Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

Apr 23, 2023; Sunrise, Florida, USA; A line brawl break out between the Florida Panthers and the Boston Bruins during the third period of game four in the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at FLA Live Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

There’s been a phrase that’s crept to the surface and out of the Bruins’ room in this first-round series with the Panthers. You may see a word or two changed, but it’s about “keeping it between the whistles.” In essence, it’s about staying out of the Florida Man nonsense and the Everglades mud that the eight-seed Panthers want to drag ’em down into.

Sunday’s Game 4 at FLA Live Arena saw the Panthers’ most concerted effort to get the Bruins to abandon that mantra, as the Panthers crosschecked, speared, and instigated for a full 60 minutes. All while the Bruins simply smiled, torched Sergei Bobrovsky like it was Any Game In The 2022-23 Season, and skated off with a 3-1 series lead to their name.

The silliness truly started following the final horn of the first period, as Matthew Tkachuk decided to glide towards Garnet Hathaway and deliver a cheap crosscheck to his ribs and/or back. As Hathaway dropped down to his stomach and writhing in pain, the Panthers’ Sam Bennett came in and delivered a spear right to the groin of a fallen Hathaway. Speaking after the game, Hathaway noted the lack of padding in the spot Tkachuk targeted, and acknowledged that he felt that spearing from Bennett.

This was the Panthers trying to goad the Bruins into more nonsense after it worked just minutes prior, as Ryan Lomberg dropped to the ice in search of a penalty call (he found one) when given one return crosscheck from the Bruins’ Pavel Zacha after Lomberg initiated the contact with three straight crosschecks to Zacha.

And aside from matching slashing minors between Tkachuk and Charlie McAvoy later in the game, the Zacha penalty would be the only time the Bruins took the bait from Florida’s antics while the game was still in reach.

“They seem to thrive on that,” Brad Marchand said of the Panthers’ approach. “They’ve built a lot of emotion in their game after the whistles and [when they] create scrums. [They have] a lot of guys that gain momentum from that. Hasn’t really been the way that we’ve played all year, so when we can play hard between the whistles and then kind of skate away, it definitely allows us to stay in the right mindset and play the way we wanna play.”

The final blow-up came late in the third period, and with this game decided, as Tkachuk tried to get under Linus Ullmark’s skin. The 6-foot-5 Bruins netminder opted not to skate away, and instead tried to drop the gloves with Tkachuk. It’s a fight the Bruins didn’t mind seeing Ullmark try to take, and one that the Bruins felt was going to be handled properly no matter how it shook out before the officials got involved and prevented what would’ve been a true stick of dynamite occurrence in this one.

“This team sticks up for each other, so that wouldn’t happen,” Bruins winger Tyler Bertuzzi said of the late-game skirmish. “You know, everybody stuck up for each other. That’s what we do. We try to stay out of it as much as we can between whistles, but that one was one of those things where we all stuck up for each other.”

The Panthers’ approach, led by Tkachuk, felt unhinged. It didn’t feel like this was anything that would’ve given his time life, but rather a desperate last cry from a team that looks overmatched and unable of rattling the Bruins. In any way, it turns out.

“They play a very high emotion game all the way through. They’re very physical [and] they like to get into it after the whistles, a lot of guys talking,” Marchand acknowledged. “That’s their game. They’ve had a lot of success doing that, but we’ve had success playing the way we can and we just have to stick to that.”

Here are some other thoughts, notes, and takeaways from a Game 4 victory for the Bruins…

  • Goalie battle only gets more lopsided despite change

    Apr 23, 2023; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Boston Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark (35) blocks the shot of Florida Panthers center Sam Bennett (9) during the third period of game four in the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at FLA Live Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    Apr 23, 2023; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark (35) blocks the shot of Florida Panthers center Sam Bennett (9) during the third period of Game 4 of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at FLA Live Arena. (Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports)

  • I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t taking the cheese on Paul Maurice saying that he was ‘just getting Sergei Bobrovsky some work’ in the third period of Game 3. It’s not as if Alex Lyon played suuuuper poorly — he allowed three goals on 26 shots, but he also made some dazzling stops, especially when tested side-to-side — and a three-goal deficit shouldn’t have been considered impossible for this Panther offense to erase, especially on home ice. Maurice was clearly testing the waters for what you saw on Sunday, as it was Bobrovsky who (unsurprisingly) led the Panthers to the ice and got the nod in Game 4.

    Did it make a difference? Not really. The Panthers got themselves out to a 10-0 edge in shots, but Bobrovsky surrendered a power-play goal on the sixth shot he faced, and after a net-front scramble from the Bruins. Down by one through 20 minutes of play, the Panthers saw their deficit doubled when Jake DeBrusk struck just 1:52 into the middle frame.

    You understand Maurice’s thinking — they could’ve used a spark, and it appeared like the Bruins were beginning to figure out Lyon’s tendencies (they were targeting that leaky glove) —  but this move simply didn’t do much for his club.

    Conversely, the Bruins opted not to make any changes in net, as Linus Ullmark got the call for Montgomery’s squad.

