You’ve got to go through hell before you get to hockey heaven, which is about the only thing the fan-bases of the Bruins and Maple Leafs can agree on right about now.
When the Bruins broke their 39-year Stanley Cup drought in 2011, they had to take down a pair of teams in the playoffs that had haunted them in years prior. The 2011 B’s swept the Flyers, a year after they had choked away a 3-0 series lead to the same team. That unforgettable 2011 group also took down the hated Canadiens in seven games en route to the Cup.
The Maple Leafs face an eerily similar situation tonight in Game 7 at the Garden (7 p.m., NESN). Toronto’s Stanley Cup drought has now reached 50 years. The Leafs are also back in their house of recent horrors on Causeway Street this evening as they lost severely heartbreaking Game 7s here in 2013 and 2018.
So, maybe the Leafs are due. But just as likely is that the Bruins will continue their drama-filled dominance over Toronto.
Home is where the “L” is
Of course you want to play any Game 7 at home, but in this quirky series the home team is just 2-4.
The only game the Bruins won at the Garden in this series was Game 2, a 4-1 victory on a Saturday night 10 days ago, and neither team has won back-to-back games in the series.
Trends are often broken in Game 7s, however, as the do-or-die nature of the game offers something of a clean slate. It’s entirely possible that a few of the biggest no-shows in the series thus far get going tonight.
Consider that Patrice Bergeron hasn’t scored since Game 2, David Pastrnak has been held scoreless in five of the six games so far, the Leafs’ leading scorer in 2018-19 – Mitch Marner – hasn’t found the net since Game 1, and John Tavares hasn’t scored since Game 1 either.
Walk the line
Bruce Cassidy is likely to stick with the same lineup tonight that he used in the victorious Game 6. Here are the pairings:
Brad Marchand can say anything he wants right about now as he has nine points in this series, including a pair of goals in Game 6 in Toronto on Sunday.
Marchand used his platform to blast the TD Garden playing surface, saying it’s been a sloppy track since the series began.
“[Toronto] has played really well in our building so far this series,” Marchand said. “The ice has been terrible there so – you know – might as well play with a tennis ball. We’ll just skate around and see who bounces one in the net.”
Tuukka Rask has been very strong in this series, but tonight would be a swell time for a shutout. Rask’s best game this series came in Game 2 when he allowed just one Leafs goal.
The Bruins defense has tightened up in the past two games as there were just 27 shots on goal in Game 5, and a series-low 24 shots on goal in Game 6.
Rask has a 2.50 goals against average in the series, which is consistent with his regular season GAA of 2.48.