On Sunday night, April 8, there was only one hockey game being played at the NHL level. The game between the Boston Bruins and the Florida Panthers was the rescheduled game of their January tilt that had to be cancelled due to a blizzard.
Undoubtedly the teams were tired—after all it was the 82nd game for both of them. However, it was clear that the Florida Panthers were intent on making the most of their last game of the season, having not made it into the playoffs. For the Bruins it seemed they just lacked in many ways.
“I just felt that, coming down the stretch here, you could start to see us mentally get tired. You know, physically, I think every team goes through it, the schedule. Every team has difficult parts of it, and at the end of the year, you’re a little heavy-legged, but mentally, looked like we were losing some of our passion, and that showed in the first period,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said after the game.
During the first period the Bruins had seven giveaways and only eight shots on net. They went into the first intermission trailing 2-1. For Florida, Henrik Borgström, who was playing in just his third NHL game, got his first NHL goal and point when he put the Panthers on the scoreboard with their first shot on Tuukka Rask of the game at 1:22. David Backes would tie the game about seven minutes later, but still the Bruins didn’t seem truly engaged. That lack of involvement in the game would result in former Bruin, now Panther, Frank Vatrano getting his seventh of the season at 16:46 of the opening twenty.
What certainly should have been a wakeup call for the Bruins was anything but. They continued their lackluster performance through most of the second period and as a result were losing 3-1 going into the second intermission. Maxim Mamin scored his third of the season for Florida with 6:27 left to play in the middle frame. And while the Bruins have done a good job of coming back after trailing in the first, such has most definitely not been the case when trailing after the second.
As the puck dropped on the third period, it did seem that the Bruins were much more involved, but a 20-minute effort in a 60-minute game is usually not enough. In fact the Bruins had 26 shots on goal in the third period, which was more than the combined 17 they had in the first two periods. David Pastrnak managed to get the Bruins their second of the game and close the gap to one with just over ten minutes remaining in regulation. James Reimer got injured making a save for Florida. While he tried to continue, on the next shot on net that he stopped it was clear he couldn’t and Roberto Luongo—who shut out the Bruins last week—came in to finish the game, denying all eight shots he saw.
At the other end, the dagger would be plunged as Evgenii Dadonov put the puck past Rask giving the Panthers back their two-goal margin with just 1:49 remaining. While the Bruins used their timeout and looked to try to push the game to overtime, it was too little too late.
“I think if we would have had that urgency that we had in the third [period], that would have served us well. They’re a team that didn’t have much to play for, other than personal accolades and such. I think if we would have come out with that urgency and put our game on sooner, it maybe discourages them having life. Instead, we kind of wait and see like we’ve done a little bit as of late and they started on time. They score, we get it back to 1-1 and that should’ve been a wake-up call that ‘Hey we’ve got an opportunity here,’” shared Backes. “They get one [goal] shortly thereafter, get the lead and we never got it back to even after that. So, I just think that urgency that we showed in the third, when we can throw a lot of rubber at the net and get them turning, facing their net. And it’s tough to defend that way. That would have been a good recipe for us. It just took us too long to get there and it was too deep of a hole to dig out of.”
Such a scenario will certainly not serve the team well going into the playoffs. They will face the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round—a team that beat them in three of the four games during the regular season. Of course, all of that is wiped away. Playoff hockey is a different style of hockey to be sure. The Bruins can be successful, but they must take their game to their opponent from the first puck drop.
The Bruins have three days before their first game against Toronto. Undoubtedly a bit of time off both mentally and physically should aid them. The Bruins also have home ice for this first round, which will begin Thursday night.