It all comes down to this.
After squandering a 3-1 series lead, the Boston Bruins need a win on home ice to keep their playoff run alive — as the Black and Gold will host the Toronto Maple Leafs for Game 7 Wednesday at TD Garden. The matchup is tabbed for a 7:30 p.m. start.
Here’s a look at 10 things to know ahead of puck drop Monday night.
1. The Bruins are sticking with their tried-and-true lineup
After tinkering with the lineup ahead of Game 6 Monday, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy is rolling out the group he has relied on all season to try to get the job done Wednesday night.
Danton Heinen will return to the lineup for Game 7 and skate on the third line with Riley Nash and David Backes, while Rick Nash will slot up to his usual place on the second line with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci.
While putting a young scorer like Ryan Donato into the lineup might help alleviate the Bruins’ struggles with putting the puck past Frederik Andersen, Cassidy noted that Heinen brings a versatility that Boston can utilize. Along with his 200-foot-game, Heinen can also move up and down the lineup if needed.
“He sat a game,” Cassidy said of Heinen. “Generally, guys have come back into the lineup and played well. … That’s why the decision was made. He’s played really well for us this year and we expect him to do that tonight.”
Here’s a look at the Bruins projected lineup ahead of Game 7 Wednesday night.
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – Rick Nash
Danton Heinen – Riley Nash – David Backes
Tim Schaller – Sean Kuraly – Noel Acciari
Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug – Kevan Miller
Matt Grzelcyk – Adam McQuaid
2. Boston’s top line needs to finish …
As the Bergeron line goes, so goes the Boston Bruins.
Seems rather obvious, but the numbers speak for themselves.
In Boston’s three wins this series, Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand have combined for six goals and 23 total points.
In three loses, the trio are scoreless.
The chances have been there for the top line, but in what has been a recurring trend, Boston just hasn’t been able to bury its looks against Andersen.
I can go through and point out the numerous grade-A chances generated by players like Marchand and Pastrnak over the last couple of games, but I might lose track of all of them.
It’s been a frustrating couple of games for Boston, but if players like Pastrnak (10 SOG in Game 5) continue to test Andersen, sooner or later the Bruins are going to finally light the lamp.
3. …. but the trio don’t plan on making any adjustments
David Pastrnak is not here for your questions about making adjustments.
When asked Tuesday what he needed to do to fix his recent scoring drought, Pastrnak was frank. If the chances are there, eventually the 21-year-old sniper is going to bury them.
“I’m not going to change anything,” Pastrnak said. “I keep shooting and keep getting chances. The goalie makes saves. I think that’s a pretty stupid question.”
Fair to say, the snakebitten winger isn’t lacking any confidence going into Game 7.
“I don’t feel any pressure,” Pastrnak said. “Obv we know we are a good team. We know how to play and we just need to find a way to do it right away.”
4. Tuukka Rask has to get over the hump in Game 7
Aside from getting yanked in a disappointing showing in Game 5 at home, Tuukka Rask has more than held his own in net — keeping Boston alive in Game 6 with a number of highlight-reel stops during the third period.
Rask has not been the main culprit for most of Boston’s woes this series, but the netminder does have a bit of a history when it comes to performing during Game 7 situations.
Entering Wednesday night, Rask is 1-2 in Game 7s with a 3.63 goals-against average and a .849 save percentage. Yikes.
Rask’s lone win came during Boston’s improbable 5-4 OT win over the Leafs in 2013, but the Bruins netminder allowed three goals on 18 shots against Montreal in 2014 while letting a 3-0 lead slip away in a crushing loss to the Flyers in 2010.
Do all of these goals fall directly on Rask? Of course not. But you can’t look past these numbers. It’s time for Rask to exorcise these Game 7 demons with a strong showing in net Wednesday.
5. Can the Bruins capitalize against Frederik Andersen?
Amid all of the analysis and discussion ahead of Game 7, the fact of the matter is that the play of Frederik Andersen in net is going to be the main factor that determines the outcome of Wednesday’s game.
After getting pulled in Game 2 (3 GA on 5 SOG), Andersen has stood on his head between the pipes for the Leafs — holding off the Bruins with a 42-save effort on the road in Game 5 before turning aside 32 of the 33 shots that came his way in Game 6.
Andersen has had his fair share of success against Boston over the years, but Toronto’s netminder can certainly be beat.
Also, for all of the grief that Rask gets for his Game 7 resume, take a look at Andersen’s track record — 0-2, 3.65 GAA, .848 sv.
6. Bruins need to shake off poor finish to Game 6
The last two games haven’t gone in the Bruins’ favor, but it’s easy to sort through the positives from Games 5 and 6. Boston hasn’t labored when it comes to generating shots on goal against Andersen, and that’s not likely to change in Game 7.
However, Boston’s sluggish showing in the third period of Monday’s loss has left a bad taste in the mouth of Bruins fans — and for good reason.
Trailing by just a goal entering the final stanza, the Bruins weren’t able to do much against the Leafs in the final minutes of Game 6, firing just seven shots on goal in the period and fumbling a pair of stints on the power play.
“I thought that came on in effect more in the third period,” Cassidy said of frustration setting in during Game 6. “I thought we started pressing a little bit one-on-one instead of using each other. … That’s where I’d say we got away from our game a little bit. Part of that, you’ve got to give credit to them. They played a lot better third period than they did in the previous game in terms of not allowing us to get to the net.
A quick start will be crucial for the Bruins Wednesday, as will be a return to form for Boston’s power-play units (1-for-9 since Game 2).
7. Can someone stop Mitch Marner?
The Maple Leafs might boast one of the top young scorers in the league in Auston Matthews, but Toronto’s top player so far this series has been 20-year-old forward Mitch Marner.
A speedy skater that’s strong on the puck despite his 6-foot, 175-pound frame, Marner has torched the Bruins so far this series, tallying eight points over six games while forming a stout second line with Patrick Marleau and Nazdem Kadri.
Marner seems to enjoy playing against the Boston Bruins, as the winger tallied nine points (three goals, six assists) in four games against the Black and Gold during the regular season.
A beneficiary of the Maple Leafs’ up-tempo, stretch-pass-happy offense, Marner will likely play a big role in a possible Toronto win Wednesday at TD Garden.