The day has finally come. After a back and forth battle this series with the Carolina Hurricanes, the Boston Bruins head to Raleigh this afternoon for a winner take all game seven. To this point, the home team has dominated each of the six games this series. If the Bruins want to be the first team to win a game on the road and eliminate the Hurricanes, it is imperative that they find success at even strength.
Through six games, the Hurricanes hold the edge in 5v5 scoring 13-9 (stats via Natural Stat Trick). The nine goals they have scored at even strength have followed a similar blueprint; I have pulled the video clips and identified some of the key aspects that have led to these goals:
Game 1: Taylor Hall
One thing that you see a lot of in the Bruins goals is traffic out front. Most of the traffic here is actually Hurricanes defenders, but goaltender Antti Raanta has shown to be vulnerable to shots through screens. The shot isn’t exactly hard or labeled, it just finds its way through the mess of bodies out front and Raanta can’t react in time to stop it.
Game 2: Patrice Bergeron
The “traffic out front” theme shows up again. Charlie McAvoy is able to get a tippable shot/pass-through from the point. Patrice Bergeron finds the soft spot in the Hurricanes’ net-front coverage and deflects it home.
Game 3: Brad Marchand
Not every shot from out far is going to get through perfectly. That is why getting to the high danger areas of the ice and winning puck battles is so essential. In the three games, the Bruins have lost this series; they have played too much on the perimeter. They have to get to the greasy areas.
Game 4: Patrice Bergeron
Greasy areas, you say? Raanta’s rebound control and ability to corral pucks is very inconsistent. The opportunity to score goals like this will be there today. Jake DeBrusk had a similar goal, albeit on the power play. The chances are there, it is just on the Bruins to get into these areas to convert them.
Game 4: David Pastrnak
Unless the “Perfection Line” (I actually hate that name) is reunited today, I wouldn’t expect to see many goals like this today. They are the gold standard in the NHL at executing set plays off the draw like this, but Carolina is such a well-coached team that I would imagine it would be tough to replicate. Either way, it is just another goal scored within five feet of the crease.
Game 5: Connor Clifton
I debated not even adding this one. It is an excellent read and finish by Clifton, but if the Bruins are relying on Cliffy Hockey to score goals today then things will have definitely gone off the rails.
Game 6: Brad Marchand
The other outlier to these goals, this is the only time that the Bruins have beat Raanta off the rush from distance this series. A beautiful shot, but these types of goals are just a bonus in this series.
Game 6: Erik Haula
Nearly identical to the Patrice Bergeron goal in game two. The more chaos out front, the better. Game six was the first time this series where I felt the Bruins imposed their will on the Hurricanes and gave them a taste of their own medicine. The forecheck completely wears out the Hurricanes defenders, especially Sebastian Aho. I have no idea where he was going when McAvoy takes the shot, but it certainly wasn’t into a defensive position. More of that, please.
Game 6: Derek Forbort
Finally, we get to Derek Forbort’s tally from game six. If you have read my work before, you know how much I stress the importance of puck retrievals by defenseman. Had to extend this clip to show Hampus Lindholm’s here, as it is textbook, and jump-starts the Bruins offensive attack. As for the goal itself? Another greasy one. The fourth line creates absolute chaos in front of Raanta, almost scoring a few times. They remain out front after a failed Hurricanes clear, and a fairly harmless looking shot from Forbort ends up in the back of the net.
Winning a deciding game seven, especially on the road, is never easy. In each game they have lost so far, the Bruins have been unable to generate any goals until it is far too late. If they want to win important games, they have to come out hard and score the first goal consistently. The formula for success for doing that at five on five is simple. Get traffic out front. Get greasy. Do that and they should have better success next season and hopefully a second-round appearance in the spring of 2023.