The Boston Bruins won three Game 7's on the way to the 2011 Stanley Cup championship. But those Game 7's didn't come after blowing a 3-1 series lead. Up 3-1 in the series after a thrilling 4-3 overtime win in Game 4, the Bruins have had two straight lackluster performances against the Maple Leafs and now find themselves in a do or die situation tonight as they host the Maple Leafs in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
If the Bruins want to avoid another historic collapse similar to the one they experienced when they blew a 3-0 series lead to the Flyers and lost in seven games, then here are three keys to winning Game 7:
1. Play 60 minutes of Bruins hockey: The Bruins have had stretches of playing their style of hockey in this series, combining their skill and grit and playing within Claude Julien’s system and game plan. But the problem with the Bruins team all season has been inconsistency from one game to the next. They were essentially perfect in Game 1 of this series winning 4-1, but then lost Game 2, 4-2. Since then, the Bruins have been inconsistent not only game to game, but period to period and shift to shift. Well right now they need to have 60 minutes or more (if there is overtime) of consistent Bruins hockey or they will find themselves making offseason plans.
2. Net front presence: Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer has struggled at times in the series to control the puck -- specifically with his glove hand -- and has left some juicy rebounds out there. The Bruins have benefited scoring on some of those rebounds. But in the last two games, the Bruins have lacked the drive to the net and the desire to be there and bury those rebounds. Players like Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, who were everywhere for the first four games, and Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand have retreated to perimeter play and are not doing what they need to get those dirty goals. If they don't take advantage of the rebounds and have a stronger net front presence, then chances are they won't beat Reimer and the Leafs.
3. Accountability: Throughout this season the Bruins constantly used the condensed season and fatigue and an excuse for their inconsistent play. They haven't mentioned it in the playoffs, but the Bruins appear to be a team that doesn't want to own up to their mistakes and correct them. Well it's time for the Bruins to face the music, acknowledge to themselves and to each other that they can and will be better! If they don't, there will be considerable speculation about the future of Julien and also the possibility that some major personnel moves could take place. If they don't want that, and want to be playing with the same teammates and for the same coach next season, then they need to take responsibility and play the hockey they’re capable of playing.