No one expected the Florida Panthers to be in this position, but they are preparing for Game 7 against the Boston Bruins in the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Florida stole Game 2 in Boston, then won Game 5 and Game 6 to stave off elimination. Now, in a win-or-go-home game, they have the momentum and an opportunity to pull off one of the biggest upsets in NHL history.
As the last team into the Eastern Conference playoffs, and with the Presidents’ Trophy winners sitting on the opposing bench, the Panthers are the underdogs in this game, but we all know that anything is possible.
Here are three reasons that Florida will win Game 7 and advance to the second round.
What will it take for the Panthers to advance?
I’m not going to say that Matthew Tkachuk has been the best player in this series, but he has undoubtedly been the single most impactful. Without his ten points, this series would have been over a long time ago.
Tkachuk has been Florida’s best player all year, as he led the way with 109 points during the regular season. If he can continue to carry the Cats on his back, they’ll have a real chance to win Game 7.
The expectation coming into this series was that the Bruins would dispose of the Panthers with ease. As a result, there will be a lot of pressure on Boston in Game 7 and no pressure at all on Florida.
I expect the B’s to be gripping their sticks pretty tightly when the puck drops on Sunday, and if things go sideways early, the home fans may become tense. The Panthers on the other hand should be able to play loose all night.
The Cats weren’t supposed to see Game 7 against the Bruins, so at this point, they’re playing with house money, and that can be dangerous.
In the first four games of this series, the Panthers did not score a single goal in the first period. In the last two games, they’ve scored three, including the first goal in each of those contests. Scoring first has been important, as teams that score first are 6-0 in this series.
If the Cats can continue their recent trend of scoring early and often, they may be able to take the crowd out of the game and dictate the terms. As I said, they’ll already be playing loose, so if they can also play with a lead, the Panthers may be the ones moving on.
Game 7 between the Bruins and Panthers will be Sunday, April 30 at 6:30 PM on TNT. The winner will advance to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs.