Well, the Panthers are heading to the Stanley Cup Final. The team that was in 12th place in the East on trade deadline day, that barely squeaked into the playoffs, that the Bruins had pinned in a 3-1 hole in the first round, has now won the conference.
And they did so in dominant fashion. Since falling behind 3-1 to the Bruins, the Panthers have gone 11-1, winning three straight to stun Boston, beating the Maple Leafs in five games in the second round, and then sweeping the Hurricanes in the conference final.
Clearly, the Panthers are a much better team than many – including me – gave them credit for. They have put it all together at the perfect time and steamrolled through what we thought was one of the strongest Eastern Conference fields we’ve seen in a long time. Matthew Tkachuk simply refuses to stop scoring big goals, and Sergei Bobrovsky has an absurd .954 save percentage over the last two rounds.
So, should this Florida run change how we feel about the Bruins’ first-round exit? That was a topic of conversation on The Greg Hill Show Thursday morning, and there was some disagreement. (Listen to the full discussion beginning at 9:00 in the clip below.)
Greg Hill: "That Florida Panthers hockey team is a pretty good hockey club, aren’t they Scheim? Pretty good hockey team that beat your Bruins. Now that they have advanced, with a sweep by the way of the Hurricanes, do you feel any better about what happened here?"
Chris Scheim: "No, I just feel worse."
Greg: "I do. I feel better."
Jermaine Wiggins: "Really?"
Scheim: "It’s such a bad way to look at it. You got spanked in the first round."
Greg: "Yes, you did get spanked in the first round. But you got spanked by a team that is heading to the Stanley Cup Final."
Courtney Cox: "I agree with you. I feel so much better about it. We sat on this show and Scheim told us that the Panthers stink, they’re awful, the Bruins are gonna sweep. Now, you look back on it, and they were actually a very good team."
Scheim: "If the Bruins would’ve just capped off the series against the Panthers, they would’ve rolled over the Leafs and then rolled over the Hurricanes and they’d be in the Stanley Cup Final."
Personally, I’m with Scheim here. If Greg, Courtney and other Bruins fans do feel better because it turns out the Panthers are actually a really good team, great. I’m glad there are people who are able to find some peace after the Bruins collapse we saw a month ago.
But the Bruins had a 3-1 series lead and had third-period leads in Games 6 and 7. No matter how good the opponent was, that was a series they 100% should have closed out. They didn’t even run into the red-hot Bobrovsky that Toronto and Carolina ran into, either; he was mediocre at best against Boston.
Had the Bruins held on, they absolutely could have gone on the same run the Panthers are on right now. Clearly, the Leafs and Hurricanes proved to be pretty flawed teams. That doesn’t guarantee that the Bruins would have beat them in four or five games like Florida did, but those would have been winnable series. We could have been getting ready for a Stanley Cup Final against Bruce Cassidy, Jack Eichel and the Vegas Golden Knights right now.
The Panthers deserve all the credit in the world for the run they’ve gone on, but nothing changes the fact that the Bruins had them on the ropes, had multiple opportunities to finish them off, and failed to do so.