Going into their first-round series, the Boston Bruins knew they needed at least one road win to overtake the Carolina Hurricanes.
Both teams have traded home wins in the first six games. Now the Bruins will have to break that trend in a Game 7 do-or-die.
“We are focused on tomorrow. Whatever happened in the last three games [in Carolina] doesn’t matter,” said Patrice Bergeron, who will play his 13th career Game 7 on Saturday afternoon.
The Bruins will go for just their second Game 7 win on the road in franchise history. Here are three keys to Bruce Cassidy’s club in their quest to advance to the second round for the fifth consecutive year.
Limit travel to the penalty box
There are some things they can’t control in terms of bad officiating, like they did in Games 2 and 5 in Raleigh. But the Bruins need to stay as disciplined as possible and avoid ill-timed infractions similar to Trent Frederic’s minor interference in Game 2 and his tripping offense in Game 6.
“We got into penalty problems. We know that,” Cassidy told the media. “Our penalty kill was exceptional when we won, so we’re going to need it.”
The Bruins’ shorthanded unit killed just over 84 percent of Carolina’s powerplay. But the Hurricanes will eventually strike if they get enough power-play chances, especially at home.
In Game 2, the Hurricanes converted twice out of nine chances with the man advantage. In Game 5, they went 2-5 in Game 5.
The Bruins have shown their shorthanded prowess several times this series, especially at home. But they can’t afford to play with the proverbial fire in a win-win scenario.
“They’re a really good team at shooting penalties, and they’re a really good team at selling penalties,” Cassidy added. “We have to make sure we play hard but smart. When we’re in the box, our kill has to be for us.
Rely on secondary score of game 6
The depth score provided one of the most heartening developments in Boston’s Game 6 win.
“Everyone pulled the rope. We didn’t mix up the lines, balance the scores…everyone does their part,” Cassidy said after the Bs’ 5-2 win on Thursday. “That’s usually what it takes. The players who play the best will determine this result.
After continually readjusting the forward lines throughout the series, Cassidy returned to the team’s roster for most of the second half of the season. In doing so, the Bruins received the necessary production from all four lines with goals from front-line winger Brad Marchand, six-point center Erik Haula Charlie Coyle and fourth-line spark plug Curtis Lazar.
The Bruins will need that balanced production again, this time in hostile territory.
“We need our top guys to be on their game, and we need the guys who are more secondary to be on their game as well,” Cassidy said. “That’s how it works, and it worked really well for us. [Thursday].”
Protect the front of the net
In their three home wins, the Hurricanes have come under significant pressure in net, generating quality looks on points and rebounds. Simply put, the Bruins need to keep Carolina from getting so many high-risk scoring opportunities.
The Bruins struggled, especially in Carolina, to tie up sticks and bodies. In a game of inches, one goal can provide giant momentum, especially for the Hurricanes in front of their rabid fanbase.
Matt Grzelcyk watched from the press box in Game 6 after struggling throughout the series, especially when it came to protecting the front of the net and playing low against Carolina.
“Grzelcyk plays through a bit of stuff… We’ve known that all year,” Cassidy said as he scratched Grzelcyk. “We gave him some nights to sort of recover. We think this is one of those times.
No one knows if Grzelcyk will return for Game 7. If Grzelcyk returns, he’ll likely take Mike Reilly’s place in the roster.
Whether or not it’s Grzelcyk or Reilly, the Bruins will need to protect the front of the net for Jeremy Swayman much better than they have in their first three games in Carolina.
Get the latest Boston sports news
Get updates on your favorite Boston teams, straight from our newsroom to your inbox.