BOSTON – Up until now, while every game has been important to this point, none are more important than the games where should you lose, you pack up your stuff and go home. Tonight is such a night for the Boston Bruins. Win and you move on; lose and you go home, home for a long time where the only ice you see is that which you fill your glass to help escape a long, hot Summer.
The Bruins have been here before as recent as May 13th when down 4-1 against the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden, they stormed back to score three goals in the final eleven minutes to tie the game. Six minutes in, Boston sniper Patrice Bergeron netted the game winner, his second of the night. His first was the tying goal.
Bruins fans began leaving the arena thinking there is no chance their team could come back from such a deficit. Time for baseball at Fenway, they said. Then upon hearing the news of the comeback, made possible by goals from Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic, two of Boston’s first liners who need to get back to business in the scoring department, they sought to return to the gold and black seats. They want to trade their red sox for bear claws.
Now the city has been recharged after dodging the elimination game in the first round. Two rounds of series’ victories were then completed. The Bruins went 8-1 against one of their original six partners, the New York Rangers and then swept the high-powered, Eastern Conference top seed Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Blackhawks, who dodged three elimination games against division-rival Detroit before an overtime victory in game seven in the second round, are an opponent who have given the Bruins troubles. Down 3-2 in the series, here are five things Boston needs to win game six and send the series back to Chicago for a decisive game seven.
Outcoach Q – with little tweaks along the way and inserting the right role players into the line-up, Claude Julien has been masterful in navigating the dangerous frozen waters of playoff hockey. He’ll need to outcoach his counterpart in this manner to win game six. Having the last line change on home ice is a huge advantage and inserting center Carl Soderberg into the line-up should give it some jump at the outset.
Resiliency – the best way to get out of a jam is thinking back to how you got out of the last jam. Since 2011, not only did Boston make dramatic game comebacks like the one against Toronto six weeks ago. Boston came back twice in the 2011 Final against Vancouver to win in seven games, with the clinching game across the continent in Vancouver. There is a lot of fight in this Boston club and teams react in different ways when their backs against the wall.
Top Line Scoring – in five games in the Final, Boston’s top line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton have compiled just 3 goals and 8 assists for 11 points, 28 shots on goal and an “even” rating. That’s not good enough for a team who has gained 4 goals from second line forward Patrice Bergeron alone. The top line will have to create havoc in front of the Chicago net and shoot more in order to be effective giving Boston a fighting chance.
Tuukka Time – while it did not occur until round two, Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask stole games in rounds two and three against the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins. In winning 8 of 9 in the middle rounds, he posted two shutouts and allowed less than 1 goal per game in 6 of 9. Against New York, he stopped 148 of 159 shots registering a 0.930 save percentage. In the Conference Final, he played even better allowing just 2 goals on 136 shots in a four-game sweep of the high-powered Penguins increasing his high profile with two shutouts and a 0.985 save percentage.
Rask needs to return to this form. In games two and three, both Bruins’ wins, he allowed just one goal on 62 shots. While game four was a disaster, he regained form in game five to keep Boston in the game. In showing he is capable of stealing a game, he’ll have to ice the shooters and seal off the 24 square foot goal opening in game six.
The Tower of Power – the last two games, Boston captain Zdeno Chara has not been the pillar of strength the Bruins have come to know him as. In game four, he was on the ice for 5 of Chicago’s 6 goals. In game five, while he scored the Bruins’ lone goal, he was on the ice for each of Chicago’s three goals.
Chicago is targeting Chara and have had success in chopping the big man down removing the threat he has become as the physical leader of this Boston team. His success in being relevant to game six is critical to Boston tying the series.
Puck possession off the draw will be important for Boston has the Blackhawks success in games four and five rested on regaining control at the face-off. Look for Boston to leverage the last change to get the right forward for the draw, particularly in the Chicago zone.
Game six is set for tonight at TD Garden in Boston. Face-off is set for 8:00 PM.
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