Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Keys to a Game 7 win for Bruins
By James Murphy
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The Bruins are one win away from the franchise's first Stanley Cup title since 1972. After a resounding 5-2 win over the Canucks in Game 6 at TD Garden, the Bruins find themselves in a winner-take-all Game 7 at Rogers Arena, where they have been unable to win in three games so far in this series. If they want to end their three-game skid at Rogers Arena, they must follow these keys:
Feed off Thomas' goaltending and reward him with an early lead
Among the players on the ice, the one constant in this series has been the goaltending of Tim Thomas, who is now 15-9 with a 2.06 GAA and .937 save percentage in the playoffs. He's been even better in the Cup finals, with a minuscule 1.34 GAA and a .962 save percentage and is a lock for the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs. The Bruins can count on a good effort from Thomas, but it's time for the rest of the team to feed off the energy of his great play and translate it into scoring at the other end of the ice.
"Timmy, he's been great for us all year," winger Michael Ryder said following Game 6. "And in the playoffs and, you know, as long as he stops the puck that's all we care about; it doesn't matter how he does it. He's a unique goaltender; he battles and that's what he does and he's been doing it all year for us, and he's one of the main reasons we're where we're at."
Now it's time for Thomas' teammates to repay him with the game of their lives.
Lucic and Marchand need to have better road games and be clutch players
Both Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand have proved they can be big-game players and deliver in the clutch, and the Bruins need them to do so again Wednesday night.
The Bruins are 8-0 in the playoffs when Marchand scores. Meanwhile, Lucic has shown a tendency to come up big in elimination games. During the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs he had an assist against Montreal in Game 7, scored two goals in Game 4 against the Flyers, lit the lamp and added an assist in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals, and then scored a goal in Game 6 of the Cup finals.
But both players have struggled some on the road in this series. In three games in Vancouver, Marchand has zero points and hasn't been the same kind of agitator that he's been at home. Lucic, similarly, hasn't been enough of a physical presence on the road.
Both players seem to know they will have to be better in Game 7.
"It definitely doesn't get any better than this, you know, you dream about going up and playing Game 7 in the Stanley Cup final and here we are, in this situation, we just have to go there and like I said, do what we need to do to win and have fun with it," Lucic said.
Besides having fun, both Lucic and Marchand will need to bring the physical edge to their game that makes them so effective. Of course, they need to do that with discipline. One thing that could work in their advantage is that referees tend call fewer penalties in a Game 7. The Bruins should be able to use that to their advantage. Whenever the B's have played physically for the full 60 minutes in this series, they've come out on top.
|Milan Lucic has come up big in elimination games for the Bruins in the past; they need him to deliver again in Game 7.|
If the whistle is blowing, power play must deliver
After wasting a gift from the referees in Game 5, when they were rewarded the first four power plays of the game and couldn't score on any of them, the Bruins' power play showed up in Game 6, going 2-for-5. They are now 5-for-26 in this series and 8-for-63 in the playoffs. This is a great time for the Bruins to finally find their touch on the man-advantage. If the referees do go against the Game 7 norm and make some calls, the Bruins need to deliver again. Chances are this will be a game of bounces, and very tightly contested, so the Bruins must take advantage of any break they get, and that means scoring on the power play. To do so, they must continue to get the puck to the net and have players in place to collect the garbage goals. Don't get pushed to the perimeter; keep it down low.
Pound the depleted Canucks defense with a tenacious forecheck
In their three wins at home, the Bruins did a great job of attacking a Canucks blue line that was missing Dan Hamhuis and Aaron Rome, who played just 1:29 in Game 3 before being ejected. Now with that defense possibly having an injured Alexander Edler and Andrew Alberts -- who both appeared to suffer injuries in Game 6 -- the Bruins must unleash their tenacious forecheck on the Canucks' defense. The Bruins can get the Canucks' defense on its heels, as they proved in the three games at TD Garden.
If you have a shot, take it!
After giving up three goals on eight shots and being pulled in the first period of Game 6, there is a huge amount of pressure on Roberto Luongo in Game 7. While Luongo has struggled in the three games in Boston, he's been good at home, giving up just two goals in three games. But this is a Game 7, and one has to wonder where Luongo is right now confidence-wise? The weight of a Cup-starved city is on him, and if the Bruins come out firing and can score on him early, that could be all she wrote for Luongo and the Canucks. The Bruins need to pepper him with as many shots as possible early and keep constant pressure on the embattled netminder.
Heed the advice of the two Cup winners in the dressing room
Shawn Thornton (Anaheim in 2007) and Mark Recchi (Pittsburgh in 1991 and Carolina in 2006) are the two Stanley Cup winners in the Bruins' dressing room. They know what it takes to win the treasured trophy, and Recchi has even been part of a team that won it in a Game 7, when he helped the Hurricanes beat the Oilers in 2006. They will surely address the team before and during Game 7 on Wednesday, and their teammates should heed any advice they're given from the veteran leaders. But probably the best advice they get will be to embrace the opportunity and the moment and enjoy every second.
"For Tim [Thomas] and all the other players that haven't had the opportunity to raise the Cup, I want nothing more than for them to enjoy that feeling and get a chance to feel that, especially what we've been through as a group," Recchi said after Game 6. "It's one of the best groups I've been with through the course of the year, from day one of training camp till now. You know, I want them to feel it, and I want them to enjoy it. We've got a 60-minute, hard-working game ahead of us and like I said, we're going to lay it on the line. For what Timmy has done for us all year, it's remarkable, and we all want this for each other. And it's special to get to this point."
James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.