On March 26, the Bruins came from behind to earn a 4-3 victory.

It was a crucial victory. The Bruins had lost their previous two games against the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers. The day before playing the Panthers, coach Jim Montgomery had to stop practice and call for sprints because the Bruins were practicing so poorly.

The Panthers took the lead three times. Charlie McAvoy, David Pastrnak and Trent Frederic each took turns equalizing, setting up Zacha for the score in the third period.

Jeremy Swayman is the hot hand. Swayman closed out the Leafs, starting the final five games against the Bruins’ fiercest rival in recent times and posting a .950 save percentage in the series.

However, Linus Ullmark’s playoff journey may not be over.

Ullmark won three of four regular season wins against the Panthers, posting a .947 save percentage in his three-start span. Swayman stopped 18 of 21 shots (.857) in the win.

Ullmark last appeared in Game 2 against Toronto on April 22. He’s more rested than Swayman.

“When we didn’t get back with him, I talked to him like I would talk to any defenseman or forward coming out of the lineup,” Montgomery said. “He was the first 100 percent on the team.”

The Bruins are healthier

Justin Brazeau made his playoff debut in Game 5 after recovering from a right wrist injury. The fourth-line right winger, formerly with the Leafs, has a knack for controlling pucks down low and creating tight chances. Montgomery expected Brazeau to improve with more reps.

“Rusty,” Montgomery said of Brazeau before Game 6. “His work on the walls wasn’t as good as it usually was. There were still a few offensive plays. He didn’t reach his spots where he can usually hold on to pucks a little more. I’ve done it several times. But not often enough. If he gets the opportunity to play again tomorrow night, we expect him to be better.

Derek Forbort, who just underwent two undisclosed procedures, was available for Game 7. The Bruins did not believe the defensive defenseman would play this season after dealing with a long-term injury.

“He showed a huge willingness to want to come back and help us this year,” Montgomery said of the pending unrestricted free agent. “We didn’t expect it to be even close.”

Andrew Peeke, who injured his left hand in the second game against the Leafs, participated in Saturday’s morning skate. Peeke, a Parkland, Fla., native, could be available to play against his hometown team. Montgomery listed Peeke as week-to-week.

The Bruins will most likely use their top pairing of Hampus Lindholm and Brandon Carlo against Florida’s No. 1 trio of Vladimir Tarasenko, Aleksander Barkov and Sam Reinhart. That would leave Charlie McAvoy, Mason Lohrei and Matt Grzelcyk against the Panthers’ second line of Carter Verhaeghe, Anton Lundell and Matthew Tkachuk.

McAvoy and Tkachuk go way back. They were tournament teammates with the Boston Junior Bruins. Both born in 1997, they also played together in the U.S. National Team Development Program.

The Panthers hope Sam Bennett plays in the second round. Bennett was injured in the second game against the Lightning after knocking the puck out of his hand.

Bennett is one of Florida’s go-to players. The left-handed center scored 20 goals and 21 assists in 69 games during the regular season. He was unavailable for the first game against the Bruins last year. Bennett returned in the second game and helped lead the Panthers to a 6-3 victory.

If Bennett returns, Lundell would move down to the third line.


How the Bruins avoided a chokehold and finished off the Maple Leafs: 4 takeaways

(Photo by Charlie McAvoy and Matthew Tkachuk: Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

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