BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins are about to play their ninth Game 7 in the past seven seasons when they host the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Second Round at TD Garden on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
The Bruins and Canadiens have split their past eight do-or-die games.
In some of their more recent series finales, Boston has turned to the fourth line of Gregory Campbell centering wings Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton, which is known as the Merlot Line because of the color of their practice sweaters. They have made the most of limited ice time and used energy and physicality to turn the momentum in the Bruins' favor. They're expected to do the same against Montreal, but someone will have to pick up the scoring slack.
Through the past three games against the Canadiens, including a 4-0 loss in Game 6 on Monday, the reunited fourth line has failed to make that sort of impact. With a trip to the Eastern Conference Final on the line in Game 7, the Bruins' biggest source of energy hopes to provide the necessary juice for a victory.
"Hopefully we can get out there early, get a rhythm going and get on top of them. We have to get on the forecheck. That's when we're at our best. We know that," Thornton said Tuesday during an off day for most of Boston's regulars. "We have to get pucks into areas where we can get them back. Hopefully we can create some momentum for our team; that's the goal."
If all that was needed for the Bruins to beat the Canadiens was energy and hard work, Boston could rely on its fourth line to seize the day. But the Bruins are going to have to score some goals, and the players typically relied on to do that haven't come through at crucial times against the Canadiens.
Left wing Brad Marchand, who scored 25 goals during the regular season, is looking for his first of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He hasn't scored in 19 straight postseason games dating to Game 2 of the conference final last year.
Center David Krejci, who had 19 goals as part of his team-high 69 points in the regular season, is without a goal in 11 playoff games in 2014. Left wing Milan Lucic scored 24 goals during the season and three in the first round against the Detroit Red Wings but has one empty-netter against the Canadiens. He missed several open scoring opportunities in the early parts of Game 6.
The Presidents' Trophy-winning Bruins aren't pointing blame at the top skill players for their predicament against the Canadiens, who finished 17 points behind them in the regular-season standings.
"I think those guys have a tough job. They have to produce night in and night out," Campbell said of the Bruins' top line. "But I think in the playoffs, you really can't look at those guys to carry the load every night. It really takes four lines and six [defensemen] every single night to win. And we've been through it. And that's why I know that you really do have to rely on everybody.
"In Game 4 we saw Matt Fraser step up, and so that's really been the key. It's not the top two lines, it's really all four lines that have to contribute."
Defenseman Torey Krug said it's only a matter of time before the Bruins' best players switch from cold to hot.
"It's tough. I mean, they do such a good job for your team all season long. And you see them go through a little dry spell and you know they're working as hard as they can," Krug said. "That just happens. That's hockey. I know once one goes in, the floodgates are open. And for these guys, I know they're really eager to help the team out."
The Bruins should have the edge in terms of Game 7 experience. Defenseman Zdeno Chara will become the active NHL leader in Game 7s played with 11. Center Patrice Bergeron has four goals, including two game-winners, and two assists in eight Game 7s. Lucic has four goals in eight Game 7s, and Marchand has two goals and five points in five Game 7s.
Excluding injured players, the Bruins have played in a combined 70 Game 7s, compared to the Canadiens' 36.
"That can only take you so far," Paille said. "It's definitely, I guess, OK to get it. But you don't want to count on it. I've been part of wins and losses, so for us it's just making sure that we stay calm and ready to play a full game."
That full game includes a complete effort from the top scorers to the most blue-collar players in the lineup. And that means Campbell, Paille and Thornton have to chip in with whatever they have to offer. Paille has a plan of attack.
"Just not to overthink it and continue to kind of feed off that, realize that we are capable of doing that when called upon," he said. "Definitely going to try to push it."
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