The Florida Panthers exceeded my expectations on the season; the Panthers improved from last season but fall short of competing for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The BB&T Center where the Panthers call home was not built overnight. This will take a little more time. Dare I say it, “trust the process.” The Panthers backed that term in the final game of the season facing the Boston Bruins.
Roberto Luongo came off the bench to shut down the Bruins’ in the third period, and the Panthers stymied Boston’s hopes of getting the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs with a 4-2 win.
Henrik Borgstrom, Frank Vatrano, Maxim Mamin and Evgenii Dadonov scored for the Panthers (44-30-8), who finished the season with five wins in seven days and were eliminated from playoff contention Saturday when the Philadelphia Flyers won 5-0 against the New York Rangers.
The Bruins trailed the Tampa Bay Lightning by a point heading into the regular-season finale but couldn’t top a Panthers team that who is eliminated from postseason play.
The Panthers had determination but was it enough? After beating the Bruins for the second time in three games, Florida is headed home despite an impressive 25-8-2 run to end the season, including winning five in a row to finish the season.
“Yeah, we are extremely proud of this group, the effort they put forward, especially in the second half of the season,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. “The message after the game from me to them was remember how bittersweet this feeling is. … We will go home, relax, work out hard, and get back here and try to pick up where we left off tonight.”
James Reimer made 33 saves for Florida before leaving with an injury at 11:53 of the third period. Roberto Luongo replaced him and made eight saves.
“I just felt that coming down the stretch here, you could start to see us mentally get tired,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “I think we’re losing some of our passion, and that showed in the first period, that’s what we were missing. And then the execution crept in and … when we wanted to get the game back we did it more as individuals instead of a team. And then in the third, we started playing together, but then it’s too late, we’re chasing the game.”
Boston had been unbeaten in regulation over its last 11 home games and had beaten Florida in 12 of 13 overall. The Panthers were eliminated from playoff contention in their previous home game, even after Vincent Trocheck scored late in the third period to help hold off the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 and set a franchise mark with 27 home victories.
A moment of silence was observed before that game in memory of the lives lost in a traffic accident involving the Humboldt Broncos, a youth hockey team from Canada.
The organization again impressed me moreover proved me wrong. However, who am I? The youth on the team collectively can add up to superstardom. A potential superstar is needed. However, the talent can supersede that. Offseason moves begin now.