The Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes will face off Saturday afternoon in a Game 7 clash. The home team has won each of the previous six games in this series which technically gives Carolina the leg-up in this matchup. Technically is the operative word here, though, as everything gets thrown out the window in a one-game series that will see one team advance to the second round and one team go home for the offseason.
In the Bruins’ first two wins of the series in Games 3 and 4, the team opted to reunite David Pastrnak with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand on the top line. This proved to be a good strategy as the trio excelled as always, combining for 16 points in two games and generally dominating the pace. Prior to that point, Pastrnak had been held off the scoresheet, Marchand had recorded one assist and Bergeron had scored two goals.
The good times wouldn’t last, though, as Game 5 threw a wrench in things. With that line still intact, the trio was held off the scoresheet entirely and the Bruins would muster just one goal against the Hurricanes.
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Outside of the scoresheet, the game’s flow was also much different (though remarkably familiar) with the Bruins opting to use a top-heavy approach in trying to generate consistent offense. As mentioned, it did work for them in Games 3 and 4 of the series as far as the end result was concerned, but it also felt like the team would only go as far as that top line would take them.
That isn’t the strategy that got the Bruins to this point of the season as the decision to shake the lines up and move Pastrnak to a line with Taylor Hall and Erik Haula proved to be the difference-maker on what was starting out as an otherwise disappointing 2021-22 season. The resurgence of Jake DeBrusk on a line with Bergeron and Marchand was also instrumental in finding a balanced attack; the 25-year-old would score 25 goals and 42 points in 77 games, the second-most goals and tied for the second-most points he’s ever scored in a season.
The Bruins opted for that more balanced attack in Game 6 in a must-win game and they came through with a solid 60-minute effort that saw five different Bruins score goals and 10 players record points. Interestingly enough, players to not record a single point in this game include Bergeron, DeBrusk, Hall and Hampus Lindholm – all of whom are featured in prominent top-six and top-pairing roles and played a major part in the win, but didn’t find the scoresheet. While the Bruins did get points out of Marchand, Pastrnak, Haula and Charlie McAvoy, a major contributing factor to their Game 6 win was depth scoring.
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This is the key to the Bruins going on a deep playoff run and potentially competing for a Stanley Cup this season; forcing the top line to shoulder all of the workload is an impossible ask and will eventually catch up to them as it always has in the past. Getting production up and down the lineup is important and it’ll be the difference maker between the Bruins winning and losing in the long haul.
When the going gets tough, head coach Bruce Cassidy may need to shorten his bench and play his best players more than he’d like. That’s the cost of winning a Game 7, though, and he’ll do whatever it takes.
Bruins Getting Full Team Effort in Wins
Outside of point production, though, when the Bruins have been at their best, they’ve also done a very good job of blocking shots and passes and generally just limiting the opportunities that the Hurricanes get at shooting the puck. With a team as dangerous as the Hurricanes, there are bound to be plays that make their way through and create havoc for the Bruins. Fortunately, Jeremy Swayman was very good in Game 6 for the Bruins and came through with some game-changing saves that made every bit the difference.
It’s been a full team effort when the Bruins have played at TD Garden so far this series and they’ll need to take that mentality and production and put it into effect at PNC Arena in Carolina on Saturday. There can’t be any excuses for poor play Saturday and the Bruins will need to leave it all on the line in what will obviously be the biggest game of their season to date. Fortunately, they proved that they can step up and perform in a must-win game once already in this series.
The Bruins weren’t perfect in Game 6, but that just further proves that they don’t need to be perfect to pull out a win. In a game of inches and bounces, having a bigger will to win than the opposition is the most important factor. There’s a component of luck to consider, but the best teams in professional sports have always found a way to make their own luck or at the very least mitigate the effect luck has on a game.