Both teams traded home victories through the first six games. Now the Bruins will have to break that trend in a do-or-die Game 7.
“We’re focused on tomorrow. Whatever happened those last three games [in Carolina] doesn’t matter,” said Patrice Bergeron, who will be playing in his 13th career Game 7 Saturday afternoon.
The Bruins will look for just their second Game 7 victory on the road in franchise history. Here are three keys for Bruce Cassidy’s club in their quest to advance to the second round for the fifth straight year.
Limit the trips to the penalty box
There are some things that they cannot control in terms of poor officiating, as was the case in Games 2 and 5 in Raleigh. But the Bruins need to remain as disciplined as possible and avoid the ill-timed infractions similar to Trent Frederic’s interference minor in Game 2 and his tripping infraction in Game 6.
“We’ve gotten ourselves in penalty trouble. We know that,” Cassidy said to the media. “Our penalty kill has been exceptional when we’ve won, so we’re going to need that.”
The Bruins’ shorthanded unit has killed a little over 84 percent of Carolina’s power plays. But the Hurricanes will eventually strike if they get enough power-play chances, especially at home.
In Game 2, the Hurricanes converted twice on nine opportunities with the man-advantage. In Game 5, they went 2-for-5 in Game 5.
The Bruins showcased their shorthanded prowess multiple times this series, especially at home. But they can’t afford to play with proverbial fire in a winner-take-all scenario.
“They’re a very good team at drawing penalties, and they’re a very good team at selling penalties,” Cassidy added. “We’ve got to make sure that we’re playing hard but intelligent. When we are in the box, our kill has to come through for us.”
“Everybody pulled on the rope. We didn’t mix up lines, balanced scoring… everyone’s doing their part,” Cassidy said following the B’s 5-2 win on Thursday. “That’s usually what it takes. The players that play the best will determine this outcome.”
After continually re-adjusting the forward lines throughout the series, Cassidy went back to the team’s lineup throughout most of the second half of the season. In doing that, the Bruins received needed production from all four lines with goals from first-line winger, Brad Marchand, middle-six centermen Erik Haula Charlie Coyle and fourth-line sparkplug Curtis Lazar.
The Bruins will need that balanced scoring production again, this time in hostile territory.
“We need our top guys to be on their game, and we need the guys that are more secondary guys to be on their game as well,” Cassidy said. “That’s how it works, and it worked very well for us [Thursday].”
Protect the net-front
In their three home victories, the Hurricanes sustained significant net-front pressure, generating quality looks on tips and rebounds. Simply put, the Bruins need to limit Carolina from garnering as many high-danger scoring chances.
The Bruins have struggled, especially in Carolina, tying up sticks and bodies. In a game of inches, one goal can provide a giant momentum swing, especially for the Hurricanes in front of their rabid fanbase.
Matt Grzelcyk watched from the press box in Game 6 after struggling throughout the series, especially when it has come to protecting the front of the net and playing down low against Carolina.
“Grzelcyk is playing through a little bit of stuff… We’ve known that throughout the year,” Cassidy said on scratching Grzelcyk. “We’ve given him certain nights to sort of recover. We feel now is one of those times.”
No one knows if Grzelcyk will return for Game 7. If Grzelcyk returns, he’ll likely take Mike Reilly’s spot in the lineup.
Whether or not it is Grzelcyk or Reilly, the Bruins will have to protect the front of the net for Jeremy Swayman much better than they did during their first three games in Carolina.
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