Boston Sports Day

Bruins Force Game 7

It didn’t come easy. Despite an early two-goal lead and a 4-1 cushion after 40 minutes, the top seeded Bruins held off a late charge by the No.6 seeded Hurricanes, posting a 4-2 Game Six win in Raleigh tonight.

Claude Julien’s club deserves a ton of credit for getting it here. The Jack Adams candidate had come under fire for his team’s passive play early on but he’s made some great adjustments to get it even. They’ve been much more aggressive physically and it’s starting to take its toll. They still had to earn it.

If they controlled much of the play thru two, then that wasn’t the case in a third which saw the Candy Canes outshoot them 14-4 while getting the lone goal from ex-Bruin Sergei Samsonov, who tallied his third of the series from Eric Staal and Tim Gleason. The goal that cut it to two came with still plenty of time, 12:40 left.

The Bruins didn’t make it easy on themselves taking consecutive minor penalties. First, first period goalscorer Steve Montador boarded Tuomu Ruutu on the next shift. The Canes nearly made him pay with only a sprawling Tim Thomas able to deny Staal pointblank. It wasn’t the only big stop he made also robbing Matt Cullen of his second from in front with a few minutes remaining.

In between, Boston killed off Dennis Wideman’s delay of game minor thanks to a couple of strong stops from Thomas and some solid penalty killing work from captain Zdeno Chara and one of the game’s three stars Patrice Bergeron. Also intrumental was one-time Ranger Aaron Ward, who showed tremendous character coming back from Scott Walker’s unsuspended cheapshot last game that nearly broke his orbital bone. What if it had? Would idiot sheriff Colin Campbell have suspended Walker then for the quick right which the unprepared Ward took? There’s something seriously wrong with this picture.

Well, at least Ward cameback and played well not looking for retribution instead logging big minutes (20:09) alongside partner Chara while registering a pair of hits and blocked shots along with a plus-one rating. Not a bad night’s work from the guy who didn’t workout here but has only won three Stanley Cups elsewhere including with his former team he’s in battle with. Before tonight’s game, he held court at his locker discussing the incident and how upset he was particularly at Carolina GM Jim Rutherford for spinning it. It takes an awful lot of character to stay composed. He didn’t even wear a shielf playing with the bruise near his eye. Much credit must be given. That kind of veteran leadership might be why the Bruins have comeback to force a do-or-die Game Seven in their building.

The bigger issue for the B’s is whether or not offensive leader Marc Savard will be 100 percent when the two clubs take the TD Northbank Garden ice. The man who wound up with the decider tonight on a brilliant feed from Milan Lucic injured his knee early in the final period. He only tried one shift taking three strides before coming back off. Not a good sign.

Outside of that, the Bruins have all the momentum. But we know it can all change so quickly with the game’s first goal two nights from now. I got a feeling that whoever gets the jump Thursday night will prevail. Just based on how Carolina played the third, you have to figure they’ll be ready from the first drop of the puck.

It’d be hard to fault Cam Ward on any of the four goals tonight as there were massive defensive breakdowns. However, the former 2006 Conn Smythe winner will need to be much better than the four he permitted on only 19 shots. History is on his side as he’s never lost a Game 7 with a perfect 3-0 mark on the line. As for his counterpart Thomas, who played oustanding in making 31 stops including 13 of 14 in the third, he’s 0-for-1 having lost to the Canadiens in the first round last year after the Bruins rallied from the same 3-1 hole to force a seventh game. So, the Vezina frontrunner will look to even that mark with another primetime performance. In the Bruins’ two straight wins, he’s allowed only three goals on 52 shots.

A big change from earlier in the series when it was Ward winning the goaltending battle. Expect both to be good giving their teams a chance. You know the Bruin fans will be amped up to see their team try to complete its first ever comeback from 3-1 down.

Keep an eye on Samsonov, who Paul Maurice shifted to Staal’s line for some shifts. He’s had a real good series. One thing also to look for is how Staal fares. Versus had a key stat. When he scores, the Hurricanes are undefeated this postseason. But when he doesn’t as was the case tonight, they have yet to win. So, figure that match-up versus Chara to be huge.

Will the Bruins finally make history or can the Canes, who have never blown a 3-1 lead, prevent a collapse? The answer is less than 48 hours away.

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