Bruins’ X-factor against the Panthers, and it isn’t David Pastrnak

David Pastrnak will be crucial for the Bruins against the Panthers, but for them to win the Stanley Cup Playoffs series, one other player has to step up.

Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers logos with the Stanley Cup Playoffs logo

The Boston Bruins managed to avoid a second straight Round 1 disaster in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, adding to the perpetual misery of the Toronto Maple Leafs by dealing them yet another Game 7 loss at TD Garden following Saturday night’s 2-1 overtime victory. Sniper David Pastrnak delivered the knockout blow to Toronto, beating goaltender Ilya Samsonov on a backhand shot after taking a perfectly deflected pass off the boards in what was a set play from defenseman Hampus Lindholm.

Had the Bruins failed to secure the win, it would have marked the first time in North American professional sports history that an NHL, NBA, or MLB team had failed to advance to Round 2 of the postseason after having initially enjoyed a three-games-to-one series lead. The Maple Leafs are now left picking up the pieces after yet another early exit, while the Bruins are moving on to face yet another familiar foe.

The Bruins and Panthers meet again in the Stanley Cup Playoffs

Last year, the Bruins found themselves in a similar position against division rivals, the Florida Panthers, leading 3-1 in their Round 1 matchup of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Despite being considered significant underdogs after barely clinching a playoff berth, the Panthers mounted a remarkable comeback to snatch the series 4-3 from the Bruins. Brandon Montour’s game-tying goal in the waning moments of regulation and Carter Verhaeghe’s overtime winner in Game 7 still linger as painful memories for Bruins fans. Nonetheless, they now have an opportunity to seek redemption in the upcoming rematch.

In this year’s matchup, the Bruins’ goaltending situation mirrors that of only one game from last year’s series: the crucial Game 7. Following his stellar performance in all four victories against the Maple Leafs, Boston will once again turn to goaltender Jeremy Swayman to propel them toward their first Eastern Conference Final appearance since 2019. While initially considered part of a goaltending rotation plan that mirrored the regular season, Swayman has firmly solidified his position between the pipes since Game 3.

And for the Bruins, it’s Swayman who will be considered the X-factor for their chances of success rather than the likes of Pastrnak or team captain Brad Marchand and other notable figures on the roster.

Jeremy Swayman is the X-factor for the Bruins against Panthers

Boston Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman (1) and left wing Pat Maroon (61) celebrate after defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs in overtime in game seven of the first round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD GardenBob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

You can’t win in the Stanley Cup Playoffs without stable goaltending. There are countless examples over the years of teams who have fallen short despite superior talent in their forward and defensive units simply because their goaltending wasn’t up to snuff.

But based on the performance of Swayman against the Leafs, Bruins fans are right to be thinking of bigger and better things this year after advancing past the Maple Leafs. And he’s already joined some elite company in team history, becoming the second goaltender behind 2011 Conn Smythe Trophy winner Tim Thomas to post a save percentage of at least .950 in a playoff series in which he played at least six games.

He boasts an impressive 1.49 goals against average along with a .950 save percentage, and it was his “swagger” that helped as much as anything to propel them to the 2nd round in the words of head coach Jim Montgomery via Trevor Hass of

“He was our best player in the series,” Montgomery told reporters. “It’s not close, right? I think that his confidence and his swagger, I think it permeated through the group.”

Defenseman Charlie McAvoy echoed his coach’s sentiments, declaring that Swayman was the team’s “rock” throughout the series, per Fluto Shinzawa of The Athletic.

“He’s been our rock all series,” McAvoy said in the aftermath of the Game 7 win. “He’s been awesome. We just haven’t gotten him run support. If we played better in front of him, maybe it doesn’t go seven. But he’s been awesome. He’s been unbelievable all seven games.”

A formidable challenge awaits Bruins

Last season, the Panthers caught the Bruins off guard and astounded the hockey world by defeating the team that had rewritten the NHL record books with an astounding 65 victories during the regular season. They continued their momentum with series wins over the Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes before ultimately bowing out to the Vegas Golden Knights in their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1996.

This season, the Panthers have emphatically proved that last year was no fluke, assembling one of the best regular seasons in franchise history and showcasing all the hallmarks of a serious championship contender. With the Bruins facing them again in the postseason, they understand there is absolutely no room for complacency.

Can Swayman and the Bruins reverse their fortunes of last season and get past the Panthers?

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