Nick Goss

Bruins vs. Panthers second-round playoff preview, odds and prediction

The Bruins have a chance for revenge against the Panthers in Round 2.

NBC Universal, Inc.

The Boston Bruins had their record-breaking 2022-23 NHL season end in heartbreaking fashion with a surprising first-round loss to the Florida Panthers in Game 7. They have a chance for revenge in the second round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The B's have advanced to Round 2 for the first time since 2021 after eliminating the rival Toronto Maple Leafs with a Game 7 victory in overtime Saturday night at TD Garden.

One difference between this upcoming series and last year's playoff matchup is the Panthers will have home ice advantage. They earned it after leapfrogging the Bruins for first place in the Atlantic Division on the final day of the regular season.

But that might not be a bad scenario for the Bruins. They've actually won four of their last six road playoff games, including impressive victories at Florida in Games 3 and 4 last season. Boston's playoff record at TD Garden over the last two years is just 3-5.

Beating the Panthers will be difficult. They are deep, loaded with high-end talent and their goalie is a Vezina Trophy finalist. This team made a surprise run to the Stanley Cup Final a year ago and is determined to get back there and finish the job.

But don't discount the Bruins in this series. The pressure of getting past the first round is over. This season, which was supposed to be a bridge year given the significant roster changes that occurred last summer, is already a success. There will still be some pressure on the Bruins, like in every playoff series, but this time they go into their matchup versus the Panthers as a clear underdog. And that's something they can rally around.

Which team will emerge victorious and reach the Eastern Conference Final? Here's a full playoff preview for Bruins vs. Panthers.

Series schedule

  • Game 1 at Florida: Monday, May 6 at 8 p.m. on ESPN
  • Game 2 at Florida: Wednesday, May 8 at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
  • Game 3 at Boston: Friday, May 10 at 7 p.m. on TNT
  • Game 4 at Boston: Sunday, May 12 at 6:30 p.m. on TBS
  • Game 5* at Florida: Tuesday, May 14 at 7 p.m. on ESPN
  • Game 6* at Boston: Friday, May 17 at 7 p.m. on TNT
  • Game 7* at Florida: Sunday, May 19 (Time and TV channel TBD)

*If necessary 

Regular season head-to-head

  • Oct. 30 at Boston: Bruins 3-2 in OT
  • Nov. 22 at Florida: Bruins 3-1
  • March 26 at Florida: Bruins 4-3
  • April 6 at Boston: Bruins 3-2 in OT

Tale of the Tape

Here's how the Bruins and Panthers compare in several important stats among the 16 teams that played in the first round (NHL rank in parentheses).

The Bruins win the series if...

The goaltending and penalty kill remain elite.

The Bruins' best chance in this series is by winning 1-0, 2-1 or 3-2 games where goals are at a premium. The B's are not built to win a high-scoring series with the Panthers.

This puts even more importance on goaltending, and luckily for the Bruins, Jeremy Swayman was the league's top goalie in the first round and Linus Ullmark's stats versus Florida during the regular season were tremendous.

The penalty kill also will play a huge factor in this series. The Bruins were shorthanded the second-most times (21) of any team in Round 1, but their penalty kill came up huge against the Leafs by allowing only one goal (John Tavares in Game 2).

The Leafs had the seventh-best power play in the regular season, and despite having Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner and William Nylander on the ice, this unit couldn't solve Boston's penalty kill. The B's did a great job blocking shots, breaking up passes and consistently winning board battles while shorthanded. Swayman was a huge part of the penalty kill success, too, stopping all 26 shots he faced in six starts versus Toronto.

The Panthers ranked eighth in power-play percentage at 23.5 during the regular season. They scored at a 23.1 percent rate with the man advantage in Round 1. If the Bruins win this special teams matchup, it'll help give them a chance to keep the score low and allow Swayman to potentially steal a few games.

The Panthers win the series if...

They match (or exceed) their scoring rate from the first round.

