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Puck Luck Plays a Big Role in Winning NHL Games



Panthers bruins tkachuk
Boston Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark drops to the ice as Matthew Tkachuk skates past and scores the game-winning goal in overtime in Game 5 on April 26. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

OK, so Nick Cousins scored a gimme goal Saturday night when the puck took a weird bounce off the boards and caught Seattle goalie Joey Daccord totally out of position.

In hockey, puck luck plays almost as much of a role in winning as does skill.

The margin of victory in the NHL is so thin that a post, a deflection or skate save can be the difference between winning and losing.

On the other hand, good teams create their own breaks.

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“Luck is the residue of design,” was a widely quoted prophecy of immortal baseball manager Branch Rickey — who famously signed Jackie Robinson with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Luck often plays a part in critical outcomes.

After Saturday’s game coach Paul Maurice said, “All of our good chances didn’t go, so we got a break. I think we kind of earned it.”

Cousins, who had numerous good chances since Day 1 here, was happy to get off the goal schneid, even if it wasn’t highlight-reel worthy.

“It makes all the chances you miss early on in the game not sting as much tonight,” he said.

Way back in my early days of following hockey I recall seeing my hometown New York Rangers being eliminated from an NHL playoff birth in 1959 when a bouncing puck eluded goalie Gump Worsley in the waning moments of a game against Toronto.

On the subject of catching a recent break, who can forget the errant pass by Boston goalie Linus Ullmark which resulted in Matthew Tkachuk’s overtime winner in Game 5 of the opening playoff round last season?

That certainly turned the series around.

Florida’s 7-0 overtime record in overtime during last year’s playoff run required an incredible amount of skill and grit but it took puck luck too.

A legendary performance by Sergei Bobrovsky certainly helped.

As a native New Yorker, it was in my upbringing to hate everything Boston when it came to sports.

Every time I view the replay of Carter Verhaeghe’s OT series clincher or Brandon Montour’s tying goal in the last minute of that game I focus on the stands and the stunned and silent faces.

The Panthers play the Bruins again on Monday.

Against a good team like that you need more than luck.

Maurice thinks his team is ready. Per Maurice, the current Boston team, despite personnel losses, plays the style that took a 3-1 playoff lead.

“The style of game that they play hasn’t changed a whole lot,’’ Maurice said. “The style that we play hasn’t changed.Personnel has changed. That might make it look a little bit different…It’s all about trying to get to your own game. Especially this early.”

Memories don’t fade very fast in hockey.

Tonight should be very interesting.



  • When: Monday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Boston Garden 
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida/ESPN+
  • Radio: WAXY 790-AM; WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932; NHL App
  • Last Season — Regular Season: Tied 2-2; Playoffs: Florida won 4-3 (first-round)
  • This season: @Boston Monday, April 6; @Florida Nov. 22, March 26
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Boston leads 60-37-7, 6 ties
  • All-time Postseason Series: Florida leads 2-0 (1996, 2023)
  • Up Next for the Panthers: @Detroit; Thursday, 7 p.m.

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