The last thing the Boston Bruins need right now is to face a goaltender that’s playing like he’s from another dimension.
But right now, Florida Panthers netminder Tomas Vokoun is doing just that — as the Bruins found out Saturday in Sunrise during a 2-0 loss. Vokoun made 41 saves in that win, which came during a week that earned him the NHL Second Star honor. Vokoun also made 36 saves in a shutout of New Jersey, as he stopped 115 of 118 shots for the week. He enters tonight’s game at TD Banknorth Garden for a rematch with the Bruins with a .927 save percentage and 2.41 goals-against average for the season. Of course, the Bruins could catch a break because Vokoun missed practice Monday with an illness.
The Bruins are in the midst of their worst slump of the season, with losses in six of their last seven games. So breaking out against Vokoun — assuming they don’t have the germs on their side — is going to be difficult, but they can do it with a lot of heart, hard work and determination … and maybe some elusive finish. They showed a lot of that against Tampa Bay Sunday, but still came up short against the lowly Lightning. Plus, the Tampa Bay defense doesn’t quiet possess the same size and mobility as that of the Panthers.
Florida is just a really tough match-up for the Bruins right now. But Boston can neutralize some of that with a stronger forecheck and more efficient special teams.
This could be a first-round playoff preview, so the Bruins need to be careful not to give the Panthers too much confidence in the head-to-head series.
Season series: The Bruins won the first two games against Florida this season before Saturday night’s loss. All-time, the Bruins are just 10-13-4-2 at home against the Panthers.
What they’re writing: David Quinones of the Miami Herald has the Panthers preparing for their toughest road trip of the season. Dave Joseph of floridapanthers.com has Panthers general manager Jacques Martin saying he’ll consider trading Jay Bouwmeester.
Florida player to watch: A lesser-known Panthers forward with just 26 points (10 goals) in 58 games this season, Radek Dvorak used Saturday night’s tilt with Boston in Sunrise to break out for two goals (including a shorthanded tally). Dvorak is part of the Panthers’ growing ability to roll out four lines as effectively as Boston did earlier in the season, so the Bruins would do well to keep a closer eye on him and the rest of Florida’s lower-lined players. Dvorak hadn’t scored for 11 games before Saturday, so the Bruins need to make sure his one-night coming out party doesn’t turn into a hot streak.