Boston Bruins have bigger issues than the referees against the Florida Panthers

The Boston Bruins face a bigger issue against the Florida Panthers than the officials.
Florida Panthers v Boston Bruins - Game Four
Florida Panthers v Boston Bruins - Game Four / Rich Gagnon/GettyImages

After winning Game 1 of their second-round series against the Florida Panthers, 5-1, last Monday night in South Florida, the Boston Bruins got off to the start in the series after going through a seven-game battle with the Toronto Maple Leafs. While things were looking good after that game, things have fallen and fallen fast for the Black and Gold.

Boston took a 1-0 lead in Game 2 at the end of the first period on a Charlie Coyle goal, but since then, things have completely come apart. Florida scored six goals over the final two periods for a 6-1 win to even the series, then they came up to Boston and won Game 3, 6-2, and used two third-period goals in Game 4 to rally from a 2-1 deficit for a 3-2 win and a commanding 3-1 series lead as the series returns to Sunrise for Game 5 Tuesday night.

Have the Bruins got the short end of the whistle in the series? Yes, but I’m not one to blame officiating. However, the Panthers have got double the amount of power plays and the benefit from a questionable review in Game 4. Sam Bennett cross-checked Coyle into Jeremy Swayman at the end of a power play and Bennett scored what turned out to be a goal to tie the game 2-2. The Bruins challenged the goal and lost, resulting in another Florida man advantage. It’s easy to sit here and blame the officials, or the NHL for not addressing an apparent sucker punch from Bennett in Game 3 to the face of Brad Marchand that likely knocked him out of the series. In the overall big picture, Boston has a bigger issue than the officials.

Bruins face a talent gap against the Panthers

One of the biggest reasons for the series flipping as quickly as it did was because of the gap in talent between the Bruins and Panthers. Florida is the much more talented and physical team overall and they play their system to nearly perfection in all three zones. They have frustrated the Bruins through the neutral zone which has resulted in a massive gap in shots.

If you have been paying attention, Florida has some players on the ice that are dogs. Like him or not, but Matthew Tkachuk plays the game to get under the opponent's skin and can finish offensively. Is he ever going to drop the gloves with Pat Maroon or Trent Frederic? Nope, he’ll do it with David Pastrnak knowing he’ll have an advantage. If they end up closing out the Bruins and playing the New York Rangers, assuming they also close out the Carolina Hurricanes, don’t expect Tkachuk to come anywhere close to testing Matt Rempe.

Don’t tell me Bruins fans wouldn’t take Bennett, Aleksander Barkov, Evan Rodrigues, Sam Reinhart, or anyone else who has been a thorn in the Bruins’ side this series. Man to man, they are better and play with a physical mentality and are “dogs’’ every time they are on the ice.

Defensively, the Panthers have a group that are good puck-moving defensemen, they cover very well in the defensive zone and protect goalie Sergei Bobrovsky in front of him. The Bruins have not been able to get below the dots and create a high number of high-danger chances. That also has to do with the pressure the Florida forwards put on Boston’s defensemen.

One player that has been consistent this series, and against the Maple Leafs too, has been Jeremy Swayman. If it wasn’t for him, they likely don’t even get by Toronto, who again, man-for-man, had a better roster. 

Sure, have the Bruins got the short end of the whistle? Yup, but it’s too hard to ignore the overall big picture and that’s their roster right now is not up to par to compete with Florida. This was always seen as a bridge year for Boston and it has a second-round roster that has that feel.