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Here's what needs to happen for Bruins to win Game 7 vs. Hurricanes originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
BOSTON -- The Bruins saved their season with a Game 6 win over the Hurricanes on Thursday night, but a much more difficult challenge lies ahead.
This first-round playoff series now shifts to a Game 7 at PNC Arena, where the Bruins have been severely outplayed in the three previous games. Carolina has outscored Boston 15-4 and dominated on special teams during these matchups.
Both teams will be under immense pressure, though, especially the Hurricanes, who probably didn't think they'd be in this situation after taking a 2-0 series lead in convincing fashion.
What needs to happen for the Bruins to win Game 7 and advance to the second round? Here are four pivotal factors.
It's hard to imagine the Bruins winning Game 7 on the road if they don't score first. Game 6 was the first matchup in nine meetings versus Carolina this season in which Boston opened the scoring.
The Bruins were able to overcome giving up the first goal at home in Games 3 and 4. They had the home crowd behind them and dominated special teams.
The games in Carolina have gone far differently.
The 'Canes scoring first has seemed to demoralize the B's, and they haven't responded well at all. Carolina scored first in the second period of Game 1 and doubled its lead 2:10 later. In Game 2, the Hurricanes scored twice in a 2:27 span in the first period to grab an early 2-0 advantage en route to a comfortable win. Game 5 was more of the same as Carolina scored twice in a 6:06 span in the first period and cruised to a 5-2 victory.
Getting the first goal would help settle the Bruins down, give their rookie goalie much-needed offensive support and maybe calm his nerves, quiet the raucous PNC Arena crowd and put even more pressure on the Hurricanes to protect home ice.
Top players lead the way
The Bruins' three best forwards -- Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak -- have dominated the Hurricanes at even strength and the power play in the three games played in Boston. Doing that on the road has proven to be a far tougher task.
Here's a look at their scoring production at home versus on the road. These three players have combined to score only one 5-on-5 goal (Bergeron in Game 2) in Raleigh.
You need your best and most experienced players to lead the way in Game 7. Bergeron will have more Game 7 experience (12 games) than any player on the ice Saturday night. He's also scored six goals in his last seven Game 7s. Brad Marchand has played in a ton of these matchups, too, and they both scored twice in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final on the road. It's the only Game 7 road win in B's history.
The Bruins' secondary scoring has been lackluster most of the series. Therefore, it's hard to see the B's emerging victorious this weekend if the top guys are silent offensively.
Strong performance from rookie goalie
Both teams have several players with tons of Game 7 experience. The one real unknown is how the goaltenders will handle the pressure of a winner-take-all matchup.
Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman is about to play in his first ever Game 7. It will be his fifth career postseason start (all in this series). Antti Raanta is a nine-year NHL veteran but also has no career Game 7 starts.
Swayman has been fantastic in the games played in Boston during Round 1. He's posted a .923 save percentage overall and a phenomenal .889 save percentage on high-danger attempts, per Natural Stat Trick. Swayman's one start in Carolina -- Game 5 -- didn't go nearly as well. He allowed four goals on 37 shots. He wasn't one of the three main reason the B's lost the game, but he didn't play great, either. The first goal he allowed in that matchup was a bit soft, too.
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Swayman's calm demeanor should help him in a high-pressure Game 7 environment. One of his best attributes is the poise he shows in net regardless of how the game is unfolding.
“He’s been good for us. We talked about the other day. We challenged (him) a little bit early on. Timely saves early in the game are important, if we can get a lead, and we did tonight” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said after Game 6. “Got the saves. Good for Jeremy. He typically responds when we address certain things with him. He did tonight.
"Nice to see us score some goals for him as well. That's a big part of it, no matter what goalie is in there, if you don't get offense for him it's pretty difficult. He's a young kid who doesn't seem to get fazed by the time of the year. We'll see how it goes going forward. It's the biggest one of the year. I think everyone loves a Game 7.
Swayman is very much looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s a dream come true. I can’t wait,” he said.
Special teams come through
The difference in Boston's special teams performance on the road versus at home has been night and day.
Take a look:
There is hope for the Bruins power play. After a rough Game 1, the B's have scored six goals with the man advantage over the last five matchups, including a power-play tally in the third period of Game 2 in Raleigh.
One the primary objectives for the Bruins in Game 7 has to be staying out of the penalty box. They put the 'Canes on nine power plays in Game 2 and five more times in Game 5. Carolina scored two power-play goals in each of those contests.
Special teams have made a massive difference in this series, and unless the referees call Game 7 tight, we can expect this area to carry a similar importance in the outcome of Saturday night's showdown.