Let's be honest, the Panthers have a lot more offensive firepower than the Bruins. Boston had one player, David Pastrnak, tally 70 or more points in the regular season. The Panthers had four players hit 70 or more points, as well as five 20-goal scorers.

Florida's blue line also does a nice job jumping into the play and creating scoring chances. This group had three 30-point scorers in the regular season. Charlie McAvoy was the only B's defenseman to cross that threshold.

If the Panthers continue to score around four goals per game, they will make this a very quick series. The Bruins have just one elite offensive player (Pastrnak) and scored only one goal in regulation in each of the final three games versus the Leafs.

It was very difficult for the Bruins to find the back of the net against a Leafs team with a lackluster blue line and below average goaltending unless Pastrnak and/or Brad Marchand stepped up. These guys are going to need a lot more help in Round 2.

Florida scored 20 goals (third-most of any team in Round 1) and didn't tally less than three in any of its five games against the Lightning in Round 1. The Bruins have to slow down that pace or they will be eliminated by the Panthers again.

Players to watch

Matthew Tkachuk, RW, Panthers

Tkachuk was the No. 1 villain when these teams played in the 2023 playoffs. He's a true power forward who plays hard, physical and doesn't pass on a chance to finish his check. He's also an extreme pest, similar to Brad Marchand, and will try to annoy the opponent whenever possible.

Tkachuk is capable of dominating offensively, too, which is what he did in Games 5, 6 and 7 of Round 1 last year. He tallied six points (three goals, three assists) over those final three games. The Bruins had no answer for him at all.

Tkachuk also comes into this series red hot after posting nine points (three goals, six assists) in just five games against the Lightning in Round 1. He had four multi-point games in the series.

The Bruins have to do a much better job slowing down Tkachuk offensively and not letting him bait them into silly penalties or losing their focus mentally.

Carter Verhaeghe, LW, Panthers

This is the time of year when Verhaeghe shines. He played fantastic against the Bruins in Round 1 last year, scoring two goals with six assists in seven games, including the series-winning goal in overtime of Game 7. He was awesome versus the Lightning this year, scoring a goal in four of the five games and posting nine points overall. Verhaeghe is a dangerous offensive player.

Pavel Zacha, C, Bruins

Zacha tallied a career-high 59 points this season. He has revived his career in Boston after being somewhat of a disappointment in New Jersey as the No. 6 overall pick in the 2015 draft. But he's still looking for his first signature moment in the playoffs. The Bruins need it to come in Round 2 if they're going to have a chance to eliminate the Panthers.

Zacha has zero goals in 18 career playoff games. He tallied just two assists in the first round versus the Leafs, and he was held scoreless over the final three games. He wasn't aggressive offensively, either, averaging just 1.42 shots per game.

The most troubling aspect of his performance in Round 1 was faceoffs. Zacha won a lackluster 39.8 percent (39-of-98) of his draws, well below his regular season win rate of 54.8 percent. The Bruins need to do a much better job possessing the puck for longer stretches against the Panthers. They didn't do that consistently enough in the Leafs series. The first step in achieving that goal is winning more faceoffs. Zacha needs to show massive improvement in that area.

Hampus Lindholm, D, Bruins

Lindholm played awful in Round 1 last season with sloppy puck management (turnovers) and a lack of scoring (zero points), but to be fair, we learned after the series he was playing with a fractured foot. The veteran defenseman didn't fare a whole lot better against the Leafs until Game 7, when he was one of Boston's top-three players.

Lindholm tallied his first ever playoff goal as a member of the Bruins in the third period, which tied the score with 9:38 remaining in regulation. It was a great shot that beat Leafs goalie Ilya Samsonov up high.

Lindholm also made a great play to set up David Pastrnak for the series-winning goal in overtime. He fired a perfect pass off the boards, allowing Pastrnak to collect the puck in stride and deke Samsonov.

