The Bruins’ “great character” win over the Panthers came at a high price originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The Boston Bruins showed plenty of toughness and resilience to overcome a brutal first period and a 2-0 deficit to beat their nemesis, the Florida Panthers, 3-2 in overtime at TD Garden on Monday night.
The result gave them a record of 8-0-1, which was the longest point streak to start a season in team history.
And in some ways, it was their most impressive win of the season.
The game started similarly to many of the Bruins-Panthers matchups last year disastrous first-round playoff series. Poor turnovers and the Panthers’ aggressive forechecking caused major problems for the B’s as Florida took a 2-0 lead at the first break. But the B’s fought back, scoring in the second period on a goal from Brad Marchand and tying the game with a goal from Charlie McAvoy in the third period.
Boston also lost two defenders in the third period. Matt Grzelcyk dropped out with an upper-body injury and McAvoy was ejected a short time later for an illegal blow to the head by Panthers defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
McAvoy’s match penalty led to a five-minute power play for the Panthers, which the Bruins’ top-ranked penalty killer successfully beat, much to the delight of the Garden crowd. Pavel Zacha went 2-for-1 in OT, ending the Bruins’ three-game home loss to the Panthers that began in Round 1 last season.
“It was a big character victory,” Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said told reporters after the game. “We lose Grizzy halfway through the first round. We’re down to five D. You’ve got a five-minute major to fend off and now you’re down to four D. Just great character from our four defenders who did it and also just our team, that “Coming back 2-0 against a really good team and being able to find a way to win.”
The victory came at a very high price for Boston.
Montgomery announced that Grzelcyk will be out for a few weeks. McAvoy could also miss some time. His high shot against Ekman-Larsson was ugly and the puck was nowhere near the impact.
It’s possible the NHL’s player safety department will hold a hearing with the B star that could result in a suspension. McAvoy has only been suspended once in his career. It was a blow to the head during the second round of the 2019 playoffs.
There’s never a good time to lose two key defensemen, especially when one of them (McAvoy) is a top-five player at his position. But it’s especially difficult not having these players since the Bruins’ schedule is quite difficult over the next two weeks.
The Bruins host the powerful Toronto Maple Leafs and their superstar forward group of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and John Tavares on Thursday evening. Boston plays a red-hot Detroit Red Wings team on Saturday that ranks No. 1 in goals scored at 5-on-5 (25). And then the B’s play on the road against the Dallas Stars – one of the best teams in the Western Conference – before returning to the Garden to face a pesky New York Islanders team that boasts elite goaltending.
The Grzelcyk-McAvoy duo is essentially the Bruins’ best defensive pairing. This tandem also played very well at the start of the season. The Bruins have a plus-14 edge in shot attempts, a plus-12 edge in scoring chances and a goal differential of 3-1 when this pairing is on the ice at 5-on-5 this season. via Natural Stat Trick.
McAvoy, in particular, had a strong start to the campaign. After scoring eight points (two goals, six assists) in his first nine games, he is on pace to set a new career high for goals in a single season. He also leads the B’s with 23:54 of ice time per game.
The Bruins will likely need to add a defenseman or two for a while. Ian Mitchell and top prospect Mason Lohrei are considered top candidates for a promotion from Providence.
It wouldn’t be shocking if the Bruins won games without McAvoy and Grzelcyk. The main reason for this is the goalkeeper. Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman played outstandingly for Boston with a league-leading save percentage of .947.
“Our goaltending is the reason we are 8-0-1,” Montgomery said.
The B’s scoring depth has also been better than expected, as evidenced by the fact that they have scored at least three goals in all nine games so far.
However, the loss of two very good defenders is a real challenge and other players will have to take on larger roles so that the team can continue its winning ways in November.