Time: 8 p.m. ET
Road to Game 7
If you look back to the first round, the paths of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Boston Bruins have been similar. Both needed seven games to win in the first round then swept through Round 2. Maybe it’s not much of a surprise we’re in a win-and-you’re in situation at TD Garden on Friday night.
The Bruins, just like the first three rounds, remain horrid on the power play. They have converted on only three of 24 chances in this series (12.5 percent). One of the tallies came in Game 6 as David Krejci scored one of his three goals on the night with the extra man. Moving 6-foot-9 defenseman Zdeno Chara to the front of the opposition net with the extra man isn’t a bad idea, but the Bruins have had a hard time finding him from the point.
“We have to get our shots through and that’s one thing that has to happen,” Bruins coach Claude Julien told reporters on Thursday. “We’ve had decent puck movement and then it goes stale and our power play takes momentum away.”
Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay power play --- which entered Game 6 with about as much success as the Bruins with the man-advantage --- converted on three of their four opportunities. That puts them 5-for-22 (22.7percent) on the power play in this series.
There have been some notable entrances (Bruins center Patrice Bergeron’s return in Game 3) and some exits, like Tampa’s Sean Bergenheim --- the top goal scorer in the playoffs early in the series --- was lost to an undisclosed injury in Game 5. Then you have Boston rookie Tyler Seguin who has done both over the course of this series. He had three goals and three assists in his first two career playoffs contest (Games 1-2), but hasn’t been heard from since. The speed he put on display on two breakaway goals has been bottled up by the Lightning, who quickly began to keep tabs on the 19-year-old when he hit the ice. It’s not just the youth that has struggled for the Bruins. Mark Recchi, 43, hasn’t scored in nine games and is a minus-3 over that span.
The Lightning’s “Big Three” haven’t disappointed. Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier each have seven points through the first six games. But let’s not forget Teddy Purcell’s contributions. He has five goals (including two in game 6) and an assist in the series. Simon Gagne, one of the league’s most clutch players, also lurks on this roster.
“We’ve earned everything,” Lecavalier said. “That’s why we’re here. We have played some great hockey. We’ve played some determined hockey. Now we are in a situation to get to the Stanley Cup Final. We want to keep it going.”
A Bruins victory will return them to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1990. The Lightning, playing in their first postseason since 2007 and under rookie head coach Guy Boucher, played for the Cup in 2004, beating the Calgary Flames in seven games.
Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, has yet to be yanked by Julien for backup Tuukka Rask this entire postseason. And he’s been the better goalie this season, allowing just one goal in Game 3 and a shutout in Game 4. Boston has also been outshot in every game this series, so Thomas has been forced to be sharp. There have been some times when he wasn’t too thrilled with himself, like when he wasn’t able to stop Purcell with his blocker and he slammed his stick --- somehow without breaking it – to the ice in Game 6.
Dwayne Roloson will get the start, but that doesn’t mean Boucher will necessarily stick with him if a few more routine shots zoom past him. His numbers are below average to say the least in the series: a 4.33 goals-against average and a .851 save percentage. Backup Mike Smith hasn’t allowed a goal in relief of Roloson this series, stopping all 29 shots he’s faced.
There are no longer any concerns over Patrice Bergeron. Bergeron, one of Boston’s most explosive scorers, missed the first two games of the series as he recovered from a concussion. The Bruins, minus Marc Savard (out indefinitely with a concussion), appear to be otherwise healthy.
Bergenheim appears doubtful for Game 7 with some type of lower-body injury. He skated on his own briefly on Wednesday, but Boucher said his situation, “doesn't necessarily look like something positive for us.” Defenseman Pavel Kubina, one of three players on the Bolts’ 2004 title team (along with St. Louis and Lecavalier) has been ruled out due to a concussion. He hasn’t played since Game 1 of the second-round series against Washington on April 29.
Our picksA.J. Perez: I took the Lightning in seven games before the series and I’m not about to change. If the Lightning’s power play carries any momentum from Game 6, the Bruins will likely disappoint their home fans. The Lightning are getting frequent contributions from their usual standouts and some role players, like Purcell, have also contributed. Still, Thomas remains the X-factor. If this is a low-scoring affair --- and only a couple games have gone that direction in the series --- the Bruins will prove me wrong. I’m not sold on Roloson at this point to go save for save with Thomas. Let’s say Bolts, 4-3.
Brian Stubits: Don't you just love Game 7s? With the way this series has gone, I fully expect an unruly and action-packed game in Boston. The question that has lingered every game in this series is how will the Bruins defense and Tim Thomas play? The last two games in Tampa, both were abused. But in Games 3 and 5, they were stellar. You can figure out who won each game. Right now, I just don't trust Dwayne Roloson in net. He hasn't been sharp in this series. If Boston can just stay out of the penalty box, I think the B's move on. I'll look for a 4-2 Boston win with an empty-netter the final tally.
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