“Hampus was assertive tonight,” Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said after Game 7. “He played on his toes. When he plays on his toe, (like on a second-period play when William Nylander) was flying, he meets him at the post, he shuts him down. He’s such a good defender."

The Bruins need Lindholm to contribute offensively against Florida. He's more than capable of doing that, as his 53 points (10 goals, 43 assists) last season would suggest. The Panthers are going to attack him with their heavy forecheck. He'll need to evade the pressure, make a quick pass up ice and get the transition game going. The Bruins cannot afford to get pinned in their own zone for long stretches against this opportunistic and aggressive group of Panthers forwards.

Lindholm's defense will be critical in Round 2 as well. He and Brandon Carlo were assigned with shutting down the Leafs' top line, especially when it had Auston Matthews. This pairing will get a tough assignment versus the Panthers, too, likely the top line of Vladimir Tarasenko, Aleksander Barkov and Sam Reinhart.

Goalie breakdown

Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark, Bruins

The Bruins wisely abandoned the goalie rotation after Game 3 against the Leafs. Swayman was playing so well that it would have been insanely foolish to take him out of the net. He rewarded Montgomery's trust by playing the best six-game stretch of his career.

Swayman was the most outstanding goalie in the entire playoffs during the first round, leading all players at the position with at least four games played in save percentage, GAA and goals saved above expected. He allowed two or fewer goals in each of his six starts versus the Leafs.

The Bruins have just one day of rest before beginning Round 2, but there's still no reason to go back to Ullmark. Swayman should be in net until he plays poorly or shows any signs of physical fatigue. You can't go away from a goalie who has a .950 save percentage. You just can't do it.

However, if Swayman gives a bad performance, Ullmark making an appearance shouldn't be ruled out. He started three of the four regular season matchups between these teams during the regular season and went 3-0-0 with a .947 save percentage and 1.62 GAA. He was the Bruins' best player in Games 3 and 4 in Florida during last year's first round. The last three games of that series weren't good for Ullmark, but he was also battling a serious injury at the time.

There aren't many areas in this matchup where the Bruins could have a substantial edge, but goaltending is one of them. Swayman has the potential to steal another series if he maintains his level of play (or close to it) from Round 1.

Sergei Bobrovsky, Panthers

Bobrovsky played tremendously in the regular season and was named as one of the three finalists for the Vezina Trophy. He posted a 36-17-4 record with a .915 save percentage and a 2.37 GAA. The Russian netminder was a key part of Florida's run to the Stanley Cup Final last season, especially in the second and third rounds.

But he did have some lackluster performances versus the Bruins in Round 1, giving up at least three goals (16 total) in each of the last four games of the series. Bobrovsky didn't play great in the first round this year, either. He posted a .896 save percentage and allowed 14 goals in five games, including six goals in a Game 4 loss versus the Lightning.

Bobrovsky has the potential to be really good, and he has a lot of playoff experience (75 career games), but he's nowhere near unbeatable and is capable of giving some real shaky performances.


Sportsbooks have the Panthers as the favorites to win the series.

  • Bruins to win the series: +155
  • Panthers to win the series: -180


Panthers in seven games.

The Panthers have a more talented and deeper roster than the Bruins. They also defend much better than the Leafs and Bobrovsky is a better goalie than Ilya Samsonov or Joseph Woll. Florida will be very confident in this matchup after eliminating the Lightning in just five games and after last season's playoff success versus the B's.

That said, it wouldn't be shocking if the Bruins pushed this series the distance, or even won it. The Bruins have won 10 of their last 15 games against the Panthers, including the playoffs, since the beginning of last season. They also have the hottest goalie in the postseason entering Round 2.

This is going to be a very physical series, and tensions will be high every game. The entertainment factor should be off the charts. The Panthers are a better team and have home ice advantage, but eliminating the Bruins won't be easy. Since 2003, the B's have been eliminated in less than six games just twice (five games in 2018 and 2020 vs. the Lightning).

Contact Us