By: Drew Johnson | Follow Me On Twitter: @doobshmoob
The Boston Bruins will be spending some time in the sunshine state this week as they take on the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. They will follow up this matchup with a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.
The Bruins are coming off a tough loss to the Detroit Red Wings. After things got heated late in the second period, Detroit was able to steal the momentum and bury Boston’s hopes of a victory in the third period. The Panthers are coming off a loss themselves. They fell to the Lightning 5-4 in overtime on Saturday, bringing their record to 10-10-5.
It seems that Ryan Donato learned a thing or two during his stint with the Providence Bruins this season. Since his return to the NHL, the young forward potted the shootout winner against the New York Islanders and a goal against Detroit this past weekend. It gives Boston hope that Anders Bjork could have a similar fate after being sent down to the AHL himself. The hope is that Donato now has the confidence necessary to continue executing while playing a two-way game – something that was a focus for him during his time in Providence.
It’s been a while since Jaroslav Halak has seen action – over a week, in fact. However, the netminder will be getting the start tonight against the Panthers. In his last six appearances, Halak went 4-2-0 with a .936 SV%. The only noticeable hiccup came against the Colorado Avalanche when he gave up six goals on 25 shots. Florida is the perfect opponent for Halak to go up against as he kicks back into gear – it’ll still be a challenge, but the Bruins are expected to come out on top. Halak should also get a big offensive boost from his teammates.
Alexander Barkov has been stellar for the Panthers this season, especially recently. He currently has a four-game point streak going with three goals and two assists. In total, Barkov has notched 23 points in 25 games and leads all Florida skaters in ice time, averaging just shy of 23 minutes per game.
Keith Yandle has been having yet another solid season along the blue line. The defenseman hasn’t missed a single matchup since the 2008-09 season having appeared in 731 straight games. In his 25 skates this season, Yandle has come up with four goals and 19 assists – 13 of those helpers coming on the power play. He leads all Panthers defensemen in scoring and ice time and will be one of Boston’s toughest customers on Tuesday night.
Boston’s depth has remained almost silent. While they have applied pressure, they have lacked the ability to execute. In fact, Charlie McAvoy – who has only appeared in seven games this season – is currently ranked eighth on the team in production with a goal and five assists. If that doesn’t indicate a lack in production from the bottom two lines, I don’t know what does.
Roberto Luongo will be a game-time decision on Tuesday. He’s had a rough go of it this season, having missed time with multiple injuries and going 4-3-0 with a .902 SV% and 3.07 GAA. The Panthers returned goaltender Michael Hutchinson to the AHL this afternoon, which could signify that Luongo will at least be wearing a baseball cap when his team takes on the Bruins.
If Luongo misses yet another start, James Reimer will take to the crease. Reimer has also struggled this season, posting a 5-6-3 record in 13 starts. Accompanied by a .893 SV% and 3.36 GAA, the Panthers are having a rough go of it in the goaltender department.
Bruins vs. Panthers Outlook
Given Florida’s struggles in the crease, the Bruins may see a wide variety of goal scorers on Tuesday night. In order to do so, they will need to bring their legs along with them. Outskating the Panthers will be the biggest key to Boston’s game. It’s something they failed to do in the latter stages of their loss to the Red Wings and a characteristic they haven’t brought to their game consistently throughout the first two months of the season.
Florida will be placing their hopes in the hands of their young forwards and star defensemen. The Panthers have a fairly well-rounded attack coming from both up front and the blue line so the Bruins may be put on their heels when up against Florida’s top five skaters.