Panthers, Bruins set to meet again in playoff rematch, this time in Round 2

SUNRISE, Fla. — There are no shortage of storylines for this Florida-Boston rematch.

There’s the Panthers, trying to move another step closer toward a return to the Stanley Cup Final. There’s the Bruins, looking to avenge a shocking upset in a Round 1 series last season. The rested Panthers having just gotten a few days off, the razor-sharp Bruins rolling in after a Game 7 overtime win over Toronto.

Florida coach Paul Maurice summed it all up succinctly.

“None of that matters when the puck drops,” Maurice said.

He’s probably right. A second-round series between the Panthers and Bruins starts Monday night in South Florida, the two best teams in the Atlantic Division squaring off with a trip to the NHL’s final four on the line. Florida rallied from a 3-1 deficit to stun Boston in Round 1 a year ago, and the Bruins needed to exorcise those Game 7 overtime demons on Saturday night to beat Toronto and keep their season alive.

“We’re a better team for what we just went through,” Bruins coach Jim Montgomery said Saturday night after Boston’s 2-1 win over Toronto. “Now we know what it takes to push through.”

The Panthers have home-ice advantage because they won the Atlantic Division, even though Boston spent the overwhelming majority of the season in first place. Florida passed the Bruins on the final day of the regular season for both clubs.

But the way Boston sees it, surviving the Round 1 test against Toronto delivered a needed edge.

“It’s resilience. It’s mental toughness. It’s belief in one another,” Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy said. “When we needed it the most in the biggest game of the year, we got it. And I think our group can take a lot from that.”

Florida watched the Boston-Toronto series knowing either way, it’d be a rematch — the Panthers beat Boston in Round 1 and Toronto in Round 2 last year. Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk said he expected to see Boston, and the Bruins proved him right.

Florida has been off for a week since ousting Tampa Bay in Round 1.

“I personally love it,” Tkachuk said. “It feels like we’re just about to start playoffs now. That break was really good for us.”

Florida is in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the third consecutive year. The only other teams that can say that are Carolina and Edmonton.

The Dallas-Vegas winner on Sunday night will make Round 2 for the second straight year. None of the other four teams in the second round this season — Boston, the New York Rangers, Colorado and Vancouver — made Round 2 last season.

Boston went 4-0-0 vs. Florida this season, winning two of those games in overtime. The Bruins were one of four teams — and the only from the Eastern Conference — to beat the Panthers in every meeting this season, joining Vancouver, Minnesota and Winnipeg.

Bruins goalies Jeremy Swayman (3.00, .857 in one game) and Linus Ullmark (1.62, .947 in three games) combined to stop 108 of 116 Florida shots. Sergei Bobrovsky was in net for all four games for Florida, giving up 13 goals on 101 shots (3.24, .871).

Game 2 is in Sunrise on Wednesday and Game 3 is at Boston on Friday — which led to the switching of a Tim McGraw concert. He’ll now play at TD Garden on Wednesday.

A good sign for the Bruins: Teams that win a Game 7 in overtime have gone on to win their next series 16 out of 21 times since 2003.

The most recent team to use a Game 7 OT victory as a springboard to next-round success was Florida — which beat Boston in Game 7 of Round 1 last year and wound up going all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.

Boston had four previous Game 7 overtime wins before Saturday. The Bruins went on to win the next series three of those times (1939, 2011, 2013) and lost the next series once (1983).

Power plays weren’t exactly powerful in the Bruins-Panthers regular-season series. Boston went 2 for 13 with the man advantage and Florida went 0 for 11.

The Panthers were worse on the power play against only one opponent this season. They were 0 for 17 against Toronto, the team that Boston defeated to get into Round 2 against Florida.

Florida had the second-most shots on goal in the NHL this season. But the Bruins find a way better than anyone else to bottle up the Panthers.

Boston allowed Florida an average of 29 shots on goal per game. The only team in the NHL to allow Florida a lower average this season was Philadelphia, which held the Panthers to 22 shots per contest in their three matchups.



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