The Boston Bruins have officially clinched a playoff spot and they are gearing up for an impending first-round showdown with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The second season of the National Hockey League is on the horizon.

However, the Bruins still have to wrap up the regular season as they have a handful games left on the slate. One of those remaining tilts took place this Saturday afternoon at TD Garden against the Florida Panthers. These two divisional foes met just one week prior in a game that saw the B’s shellac the Panthers by a final score of 7-3.

Many wish that the playoffs could start already considering how well this team is playing right now; Boston has posted an 18-4-1 record in its last 23 games. Despite the positive results, the Bruins are still missing some key pieces in their lineup. The injury bug has hit the Bruins hard this season, and it would be wise if the team can integrate returning players as smoothly as possible before making a deep postseason run.

They are almost there. Just one day at a time and one player at a time—Marcus Johansson, Matt Grzelcyk, and Torey Krug are the most recent examples.

In a small ceremony prior to puck drop on this day, the team announced the winner of the 2019 NESN 7th Player Award. This honor goes to the player who has played above and beyond expectations as voted on by the fans. This award always seems to create some controversy as fans (instinctively) tend to vote on the player who just lights up the stat sheet. With all due respect, that is not the true spirit of the award. It is unfortunate that this award can turn into a popularity contest.

The winner of the award this year was Chris Wagner. The Walpole, MA native has achieved a career-high 12 goals and truly became a tough-as-nails thumper who has no problem being physical in a bottom-six role. This was the right choice and the fans nailed this one, as he really played above and beyond expectations of a traditional fourth-line forward. Well done.

Anyway, there was still a game to be played on this day.

Tuukka Rask (26-11-5, 2.42 GAA, .915 SV%) opposed Roberto Luongo (16-16-4, 3.16 GAA, .898 SV%) in the goaltending matchup. With the outpouring of goals that took place in the last meeting between these two teams, this was a matchup that had the potential to take over this game and nullify a second coming.

Despite the Bruins completely dominating with 16 total shots on goal and eight hits in the first period, they still found themselves trailing 2-0 on quick goals from Florida. The Bruins kept playing their game and putting pressure on the Panthers until they finally broke through in the second period. Noel Acciari backhanded a deflected pass from Torey Krug past Luongo to get the Black and Gold on the board.

Florida answered right back with a short-handed goal off the stick of Troy Brouwer, which negated any momentum the Bruins were building at that point in the game. The B’s never rebounded from that tough goal against. They were the dominate team all afternoon long, but could not finish on some key chances. The Panthers went on to win this game by a final score of 4-1 and split the season with the Bruins. Heartbreaking loss in the penultimate home game of the year for Boston.

The Bruins will be right back in action on Sunday night when they travel to Detroit to take on the Red Wings.

Roster for 3/30 vs. FLA

Forwards: Noel Acciari, David Backes, Patrice Bergeron, Charlie Coyle, Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen, Marcus Johansson, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Joakim Nordstrom, David Pastrnak, Chris Wagner

Defense: Brandon Carlo, Zdeno Chara, Connor Clifton, Matt Grzelcyk, Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy

Goaltenders: Jaroslav Halak, Tuukka Rask

 Side Notes: John Moore (upper body) is listed as week-to-week…Zdeno Chara recently signed a one-year contract extension with the Bruins that will be worth $2 million with an additional $1.75 million in incentives…Sean Kuraly will be out of action for at least four weeks as he recovers from a fractured hand…Karson Kuhlman was recalled from Providence earlier in the week.

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