MLHS’ Anthony Petrielli joined The JD Bunkis Show on Sportsnet to discuss the matchup against the Florida Panthers in Round 2 and where the series could be decided.

On what he makes of Florida as a playoff opponent:

I find them such a strange team. I do think with their forward group, they can run three lines. Sam Reinhart is a 30-goal scorer on their third line. We can’t take that away from them.

I think their defense is three-deep tops. They have one good pairing. Brandon Montour has also blacked out and had an unbelievable season. They have kind of bounced him between Marc Staal and Radko Gudas. If you’re the Leafs and you’re not torching Marc Staal playing 19 minutes a night with William Nylander and Mitch Marner [on the right wing] in their primes, that is a huge problem. That can’t happen. They need to eat that matchup alive.

The biggest thing for Florida is their goaltending. What is it? We questioned the Leafs‘ goaltending. If the Leafs had Sergei Bobrovsky and Alex Lyon right now, people would be really wondering what is going on there.

The one thing that Florida had in that series against Boston: Matthew Tkachuk was the best player in that series. I know Boston has Pastrnak and McAvoy, but if you watch that series, Tkachuk was the best player. There is something to be said when you have the best player in a series, but I don’t think he should be the top guy in this one.

Matthew Tkachuk is an elite player — the top 10 players in the NHL — but Matthews should be better than him in this series. Matthews was really, really good in the first round.

The Leafs‘ defensive depth — short of them being able to not contain Florida at all, which would be surprising — should put them ahead of Florida in this series.

I think the Leafs should feel good about the matchup. It’s the Leafs, so we can never do anything easy, but…

On the vulnerability that can be exploited in the Panthers’ penalty kill and lack of discipline:

They lead the league in minors in the regular season. They led the first round in minors. Honestly, I think it is over if Florida keeps it up.

The Leafs’ [PP] was humming in the first round, and they kind of have some options now with how they play with it, too, which is nice. If it is not working, they can put Nylander back up on the first unit. It is no longer just, “This isn’t working, so let’s keep trotting it out and scratching our heads on the bench.”  They finally started moving things around and shaking things up when it wasn’t working in the first round, which is the first time we’ve ever seen it dating back to the Babcock era.

Florida is going to go to the box a bunch. Even if you watch in Game 7, they took some bad penalties. They would show Paul Maurice in the first five minutes of the game and say, “Paul said the key to the game is staying out of the box,” as a Panther was skating to the box.

If the Leafs’ power play is rolling the way it should, the Panthers’ PK is already not good. Eric Staal kills penalties on that team. It is completely there for taking. It could wrap up relatively quickly in that sense if Florida is going to parade to the box constantly.

I hope the Leafs don’t get too caught up in the hoopla right now around everything, but they did look focused. For all of the talk of celebrating after the first round, I didn’t get the vibe from guys like Matthews where it was, “Awesome, we finally won a round!” It was more, “Okay, next one. Let’s go.”

On how much of the Panthers’ ability to score in their first-round win over Boston was down to the Bruins’ poor goaltending:

The Boston goaltending factored in. The Boston goaltending was really bad, and it probably sunk them in that series.

That said, the Bruins did have a good defense. If the Leafs played the Bruins, the only thing I would have been genuinely worried about at this point would’ve been their defense. Their forward group is deep, but it is also not top-heavy beyond Pastrnak. Brad Marchand is 35. Patrice Bergeron is about to turn 38. Great players and great careers, but they are not there anymore over the course of a long playoff.

I thought Dmitry Orlov looked amazing, and Charlie McAvoy was really good, so Florida does deserve some credit for getting through that defense. They did make it look very, very ordinary at times. I would put that defense ahead of the Leafs’ defense; I just don’t think Samsonov will be as bad as Ullmark was.

There is some value to that, but Florida does a good job [up front]. They are the only team that really does it to the level that they do it, which is having three really good players across three lines. They purposely spread it out. They don’t have to, and they do it on purpose.

On whether Florida is going to take the approach of staying aggressive at five-on-five as opposed to sitting back against the Leafs:

I think so. Florida tried to do the exact opposite against Boston. They were not going to trap and jam up the games against the Bruins as we saw Columbus and Montreal play the Leafs. They just went for it.

I think that has to be the Panthers’ path to success. They know their defense is not that good. Any single one of them would be lying if they said they trusted their goaltending situation. For them, it’s more run-and-gun it up.

