(Photo Credit: Lynne Sladky / AP Photo)

By: Jason Cooke | Follow me on Twitter / X @cookejournalism

The Florida Panthers have established dominance over the Boston Bruins throughout the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Not only have they pieced together a 2-1 lead over their Atlantic Division rival, but they’ve done so with some flare.

Florida has outscored the B’s 12-3 in the last two games, deflating all possible life from the Bruins after their 5-1 triumph in Game One. The Panthers have been faster, tougher, and more resilient than the Bruins. But now, they’ve sidelined Boston’s captain. A response is more necessary than ever.

“To go after our captain, that’s not okay with us,” Pavel Zacha told reporters following Sunday’s morning skate. “We’re ready to be physical again today and be a little bit harder on them.”

Sam Bennett appeared to hit Brad Marchand in the face following a first-period collision in Game Three on Friday, which is presumed to be the play that reportedly placed Marchand in the concussion protocol. Bruins bench boss Jim Montgomery would not confirm that Marchand was dealing with a concussion. Marchand did return to the ice after receiving the blow but was later officially ruled out from the contest with an upper-body injury. Though Boston had lost their captain in a pivotal Game Three on home ice, there was no form of retribution to Florida’s Bennett.

“I feel that that’s my fault that we didn’t retaliate, to some degree,” Montgomery said Sunday morning. “But you’re trying to get back in a game, it’s 1-0 up until they get the four-minute power play.”

The problem was that Boston was already supposed to have tossed a figurative jab from the drop of the puck following their lopsided defeat in Game Two. They didn’t, and the Panthers pounced on the B’s to send the home fans leaving for Causeway Street late in the third. And now that Marchand is gone, a response lies in the hands of Boston’s secondary leadership for the time being.

“It’s not going to be one guy,” Trent Frederic said. “It’s going to be all of us as a group. He brings more than what you just see on the ice so we’re going to have to do that as well and have a lot of guys step up and talk. He’s obviously a vocal leader as well.”

Assistant captains David Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy will be under the spotlight to make an impact, but Marchand’s absence—and what caused it—falls on everyone in Boston’s dressing room. And for Frederic, it’s a reason for the Bruins to play with some fury.

“I think it pisses off everyone,” said Frederic. I think this whole team, it kind of ticks everyone off to be honest…you can’t use it as frustration. You still got to go out and do the job.”

But saying it and doing it are two very different things. The Bruins may have said the right words after their Game Two blowout, but the same problems plagued them in Game Three. The remainder of this series boils down to the Bruins’ ability to drag down a confident, arrogant hockey club.