Skip to main content

Seven questions for Bruins-Canadiens Game 7

by Arpon Basu

This should come as no surprise.

When the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins each won in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to set up this classic Eastern Conference Second Round series, having it go the distance was practically a given.

When the two longtime rivals face off in Game 7 on Wednesday at TD Garden (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS) it will be the ninth do-or-die game between the Canadiens and Bruins, the most of any two teams in the four major North American professional sports leagues.

The Bruins won the most recent one 4-3 in overtime on a goal by Nathan Horton, which shows that history is of little importance in this situation.

Horton is no longer on the Bruins, and only 13 of the 36 skaters who dressed in Montreal's 4-0 win in Game 6 on Monday were also on the ice for that Game 7 three years ago.

Wednesday is a new chapter, with new characters, new storylines and new questions.

Here are seven of them:

1. Will the Bruins big guns fire?

David Krejci has one assist in six games. Milan Lucic has scored one goal into an empty net. Brad Marchand has yet to score.

Those are three of the Bruins' top five scorers in the regular season, and it is hard to imagine them remaining silent through an entire playoff series, especially against the rival Canadiens.

They have one game left to prevent that from happening.

Lucic had a golden opportunity for a big moment in the second period of Game 6, a puck coming to him with a down-and-out Carey Price caught way out of position and the net empty. Instead of hitting the net, Lucic hit Price.

Marchand had a similar moment in the second when he had the top corner of the net open, but the puck bounced on him and he airmailed his shot over the crossbar and out of play.

A goal from either of them there would have tied the game 1-1 and given the Bruins some new life.

"Bouncing puck, overshoot it, just one of those plays that you get nine out of 10 times, and today was the one that you didn't get," Lucic said after the game. "And (if) you get the same opportunity next game, you've got to bury it."

The Bruins' top players have been getting those plays with far greater frequency than once in 10 in this series.

2. Will Max Pacioretty explode?

Throughout his career, Pacioretty has shown an ability to exit a goal-scoring drought with a ridiculous hot streak.

For instance, Pacioretty had two goals in his first 12 games of the 2013-14 season and had gone eight games without one when he scored a hat trick on Nov. 19. He went on to score six goals in his next eight games.

Going five games without a goal would hardly qualify as a drought; it probably wouldn't even be considered a slump in the regular season.

Max Pacioretty
Left Wing - MTL
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 6
SOG: 36 | +/-: -1
But this isn't the regular season.

So if those five games in the playoffs count as a goal drought, Pacioretty could be in line for a goal spurt.

That would be bad news for the Bruins.

"I just got the bounce I've needed," Pacioretty said after Game 6.

It might lead to many more pucks bouncing Pacioretty's way in Game 7.

3. Which Tuukka Rask will we see?

The Bruins goaltender's troubles against the Canadiens are well-documented.

Boston's 5-3 win in Game 2 was Rask's first against Montreal at TD Garden in 11 career attempts. He has since done it again with a 4-2 win in Game 5, but can Rask make it three in a row on home ice?

His history in do-or-die games is not extensive, and it's not glittering, either.

Rask was on the bench when the Bruins beat the Canadiens in Game 7 in 2011, but the two he's been part of were two of the most incredible seventh games in recent history.

The first came on May 14, 2010, exactly four years before this Game 7, when the Bruins and Rask saw a 3-0 lead in Game 7 slip away, completing the Philadelphia Flyers' rally from a 3-0 series deficit in the second round of the playoffs. The second was a year ago when the Bruins were down 4-1 in the third period to the Toronto Maple Leafs before mounting a historic comeback to win 5-4 in overtime.

Rask has not been extremely happy with his own play in this series to date, with a goals-against average (2.50) and save percentage (.910) considerably worse than his regular-season numbers.

"Yeah," Rask said Monday, speaking of Pacioretty's goal, "just another gift."

He'll have to stop being so generous on Wednesday.

4. Will P.K. Subban back it up?

No one in the series has more points than Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban's seven, and after Game 6 he defiantly spoke of his intentions for Game 7.

"It's going to be great," Subban said. "I can't wait for the crowd, the noise, the energy in the building. I can't wait to take that all away from them."

After saying something like that, Subban will become even more of a target than he normally is in Boston. Will he be able to back up those words? Will he wilt in the face of the hostile Bruins crowd?

Subban appears to think he won't.

"I don't give them that credit," Subban said. "I go and play the game. I play to win, I don't care who's there, I don't care if there's nobody in the stands. I'm going there to win. It's irrelevant to me.

"I hope that it's a hostile environment, it makes it all better."

5. Can the young defensemen hold up?

Torey Krug
Defense - BOS
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 7 | PTS: 9
SOG: 25 | +/-: -1
Canadiens defenseman Nathan Beaulieu made his playoff debut as a professional hockey player in Game 6 and had a positive impact on Montreal's win. Can he do it again, particularly with Julien holding the cards in determining the matchup at home?

The bottom three of the Bruins defense, Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski and Kevan Miller, had a difficult Game 6. That group along with Dougie Hamilton has played in two seventh games combined.

6. What role will special teams play?

The number of power plays has varied dramatically over the course of the series, and how Game 7 is officiated could have a major impact on who wins it.

The first two games in Boston had 14 power plays between the two teams, Games 3 and 4 in Montreal had five, Game 5 had nine and Game 6 had seven.

The Canadiens have been lethal on the power play with seven goals, scoring in four of the six games in the series. The Bruins have not been nearly as effective with two goals, both coming in Game 5.

7. Which third line will win the matchup?

The Bruins have long been deservedly vaunted for their depth, and their third line of Carl Soderberg, Loui Eriksson and Matt Fraser has been very effective in the series.

But the Canadiens' third line of Lars Eller, Rene Bourque and Brian Gionta has been just as strong.

The theory often goes in the playoffs that the top-six forwards cancel each other out, and it's the bottom-six guys that determine the outcome of the game.

The winner of this matchup might very well be moving on to the Eastern Conference Final.

View More

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.