Thursday, June 1 2023

Bruins-Panthers Game 1 leftovers: Zacha shines in Bergeron’s absence originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

BOSTON — The Bruins view Pavel Zacha as a top-six center in the near future, and his excellent performance in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series against the Panthers was an example of why they are so confident about that.

With captain Patrice Bergeron unable to play Monday night at TD Garden, Zacha moved up to center the first line alongside Brad Marchand and Jake DeBrusk.

On a night where the Bruins were outplayed at 5-on-5 for large stretches, Zacha consistently helped tilt the ice in Boston’s favor. The B’s had a 17-9 edge in shot attempts, an 8-3 lead in shots on net, a 6-4 lead in scoring chances and outscored the Panthers 2-1 during Zacha’s 11:40 of 5-on-5 ice time.

Zacha’s strong effort was rewarded late in the second period when he picked up an assist on Jake DeBrusk’s goal that gave the Bruins a 3-1 lead. Boston protected that advantage to win Game 1 by the same score.

“It’s just an opportunity whenever a guy goes down for someone else to step up and do great things,” Bruins forward Brad Marchand said. “Pav did an incredible job … I liked how our line played and it’s definitely something we can build on.”

Bergeron and David Krejci are 37 and 36 years old, respectively. They are in the later stages of their careers, and with zero top-tier center prospects in the pipeline, Zacha will play a very important part of Boston’s future at that position.

“We’re very confident with (Pavel) Zacha in the middle,” Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said. “And we know in the future he’s going to be an excellent top two center for us, and he showed that tonight.”

Bertuzzi’s awesome playoff debut lifted Bruins to Game 1 win vs. Panthers

Here are some other leftover thoughts from the Bruins’ Game 1 win.

–The series opener was a great example of why Tomas Nosek‘s spot in the lineup is as secure as it gets. He is reliable on faceoffs, he’s a very good penalty killer and he’s able to excel defensively against top competition. He spent most of his 5-on-5 ice time versus the Tkachuk line and helped keep Florida scoreless during those minutes.

The Bruins needed their centers to step up, especially defensively and on faceoffs, with the likely Selke Trophy winner in Bergeron out of the lineup. Nosek rose to the challenge.

Derek Forbort returned to the lineup for the first time since suffering a lower body injury during a March 16 road win over the Winnipeg Jets. The veteran defenseman gave the Bruins some key minutes late in the third period when the Panthers were pushing hard to erase their two-goal deficit. He also did a great job helping Boston’s penalty kill go 2-for-2.

“Well Forbey’s so good at a D-zone coverage and his penalty kill, and he showed that today,” Montgomery said. “Down the stretch there with the last four to five minutes, he’s out there with (Brandon) Carlo killing a lot of important minutes for us, especially in a pulled-goalie situation.”

–The Panthers need Aleksander Barkov to be much, much better in Game 2 if they’re going to have a chance of winning this series. Florida’s first-line center was held without a point and tallied zero shots on net and only one shot attempt at 5-on-5. He was a total non-factor offensively. It’s actually becoming a bit of a trend for Barkov. He has zero goals and one assist in his last five playoff games, and Florida lost all of those matchups.

Barkov is an elite two-way center who tallied 78 points (23 goals, 55 assists) in 68 games during the regular season. He has to be an absolute force in all three zones for the Panthers to slow down the Bruins’ high-scoring attack.

–Panthers goalie Alex Lyon played pretty well for the first half of Game 1. He made a couple phenomenal saves on a few odd-man rushes, including two highlight-reel stops on Trent Frederic.

But the Bruins’ second goal was a pretty bad one for Lyon to give up. He couldn’t get his glove on Marchand’s shot from distance and allowed it to trickle past him. Lyon thought he had the puck covered on Boston’s third goal scored by DeBrusk, but it actually was sitting on top of his right pad.

It’ll be interesting to see if Panthers head coach Paul Maurice sticks with Lyon or goes back to his No. 1 goalie in Sergei Bobrovsky. Lyon played fantastic with a 6-1-1 record and a .943 save percentage over the final eight games of the regular season to help get Florida into the playoffs. Bobrovsky was sick and unable to play for most of that stretch, but he’s healthy now.

Lyon deserves another start Wednesday night, but his leash might be a little shorter after his Game 1 performance.

Source: Yahoo Sports


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