And so, it has come to this.
Boston hosts Montreal in a do-or-die Game 7 on Wednesday – this after getting blanked, 4-0, in Game 6.
The Bruins, who fell behind 2-1 in the series, won Games 4 and 5 before getting steamrolled on Monday. Do they have what it takes to close the deal on their home ice and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the third time in four years?
“I had the Bruins (winning) in seven going into the series, (so) I’d be a hypocrite to abandon that now,” Adam Kaufman, host on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, said on Ferrall on the Bench. “I think the Bruins will win. I think they’ll feel the urgency.”
That’s good – because they haven’t been feeling it in Game 6s. In seven years under Claude Julien, the Bruins are 0-5 in close-out Game 6s on the road.
“They’ve had a lot of trouble closing teams out on the road,” Kaufman said. “As a result, they’ve had to play in all these Game 7s. Now, I guess to their benefit, they have played in eight Game 7s under Claude Julien. They’ve won four of the last five, including one against Montreal (when) they won (the Stanley Cup) in 2011. They’ve won the last two in overtime. They’ve won three out of six at home. It’ll be a comfortable environment for them in the sense that there’s a lot of experience. They’re used to this.
“I think they’re going to come out and respond well,” Kaufman continued. “Obviously being at home is nice (and) having fans behind you is nice. But what the Bruins are going to need to do is bury some of these chances. The top line and others have hit the iron 12 times, I think. There have been a lot of struggles – and they can’t do that in Game 7.”
Oddly enough, Boston played its best game of the series in Game 5 (winning 4-2), but played its worst game of the playoffs in Game 6. What happened?
“I’ll tell you what: That’s why I really don’t believe in momentum when it comes to hockey,” Kaufman said. “That happens. Puck luck comes into play. Milan Lucic fails to score on a 2-on-1 (and) misses a wide-open net. They hit the iron a couple of times. Tuukka Rask allows a couple of bad goals with no help from his defense in front of him. (There have been) just these unnecessary – inexcusable, quite frankly – breakdowns that they endured. And these things can’t happen. That’s how you let the other team in quickly and they surge from there.”
There’s also one key trend to keep in mind going into Game 7. No, it’s not that Montreal has scored four goals in each of its three wins in this series, which it has. It’s that the team that has scored first is 6-0.
“I don’t put a ton of stock into it, but you can’t argue with the numbers,” Kaufman said. “Quick starts have been so important in this series. The Bruins need to come out and get off to a great start in Game 7. If the Canadiens are able to score first, the Bruins are going to be in trouble.”