The Florida Panthers ended their season on a high note, going 6-1-1 in their final eight to earn a spot in the playoffs. Their reward? A top-seeded juggernaut in the Boston Bruins.
While the Panthers are not “happy to be here,” they are happy to have a shot to keep playing — regardless if it comes against the Bruins or anyone else.
Florida would probably have better odds against someone else — a win against Carolina last Thursday would have the Panthers in Newark tonight to face the Devils — but, as Sergei Bobrovsky likes to say, it is what it is.
The Panthers will open against the heavily-favored Bruins.
It’s not like they have another choice.
“It is very exciting, it is going to be a great challenge for our team,” Matthew Tkachuk said. “We have been playing some great hockey as of late and we’re up for the challenge. It is tough to make the playoffs. The first part of the year is checked off, we made it. Now it is not about making it, but having a belief you can do it and we do.”
Paul Maurice confirmed following Monday’s morning skate at the Boston Garden that Alex Lyon would be Florida’s Game 1 starter.
The Panthers certainly like the way Lyon has handled himself down the stretch as it was his performance in net which helped Florida get here in the first place.
Aside from the Carolina game in which three of the four goals he gave up were tipped or deflected in front, Lyon gave up two goals or fewer in each of the seven games which helped Florida clinch a playoff spot.
The Panthers have rallied around their 30-year-old goalie who probably would be gearing up for another AHL playoff run right now had it now been for Spencer Knight leaving the team and Bobrovsky getting sick in Ottawa back on March 27.
It appears that Lyon and Linus Ullmark will be the starting goalies tonight although Ullmark was not on the ice Monday morning for the Boston Bruins.
“He is really good, has played really well for us and that’s it,’’ Maurice said on the decision to start Lyon over Bobrovsky tonight.
”We’re not overthinking it a whole lot. … I have two good goalies and I am comfortable with either of them, but Lyon has deserved the start.’’
At he Bruins’ morning skate, coach Jim Montgomery said that there was a bug going around his team which is one reason captain Patrice Bergeron has not been on the ice.
He is questionable for tonight.
“Not only Bergeron, but a couple of guys have been under the weather, so I don’t have a definitive lineup for tonight,” Montgomery said according to Boston Hockey Now.
“I’d love to be able to come in here and tell you our exact lines, our D-pairings and who is starting in net. But the luxury we have is our phenomenal depth, and whoever is healthy enough to end up going tonight we know we have a good opportunity for success.
“We know it’s going to be a great test for us no matter who is in the lineup because we know how good the Florida Panthers are.”
Florida also recalled center Zac Dalpe and goalie Evan Fitzpatrick from the minors just in case there is an injury situation.
Dalpe is expected to warm up for the Panthers tonight before the game against the Bruins.
If there are no injuries to Florida’s forwards, he will fly to Charlotte on Tuesday and be in the lineup when the Checkers open up the postseason later that night.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS, ROUND 1
BOSTON BRUINS (ATL1) VS. FLORIDA PANTHERS (WC2)
- When: Monday, 7:30 p.m.
- Where: Boston Garden
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN/ESPN+
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM/WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- DraftKings odds — Bruins Favored: Money Line (-225); Puck line (-1.5, +125); Over/Under 6.5 (+100/-125). Series: Boston -320/Florida +250.
- Season Series (Tied 2-2): @Boston 5, Florida 3 (Oct. 17); @Florida 5, Boston 2 (Nov. 23); @Boston 7, Florida 3 (Dec. 19); @Florida 4, Boston 3 OT (Jan. 28)
- Last season: Boston won 2-1
- All-time regular season series: Boston leads 60-38-6, 6 ties
- Playoff History (Florida leads 1-0): Panthers 4-1, 1996 (first round)
- First Round Schedule — Game 1: Monday, 7:30 (ESPN); Game 2: at Boston, Wednesday, 7:30 (ESPN); Game 3: at Florida, Friday, 7:30 (TNT); Game 4: at Florida, Sunday, 3:30 (TNT); Game 5*: at Boston, Wednesday, April 26; Game 6*: at Florida, Friday, April 28; Game 7*: at Boston, Sunday, April 30.
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 16 Sasha Barkov // 10 Anthony Duclair
27 Eetu Luostarinen // 15 Anton Lundell // 19 Matthew Tkachuk
94 Ryan Lomberg // 12 Eric Staal // 13 Sam Reinhart
21 Nick Cousins // 6 Colin White // 54 Givani Smith
42 Gus Forsling // 5 Aaron Ekblad
18 Marc Staal // 62 Brandon Montour
28 Josh Mahura // 7 Radko Gudas
34 Alex Lyon
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
Scratched: Casey Fitzgerald, Mike Benning, Evan Fitzpatrick, Zac Dalpe
Injured: Patric Hornqvist (LTIR-concussion), Sam Bennett (groin)
PROJECTED BOSTON BRUINS LINEUP
63 Brad Marchand // 18 Pavel Zacha // 74 Jake DeBrusk
59 Tyler Bertuzzi // 46 David Krejci // 88 David Pastrnak
71 Taylor Hall // 13 Charlie Coyle // 11 Trent Frederic
17 Nick Foligno // 92 Tomas Nosek // 21 Garnet Hathaway
81 Dmitry Orlov // 73 Charlie McAvoy
27 Hampus Lindholm // 25 Brandon Carlo
28 Derek Forbort // 75 Connor Clifton
35 Linus Ullmark
1 Jeremy Swayman
Injured: Patrice Bergeron (ill)