Bruins look to improve on league’s best record vs. Panthers
The NHL-leading Boston Bruins look to maintain their impressive home start when the Florida Panthers make a return visit on Monday night.
Prior to Saturday’s 4-2 win over Columbus, three straight Boston home games were decided in a shootout. A three-goal third period against the Blue Jackets ended that streak and helped secure another regulation win at TD Garden.
Despite reaching the 50-point mark before any other NHL team and faster than only one club in franchise history, the Bruins (16-0-2 at home) know they have a higher ceiling to reach.
“There’s definitely things we have to get better at,” captain Patrice Bergeron said. “It’s a good thing to have. Not being satisfied, knowing there’s more to give, it’s always a good thing.”
The Bruins will need a strong effort against the team that handed them a 5-2 road loss — their most lopsided regulation loss of the season — on Nov. 23. They have gone 7-1-2 in 10 games since.
First-year coach Jim Montgomery agrees with his captain, who was honored before Saturday’s game for recording his 1,000th career point last month.
“I don’t think we’re playing very good hockey. We’re not,” Montgomery said. “I don’t think we’re checking well enough. I don’t think we’re playing fast enough with or without the puck.”
While four different players scored goals and three had multiple points, Montgomery pointed to goaltender Jeremy Swayman as the team’s best player.
Swayman made 30 saves in his first appearance since Dec. 9 and first win since Nov. 29. He also came within inches of scoring a late empty-net goal.
“And, he needed to be (our best player),” the coach said. “Very confident.”
Linus Ullmark, who had started the previous three games, carries a 17-1-1 record into Boston’s two home games this week. Winnipeg visits Thursday.
The Panthers, meanwhile, are coming off of a 4-2 Saturday win at New Jersey upon which they can build moving forward. It was just the team’s second victory in a five-game span.
Sam Reinhart scored twice and has four goals and two assists during a current three-game goal streak. Six of his 11 goals have come on the power play.
“We needed an effort like that,” Reinhart said. “It’s games like that that kind of get the ball rolling and momentum going in the right direction. Hopefully we can build off that.”
Saturday’s victory may have come at a cost after captain Aleksander Barkov left with a lower-body injury late in the first period. An update on his status is not expected until Monday.
Injury and illness has impacted the lineup from top to bottom in recent weeks.
Matthew Tkachuk, who has a team-leading 39 points in 29 games this season, recently missed a game due to illness before returning Saturday.
“We are grinding every single day now,” coach Paul Maurice said. “Barkov is back out of our lineup, others are back in, Tkachuk is back in but not at 100 percent. … In truth, we are going to be dealing with this until the end of January, that’s just our mindset.”
Fortunately, an outstanding goaltending tandem has helped the Panthers through.
While Sergei Bobrovsky has started the last six games and has a .923 save percentage during that span, Boston College product Spencer Knight is 3-0-3 over his last six outings.
Bobrovsky’s run continued with a 30-save Saturday against New Jersey.
“Over the course of the regular season there’s different circumstances and hurdles,” Bobrovsky said. “I thought guys did a great job to compete and to fight in any circumstances. That’s a big piece going forward.”
–Field Level Media