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Bruins v Panthers opening round update

The first round of the 2022-23 Stanley Cup Playoffs is well underway, and expectations are still sky-high for the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Boston Bruins. Having set NHL single-season records in both points (135) and wins (65) in the regular season, anything short of winning the Stanley Cup would feel like a disappointment for Boston hockey fans. 

Fortunately for Bruins supporters, things appear to be going relatively well so far. They hold a 2-1 series lead over the Florida Panthers, who have regressed this season after winning the Presidents’ Trophy the season before. 

Boston set the tone of the series in game one, coming out with an emphatic 3-1 win. Linus Ullmark, who is favored to win this year’s Vezina Trophy award for the NHL’s best goaltender, made 31 saves in the victory for the Bruins.

In his first taste of playoff action, newly acquired Bruin Tyler Bertuzzi put up two crucial assists to help his team win. Matthew Tkachuk was the lone goal-scorer for the Panthers. 

Florida won the second game of the series 6-3 in what felt like an uncharacteristically sluggish performance for the Bruins. Reportedly, an illness of some sort had been circulating around the Bruins’ locker room, which could explain why Boston couldn’t keep up with a Florida team that they would ordinarily dominate in all phases. 

Ullmark struggled for Boston, while Alex Lyon made 34 stops for the Panthers. Lyon took over the starting goaltender role late in the regular season when Spencer Knight and Sergei Bobrovsky each had extended absences. 

Game three was once again all Boston, as they earned a commanding 4-2 road victory to take a series lead. Ullmark played once again like his usual self, making 29 saves. Taylor Hall had a goal and an assist, which is encouraging considering he is returning from a long-term injury. 

Bruins fans may feel uneasy about the course of the series so far, especially considering the purported Presidents’ Trophy curse. Since 2007-08, only one NHL regular-season champion has gone on to win the Stanley Cup. No Presidents’ Trophy winner has made it past the second round since 2014-15. In the 2019 playoffs, Tampa Bay was swept in the first round despite having tied the previous NHL regular season wins record that season. 

Curse rumors aside, there is a fair amount of uncertainty regarding the availability of multiple star players for the rest of the series. Captain Patrice Bergeron is still out with an injury. Bruins’ head coach and University of Maine alumni Jim Montgomery has stated that Bergeron is targeting a game five return.

Veteran center David Krejci was a late scratch ahead of game three due to an upper-body injury. Montgomery says it’s a 50-50 chance that Krejci is re-activated for game four. While the Bruins depend on Krejci to create offensive opportunities for his linemates, Bertuzzi and David Pastrnak, the team was able to win game three handily without him. 

Boston should not risk further injury to Krejci by rushing him back to action prematurely. They will need him down the line if they can manage to finish off Florida and advance to the second round. 

Game five of the series will be played on Wednesday, April 26.

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