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Bruins-Panthers Game 6: Three key to victory with B’s season at stake

Bruins-Panthers Game 6: Three key to victory with B's season at stake

Bruins-Panthers Game 6: Three key to victory with B's season at stake originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Bruins are still alive in the second round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but to force a Game 7 on Sunday, they'll need to protect home ice against the Florida Panthers in Game 6 on Friday night.

That has proven to be quite a challenge for the B's. They have lost five consecutive home playoff games versus the Panthers dating back to last season, including Games 3 and 4 of this series.

The Bruins have a minus-8 goal differential (16 goals for, 24 against) in their last six postseason games versus the Panthers at TD Garden.

If this trend doesn't reverse in Game 6, the Bruins' season will be over.

Here are three keys to victory for the Bruins

Swayman needs to give another stellar performance

The Bruins have scored two or fewer goals in seven of their last eight games. Therefore, Swayman's margin for error has been incredibly slim. Luckily for the Bruins, he's consistently risen to the occasion.

The 25-year-old netminder has been the best player at his position in the entire playoffs. He leads all goalies with a .933 save percentage and 10.75 goals saved above expected, per Natural Stat Trick.

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Swayman's stellar save in the final seconds of Game 5 extended the Bruins' season.

Unless the Bruins find a way to produce more 5-on-5 offense and/or fix their power-play issues, Swayman will need to be brilliant again for the Original Six club to extend its season further.

He has given up two goals or fewer in eight of his 11 starts this postseason, so there's good reason to believe he'll give the team a chance Friday night.

Win the special teams battle

The Bruins have been shorthanded 25 times versus the Panthers, the most of any team in the second round. They gave the Panthers six power plays in Game 2, Game 3 and Game 4. Even though the officiating has been a little suspect at times in this series, the Bruins still need to be much more disciplined and not give a dangerous Panthers power play too many opportunities.

After giving up six power-play goals in the previous three games, the Bruins penalty kill stepped up in Game 5 with a perfect 4-for-4 showing. This unit blocked shots, won puck battles and did a nice job getting sticks into passing lanes. Swayman was very good, too, making five saves on five shots during the penalty kill.

The Bruins need a similar performance from their PK in Game 6.

Figuring out the power play would be a huge help for the Bruins, too. They have one power-play goal — a David Pastrnak tally in Game 4 — in 14 attempts against the Panthers, giving them a 7.1 percent success rate, which is the worst of the six teams still alive in Round 2.

The key for the Bruins with the man advantage is to get as many pucks on net as possible. Bobrovsky has an .896 save percentage in the series and has had issues locating pucks and controlling rebounds. If the Bruins can get pucks through traffic, they have guys who clean up the mess around the crease and score some greasy goals. Overpassing and trying to set up the perfect play is not the best strategy against this opponent.

Keep up the intensity for 60 minutes

The Bruins have started the last two games pretty well. Despite being outshot early in Game 4, the B's took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission. They played even better in the first period of Game 5 with a 13-4 shot advantage and a 1-0 lead after the opening 20 minutes.

The second and third periods have been a problem for the Bruins in this series. The Panthers have outscored them 16-8 after the first period through five games. Since Game 1, the Panthers have a 15-3 goal differential after the first period.

The Bruins had three breakaways in the second period of Game 4 and failed to capitalize on any of them. Jake DeBrusk, Trent Frederic, Morgan Geekie and David Pastrnak all had Grade A scoring chances in Game 5 and none of them converted.

The Panthers had the seventh-best win percentage (.368) when trailing after the first period during the regular season. They are 2-1-0 in the playoffs. Florida is built to erase almost any deficit with its high-powered offense, mobile defensemen and a goalie in Sergei Bobrovsky who ranks No. 3 in high-danger save percentage this postseason.

The Bruins cannot take their foot off the gas or the Panthers will make them pay.

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