    Now, I don’t want to say that I was outright surprised by this decision, but I also saw the potential benefits of turning to Jeremy Swayman. First of all, it’s clear that Ullmark is not 100 percent and that he’s battling though a little somethin’ somethin’. He gave the Bruins what they needed in Game 3, and that was after the Bruins gave him the morning skate off, and held him off the ice Saturday. And it was Montgomery who acknowledged there was some thought to giving Swayman this game, especially with a multi-day break between Games 4 and 5. I looked at that as a potential rallying cry for the Bruins in the sense that Montgomery could’ve said, “Hey, let’s play well in front of our 1B and help get Swayman a win against these guys.” Of course, it was also worth mentioning that Ullmark had not made four starts in seven days since November.

    The logic in the Bruins turning to Swayman was certainly there. But after B’s goalie coach Bob Essensa and his goalie union had their say, it was No. 35 who got the nod. And like he has all year long, Ullmark delivered and in a major, major way.

    In addition to stopping every shot thrown his way in that aforementioned 10-0 start from the Panthers, Ullmark and the Bruins took a lead into the first intermission behind his 15-for-15 effort in the opening 20, and when the Bruins decided to pull Ullmark to avoid any further nonsense following his Tkachuk run-in, Ullmark had stopped all but two of 43 shots faced.

    Just another money performance start to finish.

    There’s simply no doubt in the Boston net, and nothin’ but doubt in the other. Do the Panthers stick with the veteran Bobrovsky after he proved incapable of stopping the bleeding or do they go back to Lyon after sitting him in Game 4?

    That’s not what Maurice was looking for.

  • Taylor Hall’s scoring touch is officially back

    SUNRISE, FL - APRIL 21: Teammates congratulate Taylor Hall #71 of the Boston Bruins after he scored a first period goal against the Florida Panthers in Game Three of the First Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the FLA Live Arena on April 21, 2023 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

    SUNRISE, FL – APRIL 21: Teammates congratulate Taylor Hall #71 of the Boston Bruins after he scored a first period goal against the Florida Panthers in Game 3 of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the FLA Live Arena. (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

  • I wrote about this the other day after talking to Jim Montgomery about it, I know, but it appears that Taylor Hall is indeed back. And that the ‘meaningless’ goal Hall scored at the end of Game 2 has unlocked the scoring touch.

    Just look at this downright sexy strike on Bobrovsky in Game 4.

    Hall also made sure to add the empty-net strike that put a cherry on this victory in a 6-2 final. And for Hall, that’s goals in three straight games, making it his first three-game goal streak since October.

    Including postseason play, the 2022-23 Bruins are now 13-2-2 when Hall scores at least one goal.

  • Florida D takes big loss in Game 4

    Apr 4, 2023; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad (5) looks on after scoring against the Buffalo Sabres during the first period at FLA Live Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

    Apr 4, 2023; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad (5) looks on after scoring against the Buffalo Sabres during the first period at FLA Live Arena. (Sam Navarro/USA TODAY Sports)

  • Injured in a collision with the Bruins’ Charlie McAvoy in the second period of Friday’s Game 3, Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad was unavailable to the Panthers for Sunday’s Game 4 at FLA Live Arena.

    With Ekblad out, the Panthers turned to Casey Fitzgerald for what was his first game action since Mar. 21. Fitzgerald’s ice time over his final four games of the regular season was downright laughable, too; 7:31, 3:12, 6:16, and 4:32. Basically just occupying space on the bench. Fitzgerald finished Sunday’s Game 4 with 8:08. It wasn’t much better directly ahead of Fitzgerald, either, as Josh Mahura finished with 9:28 of action.

    By all means dressing four defensemen, the Panthers leaned on Brandon Montour for 26:30, while Gustav Forsling logged a heavy 23:45, Radko Gudas finished with 22:01, and Marc Staal ended his night with 19:56.

    This team simply isn’t built to handle the loss of Ekblad. Not for a game, not for a period, and not even for a shift.

    That is a massive, massive development for a Panther defense too thin for comfort, and may very well spell doom for a Florida squad that will fly to Boston for Wednesday’s Game 5 on death’s door.

  • Bruins decide to reign in Hell for two wins

    Apr 23, 2023; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (63) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Florida Panthers during the first period of game four in the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at FLA Live Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    Apr 23, 2023; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (63) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Panthers during the first period of Game 4 of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at FLA Live Arena. (Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports)

  • Jim Montgomery joked that the Bruins were not going to heaven, but going to hell following the team’s Game 2 loss. He was clearly talking about some of the sky-is-falling attitude around the team following their ugly loss on home ice, but in a way, he wasn’t wrong. The Bruins were going to Florida without Patrice Bergeron available, and they lost David Krejci prior to puck drop in last Friday’s Game 3. The Bruins also took to the ice for their Friday morning skate unsure if goaltender Linus Ullmark was going to be good to go. Step aside, ghost pepper, that’s a Hell Night recipe.

    And yet, the undermanned Bruins rattled off two victories, and with back-to-back true team efforts.

    There really wasn’t a single player you could’ve looked at during this two-game trip to Florida and say, “Yeah, they could’ve given you a lot more.” Everybody stepped up, and while it wasn’t always perfect, they got the job done.

    This is where you could and should highlight the demeanor of Montgomery.

    He kept his team focused, he kept the believability high, and they took it from there.

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