On January 4th, the city of Boston was covered in a layer of snow. The official schedule had the Boston Bruins vs. Florida Panthers at TD Garden. Boston had a two-game win streak at the time and was looking for their third straight. But standing in their way was an all too familiar sight of a blizzard in Massachusetts.
The league announced that the meeting between the two Atlantic Division teams would be postponed. And instead of having their first meeting of the season, they would play this game the day after the NHL season was supposed to end, April 8th.
Boston Bruins vs. Florida Panthers Make-Up Game
At the time, Boston was in third place in the Atlantic – tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but just under them in regulation-overtime wins (ROW). The Panthers were right behind the Bruins in the standings, although it didn’t seem like it with their 39 points compared to Boston’s 50. A Florida win in regulation back then would put them only nine points behind the Bruins.
The decision to postpone the game may have drastically changed the season for either team.
Bruins in January
A milestone that is under-appreciated for the Bruins is that they possessed an 18-game point streak from late December to late January. If the game was not postponed and the Bruins won, it would have likely made it a 19-game point streak for them.
A loss to the Panthers could have spelled trouble for Boston back in January. By stomping the winning streak early, the Panthers could have derailed the run the Bruins went on to have and made them scramble a lot more than they did at the end of the season.
What Could Have Changed The Panthers Season
For the Panthers, the game on Sunday held very little importance. They were eliminated a day before after almost pulling off a miraculous climb in the standings to reach a Wild Card spot. Had the game been played in January, the Panthers could have completed such a feat.
Defeating the Bruins back then would have given them 41 points, inching them closer to a playoff spot. Winning the January game, while it is uncertain, very well could have played a much larger part in the way the season ended for Florida.
A win against the Bruins in January could have given them the urgency to win some of the games the Panthers let slip away down the line. For example, had the Panthers turned around their 5-4 loss to Tampa Bay in early March or their 3-2 loss to Ottawa a few weeks later, they could have found themselves in a playoff spot. But that is not the way things happened.
Shaping the Playoffs
We will never know exactly what would have happened if the Bruins and Panthers had played their game on January 4th, but it very well could have changed the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Unfortunately for the Bruins, they lost the make-up game to the Panthers by a score of 4-2 and could only claim second in the Atlantic Division. The eliminated Florida team was able to cause some misery in Boston by gifting the Tampa Bay Lightning the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
The game may not have ended how the Bruins would have liked, but the postponing of the game from January could have been just what they needed to spark what has been a strong season for them. And while the Bruins do not have the top spot, they will still be taking part in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
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