WILMINGTON - On Wednesday night, the Bruins will participate in their fifth Game 7 in their last seven playoff series. Their most recent Game 7 serves as a reminder of how everybody plays a role when great things happen in the playoffs.
On June 15, 2010, three of Boston’s four lines showed up legless at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. The Canucks were roaring from the opening puck drop. The only Bruins that offered initial resistance were the hard hats: Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, and Shawn Thornton.
Because the fourth-liners stood tall amid Vancouver’s early energy, the Bruins held the fort until their skilled players found their touch.
“They really sparked us,’’ recalled Brad Marchand. “If it wasn’t for them, we probably wouldn’t have won. They played a phenomenal game from start to finish. They gave us energy at the right times to pick us up when Vancouver was coming at us.
“We’re going to need all four lines going again tomorrow. They’re definitely a big part of the team. We need them going, too.’’
As the Bruins aim for their fourth straight Game 7 win, they have seen a similar theme emerge in this year’s opening round against the Capitals.
Early in the round, their best offensive players were nowhere to be found. In the first three games, the No. 3 line of Benoit Pouliot, Chris Kelly, and Brian Rolston punched in three of the team’s six goals.
In the 4-3 overtime win in Game 6, the first line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Tyler Seguin finally emerged. Lucic had two assists. Krejci recorded a goal and an assist. Seguin had a goal and an assist, including the winning OT strike.
In Game 6, Patrice Bergeron couldn’t take faceoffs because of an undisclosed injury he suffered in Game 5. Rich Peverley assumed Bergeron’s responsibilities and won 13 of 24 draws.
Defenseman Joe Corvo was hobbled in Game 5 after a Marcus Johansson shot struck him on the right leg. In Game 6, Mike Mottau, a healthy scratch for the first five games, replaced Corvo on the third defensive pairing.
Anton Khudobin backed up Tim Thomas for the first five games while Tuukka Rask was recovering from a lower abdomen/groin strain. By Game 6, Rask was well enough to take over backup duties.
The Bruins’ philosophy is represented by the chain and padlock Seguin wore around his neck after Game 6 for his overtime goal. Twenty players. No weak links. Everybody pulls on the chain.
It’s why the Bruins stayed in the series when their top players had yet to shake their slumber. Through five games, Seguin had submitted a 0-0-0 line. Marchand had gone scoreless through four games.
After Game 4, coach Claude Julien delivered a message to both players: such snoozing was unacceptable. In practice last Friday, Seguin skated on the third line. Marchand was demoted to the fourth line.
Had it been possible, Julien would have delivered two more kicks to Lucic and Krejci. Both top-line players were scoreless through three games. Even for stretches of Game 6, Lucic and Krejci were ghosts. Throughout the series, Washington defensemen Karl Alzner and John Carlson had played the roles of Hal Gill and P.K. Subban from last year’s series against Montreal to eliminate Lucic and Krejci as goal-scoring threats.
Late in the first period of Game 6, the first-liners finally woke up.
After taking a dish from Lucic, Krejci beat Capitals goalie Braden Holtby on the power play to score his first goal of the series. In the third, Seguin triggered a goal-scoring sequence by stripping Alexander Semin in the defensive zone. Holtby turned back Seguin’s shot, but Lucic and Krejci drove hard to the net, drawing Semin and Carlson with them. Because of their net drive, Lucic and Krejci opened up a seam for Andrew Ference to jump up and score the go-ahead goal.
In overtime, Krejci picked off a Nicklas Backstrom pass, and Lucic sprang Seguin. The 20-year-old set up Game 7 with his first goal of the playoffs.
“When we got the puck, our focus was just going ahead with it,’’ Lucic said. “We weren’t looking for that extra pass. We were just worried about moving it ahead and creating speed that way. It worked for us last game. We’ve got to want to do it again.’’
The Bruins will need everybody going once more in Game 7 because their best forward is not 100 percent. Bergeron will play, but he didn’t practice Tuesday. He isn’t expected to submit his usual tenacious defensive performance against Alex Ovechkin. Marchand and Peverley, along with Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, will have to be even more focused on taking away Ovechkin’s time and space.
Bergeron might also need help on faceoffs, as he did in Game 6. If so, the Bruins will need Peverley to be aces on the draw.
“You’re only as good as your wingers,’’ Peverley said. “They’ve got to help out on the ones that are ties. [Bergeron] actually helped me out a lot the last game. It’s good to have.’’
Through six games, the Bruins have played good but not great hockey. What encourages Julien is that some of his go-to players are peaking. Thomas stumbled in Game 5, then recovered in Game 6. Lucic, Krejci, and Seguin were nonfactors through five games. They are finally playing hard, up-tempo, north-south hockey.
“When we’ve got everybody going, we’re a real good team,’’ Julien said. “That’s what we have to bring tomorrow - to bring the best out of everybody. Hopefully once that happens, we’ll get the right result, and we’ll carry forward with that group.’’