The Boston Bruins have been eliminated from the first round of the NHL Playoffs at the hands of the Florida Panthers, but that is not the point of this article. No, that would be too easy. This is going to be a thought experiment based on the quote attributed to former Carolina Hurricanes Coach Paul Maurice.
This quote comes deep from within the bowels of Reddit, so if Maurice actually said I haven’t found it. Still it left me wondering about the Florida Panthers and if the quote is true to an absurd extent. Could the Panthers be geared solely to beat the Boston Bruins? Would, in 10 years, we would hear about how their sole focus was knocking the Bears from atop Reed’s Hill? Will we one day hear a confusion from Paul Maurice that he has BEAT BOSTON tattooed somewhere very discretely?
If any of these are true, than you have to ask “How?”
There is a veritable cornucopia of ways Paul Maurice could have developed a team that could only beat the Boston Bruins in a best of seven series. There are tons of ways someone could prove or disprove statistically this to be true.
However, anyone in their right mind would point to Florida beating other NHL teams. And other NHL teams, though not many, beating the Boston Bruins.
But for the sake of numbers, theory, and just general enjoyment of all things hockey, I tried a couple of different ways just to see if in fact the Florida Panthers were a one hit wonder due to being muted with the final horn of a Round 2 playoff horn.
Then, I will attempt to tie what I learned back into the Carolina Hurricanes.
Hang in there, this could get bumpy.
First, I looked at both goalies from the Florida Panthers against the Boston Bruins to form a baseline. Then for each of the Round 2 teams, I tallied the number of goals, and shots they took in Round 1. From that, things just to the “what if.” I calculated the number of goals each of the two Florida Panthers goalies would have given up (given their SV5 v. Boston) against each team, adjusting to the number of shots they would have faced from their hypothetical opponents.
By my adjustments, the Panther goalies give up the same number of goals to the Hurricanes (14) and Maple Leafs (21) as their Round 1 opponents, the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lighting respectively. The Dallas Stars (27), Edmonton Oilers (26), and Seattle Kraken (19) would have actually scored more against the Panthers than their Round 1 opponents. Only the Vegas Golden Knights would have fewer goals had they played Florida.
So by the goalies alone, the Panthers hypothetically lose to 3 teams, tie 2 and beat the Golden Knights. This means that the Florida goaltending can beat teams besides the Boston Bruins, but lose to 3 more. Hardly enough to support my hypothesis that Paul Maurice somehow mutated the Florida Panthers into a team only capable of beating hockey teams from towns historically known to dump tea into their harbor in protest.
There are, however, two sides to every hockey rink. You do not need me to tell you, offense plays a role in the game as much as the defense. So I had to wonder if it was the Panther offense that “embarrassed” the Bruins? And if that is true, could the offense Paul Maurice concocted do the same to other Round 2 teams? Say maybe teams from another country, or also from the American South.
So, I flipped the script and ran the same test, using the Panther’s goal totals and shots on goal from Round 1 stacked against all the other Round 1 winners.
In a hypothetical matchup against Paul Maurice and the Florida Panthers, of the Round 2 teams, only the Toronto Maple Leafs goalie duo of Joseph Woll and Ilya Samsonov give up fewer goals (18) than they did to their real Round 1 draw, the Tampa Bay Lighting.
As for the rest of the Round 2 teams, their netminder(s) give up more. Edmonton’s tandem of Jack Campbell and Stuart Skinner keep things close by only giving up 21 theoretical goals (to their actual 20 against the Kings) but after that it gets a little messy.
Antti Raanta and Frederik Anderson of the Hurricanes hypothetically give up 19 to Florida, as compared to the 14 they actually gave up to the New York Islanders. Philipp Grubauer, Jake Oettinger and Laurent Brossoit all let in more in their made up match-ups with the Panthers than they did in their respective real pairings as well.
But lets run our little hypothetical to the logical end and talk about actual fake outcomes.
Using the adjusted numbers, the Panthers beat the Carolina Hurricanes (19-14) and the Seattle Kraken (25-19) in Round 1. It is very much worth noting Carolina and Seattle both played fewer games than did all the other teams in Round 2. Would either team score more if given more games? Surely! Would they have given up the same number of goals? Who knows?
Still the Paul Maurice coached, Florida Panthers lose to the Maple Leafs. Edmonton Oilers, Dallas Stars, and Vegas Golden Knights.
As the great Scottish philosopher David Byrne sang “And you may ask yourself, “How do I work this?” So too you might be asking yourself, what does all this mean, and specifically what does it mean for the Carolina Hurricanes.
Two things come to mind.
There are a series of things that have to happen for the Carolina Hurricanes to meet the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference Finals. If Hurricanes face the Panther, the Canes will have to shoot, shoot more, and shoot more accurately. Boston needed 32 goals, 249 shots, and 7 games against the Panthers just to lose. That equates to a shooting percentage in the 12.85% range and a 4.57 goals per game average. Carolina on the other hand was at the 6.66% shooting percentage marker and averaged 2.3 goals per game.
Finally, should the Hurricanes find themselves in the Eastern Conference finals against Paul Maurice and the Florida Panthers, Antti Ranta and Frederik Andersen had better be on their heads. Florida can score and score often. Former Hurricane Alex Lyon and Sergei Bobrovsky will not be letting in leaky goals and Raanta and Andersen cannot afford to either. No excuses made, the Hurricanes tenders will need to kick things well into high gear in order to keep the Florida Panthers out of the net.
The Florida Panthers are good. Carolina and the rest of the Stanley Cup Playoffs had better take heed. Beating the Boston Bruins took a lot of luck and more than enough skills. But it can be done. Coach Paul Maurice might well have built a team that could beat the Boston Bruins, but not JUST the Boston Bruins. Carolina had better be ready to shoot, shoot more, and shoot better, if they end up in the Eastern Conference Finals.