By Jesse Gaunce
WIN OR GO HOME
Well, here we are.
Game 7 between the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden. Sounds familiar, right? It should, because this is playing out quite literally the same way the 2013 first round series between the two did: Bruins up in the series 3-1, Toronto storms back to force Game 7…
And that’s when all hell broke loose.
The Leafs were up 4-1 in the third period before the Bruins got their heads out of their asses and came back to tie the game, which they would eventually win in overtime, 5-4. It was and still is one of the greatest single-game comebacks in Stanley Cup Playoffs history, and it is absolutely one of the greatest comebacks in Boston sports history.
And while that’s a lot of fun to reminisce about (trust me, I’ll talk about it any chance I get), this Game 7 is different in too many ways to list.
Here’s what isn’t different – the Leafs have the momentum coming in to Boston and many in the local media are already making funeral plans for the Bruins. It’s understandable why people like the Leafs in Game 7. They use their speed well and have used it along with the dreaded stretch pass to burn the Bruins one more than a few occasions in this series. But they have also capitalized on some really dumb mistakes by Boston that can’t happen in a winner-take-all game.
That being said, there are some positives to consider for the Bruins.
First and foremost, Tuukka Rask is coming off a Game 6 in what I feel was his strongest performance of the series. He obviously didn’t win the game, but he was the reason the Bruins were still in it late.
Second, the first line of David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand seemed to find a rhythm in Game 6, dominating stretches of play while they were on the ice. They inexplicably couldn’t find the back of the net, but if they get the same kind of chances they had in Game 6, they will hopefully be able to bury a couple of them.
Third, while this may seem a bit ridiculous, Rick Nash made himself a presence despite not scoring. Demoted to the third line to begin Game 6, Nash generated a few shot attempts early and seemed to be in the right spots, but just couldn’t score. But being a presence is not enough. If he can build on the good things he did in Game 6 and perform at the level he was at when the Bruins acquired him from the New York Rangers the day before February’s trade deadline, it will make a world of difference. And lastly, the Bruins have home ice advantage, which will hopefully wake them up a bit. They have looked lost a lot in Toronto and for the most part have played well in front of the Garden crowd.
Also of note, the Bruins will also get Danton Heinen back tonight after he was benched in Game 6 in favor of veteran Tommy Wingels. Heinen hasn’t played well in this series, but he has responded well to being benched in the past. One would have to hope Heinen, who had 16 goals in the regular season and is a good defender, will respond accordingly.
Players to watch:
The Bergeron line: they had 20 points in the first couple games of this series and have been ice cold ever since. This is the best line in hockey and they need to play like it.
Rick Nash and David Krejci: I listed Nash as a player to watch in the playoff preview because of his reputation as a playoff no-show and that he was acquired for this exact reason. Aside from one power play goal, he hasn’t done much, and the locals aren’t too thrilled. But he’s not totally to blame. Krejci has been pretty nonexistent except for a play or two in this series. When the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011 and went to the final in 2013, he led the team in playoff points. If the first line gets shut down again, it’s going to be up to Krejci and Nash to pick up the slack
Prediction: Bruins win 4-2
Despite all the negatives, the Bruins are at home and know many are proclaiming them dead. They are not dead. Not by a long shot. I think they will use this as motivation and come out hard like they did earlier on in the series.
FANTASY HOCKEY TAKE
To calm the nerves I’m going to be playing this game on www.statementgames.com. Two of my lock statements for this win or go home Game 7 are:
Frederik Andersen UNDER .918 SV %
Brad Marchand + David Pastrnak OVER 1.5 Combined PTS
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