Haggerty: Bruins hope best is saved for Game 7

Haggerty: Bruins hope best is saved for Game 7
May 13, 2014, 10:00 am
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MONTREAL – And so it all comes down to a winner-take-all Game 7 between the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens.

That’s the way it’s seemingly always supposed to go between the ancient Original Six rivals. The Habs and Bruins will go the distance for the third time in four playoff meetings between the two teams during the seven years since Claude Julien took over the club in 2007-08. They’ve come a long way from that particular edition where the Marco Sturm Face pushed them to a Game 7 in Montreal as scrappy underdogs, but it’s still a part of the current team’s DNA.

It was certainly clear to anybody watching that Montreal was the more desperate team in Game 6 at the Bell Centre. Their postseason lives were on the line in the 4-0 win, so now the Bruins will participate in their ninth Game 7 in the last seven years. It will also be Boston’s ninth Game 7 against Montreal in the long, sordid, sometimes frustrating history between the two organizations, which is the most Game 7 meetings between any two teams in any of the four major professional sports.

“The playoff mentality is always about that next game. That’s all you can worry about it,” said Patrice Bergeron. “It’s about finishing the job, and we know that we need to be better.”

The Big Bad Bruins have a so-so record of .500 in those games during that time span, but they are 3-1 in Game 7’s at home after losing a close-out Game 6 on the road, so there’s some slight reason for optimism in Bruins land. The Bruins never seem to do things the easy way in the playoffs, and that's just who they are.

“For the guys that have been around here for a couple of years it’s the ninth [Game 7] since 2008, so it’s all we’re looking forward to right now," said Milan Lucic, who could not execute on a couple of scoring plays in Game 6. "We’re putting everything else behind us, and we know it’s one game with the winner moving on. You hope that [the experience] does [help]. You know that it’s not going to be easy.

“You work all season-long to get the home ice advantage in situations like this, and now you’ve got to go out and get it. We’ve been a confident group all year long, and we’ve played well in big games. This is the biggest one so far throughout this year, so we’ve got to bring our best when we need it the most. That’s the most important thing.”

Things will most definitely be a little different on the TD Garden home ice than the way things rolled out for Boston in two of the three at the loud, intimidating and influential Bell Centre.

It absolutely appeared that young Boston defensemen like Kevan Miller, Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton were a little rattled to start two of the three games in Montreal during the series, and made key mistakes that allowed the Canadiens to take the early advantage over the Black and Gold. In those cases it was much more about the Bruins committing self-inflicted errors than it was about the Canadiens dominating play, and the early lead allowed the Habs to play their speed game much more effectively.

“We had some good looks that didn’t go in for us, but we’re going to stay positive in here,” said David Krejci, who has been held to just one point in six games during this series against Montreal. “We’re going to believe in ourselves, and we’ve got a job to do in two days. We’re going to have to win.”

What will need to happen for the Bruins to take home Game 7 once again?

First the Bruins will need to play the airtight defense that was featured in Games 4 and 5, and shut down the Montreal stretch passes and speed game while fully supporting goaltender Tuukka Rask. Then the Bruins will also need to start finishing off some of the offensive plays they’ve left on the ice: Boston players have hit 12 posts/crossbars in the six games played thus far in the series, and once again Lucic simply missed the net on a rebound attempt at the post.

That’s been a variation on a frustrating theme throughout the series against Montreal, and something that needs to change with all the money on the table Wednesday night for a giant hand of Stanley Cup playoff poker. What does Bruins coach Claude Julien expect out of his team for Game 7?

“I expect us to win,” said Julien, before basically dropping the mic at his post-Game 6 press conference.

Most important of all for the Bruins to top a Habs team that has been their kryptonite lately: their best players all need to show up.

The KIL (Krejci, Iginla, Lucic) Line needs to fully show all of their wares like they haven’t in this series, and Krejci needs to finally produce after looking to overpass rather than shoot early in Game 6. Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask can’t have another miscommunication like they did on the Max Pacioretty breakaway goal in the second that basically crushed the Bruins, and Chara needs to rebound after his worst performance of the series against the Habs.

The young B’s defensemen need to be poised, confident and making smart plays rather than getting swarmed under by the mere presence of some pressure from a speedy Habs that can play a much different game once they have the lead. Even Bergeron, who has been remarkably good throughout this series, was just okay in Game 6 while the Bruins third line was torched repeatedly by the Habs leaving Loui Eriksson with a game-worst minus-3 rating when it was all done.

The power play needs to be much better than the group that cobbled together just two shots on net while going 0-for-3 on the man advantage in Game 6, and has gone just 2-for-15 in the series for a 13.3 percent success rate. That’s a steep decline for a team whose PP ranked third in the NHL all season, and torched Detroit with six power play goals in the first round.

Quite simply the Bruins need to play in Game 7 like they did for the balance of 82 games in the regular season, and five games during the first round of the playoffs against the Detroit Red Wings. There’s reason to believe they will, given past history and the track record of guys like Krejci, Lucic, Rask, Bergeron, Chara, Brad Marchand, Johnny Boychuk, Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton and Daniel Paille.

But nobody is going to give it to the Black and Gold. Now they have to earn it if they want to continue this Stanley Cup journey for a couple more weeks with a clear roadway in front of them.