In case you haven’t already heard, there’s a big game tonight in Boston. It’s game 7 of the 1st round of the playoffs between the Bruins and the Maple Leafs. With a win tonight, the B’s will play either the Capitals or the Rangers in the next round. With a loss, they would be bounced out of the 1st round for the 3rd time in 6 seasons under coach Claude Julien.
The Bruins have been hit or miss in this series. In some games, they have came out strong and gave fans hope for a deep playoff run. In other games they came out with less energy than the other team and gave fans a headache.
In Game 1, Boston quieted a lot of doubters by “flipping the switch” and playing a great game in which they won 4-1. In Game 5, with a chance to end the series at home, they came out unprepared and didn’t start playing with great life and intensity until they found themselves down 2-0 in the 3rd period. They would lose that game 2-1 and then had the same result again last night up in Toronto.
This team has shown that they have had trouble closing out series in the past. Under Claude Julien, they are 6-12 in closeout games, including 3-4 in Game 7′s which is a scary stat for tonight. For some reason, this team doesn’t seem to give it their all until their backs are against the wall, and sometimes, it comes too late.
The Bruins have had some pretty talented teams over the past 6 years, yet they have only made it out of the 2nd round once, and that year they went on to win the Stanley Cup. Even that year, they went on to play 3 game 7′s in which anything can happen. Was 2011 an aberration or is it something we can reasonably expect from this team moving forward? Maybe tonight’s performance can give us some answers.
Looking at this series alone, it’s clear that Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand lead the list of players who are struggling. Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley haven’t exactly had a great series either but they aren’t expected to produce nearly as much as the other two. This may not have been a huge issue if this team closed out this series in 5 or 6 games, but they didn’t. Do their struggles fall on the players themselves or on the coach for not making certain adjustments?
Speaking of Marchand, the Bruins may not have won the Stanley Cup in 2011 if it wasn’t for him. He was an instigator and produced a good amount of offense in that final series against Vancouver. The B’s could certainly use a glimpse of that tonight.
As for Seguin, I understand he’s only 21 and is still a very young player but he has to find a way to get the puck in the back of the net. He is too talented and has had too many quality scoring chances to have 0 goals in this series. By the way, how nice would it be for him to have a great game tonight so the Boston fans can chant “Thank you Seguin” right back to the Toronto fans? Just a thought.
If the Bruins lose tonight, I think it’s fair that Julien should be put on the hot seat. This team would have blown a 3-0 and 3-1 series lead under him. Besides 2011, this team hasn’t gone deep into the playoffs with him, and they have had a hard time closing out series. There’s too much talent and potential on this team to get consistently bounced out in the 1st or 2nd rounds of the playoffs almost every year.
Even if they win tonight, I don’t think his job should be 100% safe. The lack of a killer instinct has been obvious at times and his apparent inability to motivate his players to win closeout games before game 7 isn’t overly encouraging. The great teams finish off their opponents when they have a chance to so and don’t need a game 7 to be the aggressor. How much credit can you give a coach for getting his players ready to win a do or die game 7? No extra motivation should be needed.
All in all, tonight’s game should be interesting and the wrong outcome could trigger some offseason changes. Hopefully the Bruins start the game like they’ve been shot out of a cannon and pick up a convincing win. The game is in Boston so they will have the fans on their side and maybe more importantly, the ability to make the last shift change. That makes it tougher for Toronto to stick the Kessel line out there when Chara and Seidenberg are off the ice.
I’ll go with a 3-1 Bruins win tonight because the bottom line is that Boston is the better team in this series and when they have played aggressively (like they should tonight), they have had success.