The interesting thing: We all just assume the Leafs will be better at five-on-five, but they weren’t good at five-on-five against Tampa. They routinely got outplayed, and Florida was one of the best five-on-five teams in terms of controlling play and scoring chances.

There is a part of me that thinks the Leafs can tilt them on the power play more than anything. I am very curious to see how it goes at five-on-five.

On why the Leafs were vulnerable to the Tampa forecheck in round one:

Justin Bourne had an interesting thread on the forechecking. He said it wasn’t really the forecheck, it was the neutral zone. Generally speaking, I would agree, but what I would also add to that is: It wasn’t just the forecheck but that the Leafs invited Tampa into their zone so much that they didn’t really have to forecheck.

When they did have to put it in deep especially early in games, Tampa would forecheck and the Leafs would turn it over. The fact that we didn’t see it all the time was a byproduct of how generous the Leafs were about letting them skate into the zone anyway.

If the Leafs are going to hang back to the level that they did… They won the series, but they got out-scored at five-on-five. I still don’t understand why they played that way for the vast majority of the series. They really didn’t need to.

I similarly look at Tampa’s defense and feel the same way about Florida’s. There is one good pairing and another good defenseman somewhere in there, and then there are a bunch of guys. Darren Raddysh actually played really well, so kudos to him, but Zach Bogosian played most of the series. They should’ve annihilated that, right?

Nick Perbix played the whole series. They should’ve annihilated that. I don’t know how they didn’t take advantage of some of those situations.

When I watch Florida and their forecheck, the biggest thing is that they come in three waves. If they are continually coming down and looking dangerous, and if Ryan O’Reilly is banged up on the third line, suddenly it becomes a bit more of a series. If anything, Florida might look at this series and say, “We want to play this series five-on-five, too.”

On the adjustments needed at five-on-five for the Leafs after the Tampa series:

At five-on-five, I think the Leafs might possibly look at Florida’s defense and say it is a worse group than Tampa’s. I do think the Forsling pairing is legit, but I think they might look at it as, “They are not that good. We need to get a bit more aggressive.” If they are reviewing their own tape and being honest about it, they should’ve been more aggressive about it as well.

I would like to think that they push up the ice a little more. The defensemen constantly standing a foot inside the blue line was stunning to me. They didn’t do that all season.

Going into the series, I thought they were going to take advantage of the Tampa defense and that they never effectively replaced McDonagh. They have two young kids who have never played a playoff game. On the first shift of the playoffs, Darren Raddysh glided through the neutral zone, gained the blue line, and got a shot on net. It was a harmless shot, but it is just the principle alone that he was able to float through the neutral zone and get a free shot.

The right thing to do would be to push everybody up the ice slightly, pressure Florida’s defense more, and get on them. Get them to make the kinds of mistakes they are capable of making. Whether I think it is going to happen, I don’t know. They didn’t do it for six games against Tampa. Are they going to change now?

On where the Leafs’ biggest mismatch advantage lies:

It is on defense. I don’t think it is close. The Leafs are seven or eight deep. I know some guys had mixed-bag series — I completely understand that — but I think anybody in their top seven could have a game where they play in their top four. Florida doesn’t have that.

Josh Mahura is a sixth defenseman. He is barely playing. I like Radko Gudas in terms of some of the things he brings — he is a fine enough third-pairing defenseman — but to have Mahura, Gudas, and Marc Staal… I mean, there is a lot there to take advantage of.

Montour has had a great year. He is really good offensively, has a little bit of jam defensively, and he can fly around, but defensively, does he scare me? No.

On a scenario where the series could be hard on the Leafs:

Most people would agree that the Panthers have one good defensive pairing. If you play Matthews and Marner together, and O’Reilly is playing with a broken finger or whatever it is on the third line, how dangerous are the Leafs beyond the top line?

That is the kind of thing that plays into Florida’s hands. Paul Maurice would be thrilled, I am sure, if they kept Matthews and Marner together. They could put their top pairing against the Leafs’ top players along with Aleksander Barkov at center.

I am not saying that is an advantage to Florida or they can shut them down, but then it is back to that pattern of it being on Matthews and Marner to win the series going head-to-head against Florida’s best. I think that’s the kind of thing the Panthers would like.

If O’Reilly is hurt, I am sure he is going to play through it, and he is a vet who is going to find ways to contribute. He is not going to be a net negative all of a sudden. But if he is not contributing, can’t shoot, and can’t take faceoffs, Florida’s center group is a little underrated.