Coming into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the pressure was on the Boston Bruins after making history in the regular season – they managed to, not only win the President’s Trophy, but also set the record for most points and most wins in the regular season.
The Bruins were tasked with facing a scrappy eighth-seeded Florida Panthers team who was responsible for one of the Bruins only five overtime losses, and two of their 16 losses overall throughout the season – the other coming in regulation.
Since then, the Panthers have taken them to the brink of elimination. The two will face-off against the Panthers in a do-or-die Game 7 on Sunday evening – puck drop is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., as announced by MassLive.com’s Matt Vautour.
With the series tied 3-3, here’s how the Boston Bruins Game 7 plan can secure a victory.
Boston Bruins Game 7 Keys To Victory
Step 1: Stay out of their own zone
A big problem in the last few games, especially game 6, is that the Bruins were spending way too much time in their own zone defending, and not just defending passing the puck around, and eventually clearing the puck or blocking a shot.
Recently, the Panthers have been handed opportunities to not only break into the zone as mentioned above, but their top goal-scorers have had opportunities to crash the net, and get to the blue paint.
If Boston had a solidified goaltender with the equivalent skills of Jonathan Quick in his prime, who could stop anything, and everything, in sight this would not be a problem; however, when you have one like Linus Ullmark, who has little-to-no experience in the playoffs, and looked visibly exhausted at the end of the third period last night, Florida makes it a bit harder to win when you’re stuck defending all night.
Step 2: Don’t commit silly penalties
This is the biggest Boston Bruins Game 7 X factor. If it was earlier in the season, I might not be saying this given that the Bruins had the best penalty kill percentage in the league. Unfortunately, it appears, they have met their match in the Panthers who seem to be capitalizing on close to every man-advantage chance they get. With that said, when Boston gets the opportunity to play defensive hockey, it needs to play defensive hockey, and not give Florida chances over silly mistakes.
Brandon Montour has now scored twice on the power play for the Panthers, and the Bruins penalty killers are really what’s killing this team at times.
It’s also the simple penalties that can be avoided tripping, or cross checking that are completely unnecessary at this point in the series. If Boston keeps its feet moving, and doesn’t retaliate when the play gets chippy, look for different results on the ice. This is paramount at this point of the season, whether they are looking at the next round or next season.
Step 3: Keep passes clean
In Game 6 down in Sunrise, Boston had eight giveaways in the game, and Florida totaled four takeaways – that’s 12 turnovers alone right there without calculating in the errant passes that went the other way, not to mention the ones that led to goals going the other way.
Now that’s not to say that in Game 6, there wasn’t some good passing. In fact, there was some good passing especially before David Pastrnak’s between the legs goal.
When you have five-time Selke-Award winner Patrice Bergeron, and future Selke-hopeful Tomas Nosek winning almost any face off they take, you have an opportunity for some passing of the puck around. The trick is capitalizing on it, and turning it into goals.
Step 4: Take advantage of the man-advantage
In the regular season, the Bruins were one of the top teams on the power play and in the post season, their play with a man up been has still continued to be solid, The trick in the playoffs, however, is keeping it up – especially when playing a pesky Panthers team who can score with almost any player.
Going into Game 7 on Sunday, Boston is ranked third in the NHL in power play percentage at 39.1%, and Florida is ranked third-to-last with a percentage of 60.9% on the penalty kill. While numbers wise, the two almost cancel each other out, the Bruins hold the slight edge, and if they are to eliminate the Panthers they need to use that slight edge.
Another trick to taking advantage of the power play is not allowing shorthanded goals. Now, Florida may only have one player (Gustav Forsling) to the Bruins two (Brad Marchand and Jake DeBrusk) with shorthanded goals, but it’s to note they’re even on the board in that category – something that must be shut down to clinch the series tomorrow.
Step 5: Score first and don’t step off the gas
The overwhelming trend in this series is that the the team to score first wins the game. If the Bruins Boston can score first, and the TD Garden crowd into the game early, Florida may struggle.
Perhaps the biggest problem from Game 6, was the Bruins inability to keep its foot on the gas pedal. Multiple times, they were able to either tie the game or even take the lead in the game, but each time it was snuffed out by an overturned call or by the Panthers scoring less than five minutes later.
If they are able to score first, the key after that is making sure they don’t let up and play defense. Something the team has sorely been lacking recently.
Prediction: Bruins 5, Panthers 3 (Boston clinches series 4-3)