After losing Tuesday night in Montreal, the Bruins return home tonight for Game 7 against their bitter rivals. The Bruins will be trying to win their first Game 7 since April 29, 1994, when they beat the Canadiens 5-3. Since then, they’ve lost four Game 7s, including losing in the final game in each of the last three seasons. Coach Claude Julien has been unable to guide his team to a Game 7 win, falling in 2008 (versus Montreal), 2009 (versus Carolina) and 2010 (versus Philadelphia).
If the Bruins can pull off the win tonight, they will go on to face the Flyers with a chance to redeem their historic collapse in the playoffs last season, when they blew a 3-0 series lead.
Here are seven keys to victory in Game 7 tonight:
Power play needs to connect: We’ve said it throughout this series and the regular season: The Bruins' power play needs to deliver. Boston is 0-for-19 in the series with the man-advantage, and there is no better time than Game 7 to break that drought. In a deciding game, the referees will most likely let the teams play, so there might not be too many power-play opportunities. But when the Bruins get one, they need to take advantage.
Stay disciplined: The Bruins are clearly frustrated after some questionable calls in Game 6 -- including a five-minute major and game misconduct for a boarding call on Milan Lucic that led to the game-winning goal in the second period. But they can’t let that weigh on them, and they must control their frustrations in Game 7. If things don’t go their way, they need to shake it off and move on. Don’t lose control and end up in the penalty box.
Use the home crowd: The Bruins fought hard all season to get home-ice advantage in the first round, and now they need to make it pay off. They need to use their home crowd and the familiarity of their own rink to their advantage. Feed off the noise and enthusiasm of the fans and set the tone early and often.
Forget the past: The Bruins are human, and chances are past failures will enter their minds. Their recent failures in Game 7s are well-known. They need to forget about any of that. It’s in the past. It’s time to move on, and there’s no better way to do that than with a win tonight against their fiercest rival.
Thomas has to be huge: Tim Thomas wasn’t bad in Game 6, but he wasn’t the Tim Thomas that stole the show with 44 saves in the 2-1 win in Game 5. That’s the Thomas the Bruins need in Game 7. When the Bruins have breakdowns, Thomas needs to bail them out. There can’t be any soft goals let in or it will be golf season for him and the Bruins.
Chara needs to lead: Zdeno Chara is a Norris Trophy candidate, but right now the Bruins just need him to lead and be their captain. Chara has never won a Game 7 in his career, and now is his chance to erase those demons and lead the Bruins to victory. He needs to set the tone in the dressing room and on the ice and be a force to reckon with.
Have fun: Following the 2-1 loss to the Habs in Game 6 on Tuesday night, veteran Mark Recchi said he would stress a lot of different points with his teammates before Game 7. But one seemed especially important. Recchi wants them to have fun and embrace the magic of a Game 7. That might be the best advice the Bruins can take right now. They’re clearly gripping their sticks tight and must have some anxiety. Maybe it’s as simple as telling them to embrace the atmosphere of a Game 7 and go out and enjoy it.