NHL Playoff Daily: If Boston can keep it even, they might even this series up

The roles have potentially reversed. 

Last season the Boston Bruins took a 3-1 series lead against the Florida Panthers in Round 1, and then fumbled the bag dropping the series in seven games, effectively wiping out one of the most impressive regular seasons in NHL history. 

The Panthers, as we all know, went on a run to the Stanley Cup Final, which ultimately ended with a loss to the Vegas Golden Knights. 

In 2024, now in the second round, the Panthers had the 3-1 series lead heading into Game 5 with a chance to close out the series. Boston won 2-1 last night to extend the series to a Game 6. 

If Boston completes the comeback, it’ll likely be because of their work at even strength and their ability to rise above many of the shenanigans that have developed this series, most notably the absence of captain Brad Marchand after the in-play sucker punch from Sam Bennett.

At even strength, the Bruins have gone toe-to-toe with the Panthers. In the five games so far, Boston has a 46-34 edge in high-danger chances at even strength. 

When you account for special teams, and a third of this series has been played in that manner, the Panthers have a 34-12 in high-danger chances. 

The Panthers are both power play and penalty killing merchants, Jeremy Swayman made just as many saves on the power play as the penalty kill in Game 5, and the Bruins have looked both flustered and frustrated when someone, on either team, is headed to the penalty box. 

If Boston can keep it even, which has been a massive challenge itself, they could even the series.

Oilers tie it up

The Edmonton Oilers tied their series with the Vancouver Canucks with a dramatic 3-2 victory in Game 4 last night. 

Evan Bouchard scored the game-winning goal with 39 seconds remaining after a low-to-high pass from Leon Draisaitl that was feathered through a grouping of five Vancouver skaters in the neutral zone. 

Pretty stuff. 

It was also the first NHL playoff win for Calvin Pickard, who has had one of the more interesting and nomadic careers. 

Pickard started 50 games for the Colorado Avalanche during the 2016-17 season, a team that was horrible and on its way to “losing” the draft lottery but still ending up with some guy named Cale Makar.

He was taken in the expansion draft by the Vegas Golden Knights, part of their role out for the brand, they did a design-a-mask contest for the goalies. But Pickard was the earliest casualty of Vegas’ constant roster shuffle and traded away before Vegas played a regular season game, deemed less worthy than Malcolm Subban who Vegas claimed on waivers. 

Pickard then spent a year in Toronto, and was the backup goalie in the AHL behind Garret Sparks when the Toronto Marlies won the Calder Cup. 

That was the start of a stretch where Pickard spent time with the Philadelphia Flyers, Arizona Coyotes, and Detroit Red Wings organizations, serving primarily as an AHL goalie before Edmonton signed him as an organizational depth piece before last season.

It was a humbling journey for Pickard, who has played 321 AHL games in his career in parts of 12 different seasons. 

And after all that, in his first NHL playoff start, Pickard delivered with a 19-save performance against Vancouver. He wasn’t a world beater, but with what the Oilers had gotten from Stuart Skinner earlier in the series simply being good enough felt like a world of change for Edmonton.

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This article is about:
NHL Boston Bruins Edmonton Oilers Florida Panthers Vancouver Canucks Sam Bennett Evan Bouchard Leon Draisaitl Brad Marchand Calvin Pickard Stuart Skinner Jeremy Swayman
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