In place of our regular seven keys for Game 7, we're going to boil it down to one key, and it's a fairly obvious one. The Bruins need to find some way to get their power play going in Game 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday. If they can't, there's a good chance it will be 21 years and counting without a trip to the Stanley Cup finals.
Before David Krejci's power-play goal in the third period of Game 6, the Bruins hadn't scored on the man advantage since Game 2. While Krejci's goal should give the unit some confidence, the power play still struggled for most of the game. And with the Lightning power play finally catching fire, going 3-for-4 in Game 6, it's now or never for the Bruins to correct their power failure.
Boston is now 5-for-61 on the man advantage in the playoffs heading into Game 7. It is pretty astounding that the Bruins are within a game of the Stanley Cup finals given how bad their power play has been. But they can't expect that trend to go on forever. Can they turn it around in Game 7?
Chara helps: There have been some signs in the past two games that the Bruins are starting to figure out their enigma of a power play. One was parking their 6-foot-9, 255-pound captain, defenseman Zdeno Chara, in front of the net. Lightning goalie Mike Smith termed Chara a "tall glass of water" when asked about his presence in front of the net in Game 5, but Chara is more like a skyscraper in front of the net. With the Bruins able to mix in wingers such as Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic as more big bodies in front, they can make life miserable for Dwayne Roloson, who is expected to be in goal for the Lightning in Game 7. But as coach Claude Julien pointed out following the 5-4 loss in Game 6, having Chara there is rendered meaningless if the Bruins don't shoot more and utilize the traffic in front.
"He did a great job again tonight, and just in that second period, he had some power-play time, and somehow, there was times we should have shot because he was there and we had the shooting lane and we chose to pass," Julien said of Chara's presence in front in Game 6. "And that certainly took away some momentum from our power play. Sometimes it doesn't have to be a big shot; it's just a wrist shot that's got to go through, and with him in front of the net, you're giving yourself a chance. And again he did a great job in front and that's something that we need to hopefully capitalize on with the job he's doing up there, and our guys have to make sure that they shoot the puck a little more. I thought in the second period we stopped shooting the puck, and that really hurt us as well."
More Seguin: While Chara has helped, Julien has other options to try to boost the power play in time to save the Bruins' deepest playoff run since 1991 (when they lost in six games in the Eastern Conference finals to the Penguins). While his play and his minutes have slipped over the past four games since his Game 2 explosion (two goals and two assists), rookie Tyler Seguin has proved that his offensive skills and vision can help the power play. His speed, quick release and big slap shot are all dangerous weapons with the man advantage. After seeing around two minutes of power-play time in Games 2 through 5, Seguin didn't see any in Game 6. That should change in Game 7.
Experienced hand: Mark Recchi has yet to register a point in this series, and knowing the veteran class act he is, he will be the first to tell you that he needs to be better. But even if he doesn't break out of this six-game pointless drought in Game 7, Recchi's presence down low can help the power play. He can maneuver in and around the net, and has never been afraid to take a beating to get a dirty goal in front. With Chara, Horton and Lucic providing the size up front, Recchi could find space on the ice. With his experience and finishing touch, expect him to make the most of it.
Mental games: Finally, when a team goes through such a long slump like the Bruins are going through with their power play, the mental side takes over. It's not so much a matter of lack of skill or ability but battling the tendency to get frustrated and down. The Bruins are arguably the best team left in the playoffs in 5-on-5 play. They move the puck with ease, they fore check, they go to the net, they create and they execute. If there is a way they can find that same confidence on the power play, they will break through.
"I think it's a mindset," Chara said Thursday. "Guys have to be willing to throw more pucks at the net. If everybody's on the same page and everybody's going that way, we've been able to do that before. So we've got to do that again tomorrow."
If the Bruins don't maintain that mindset on the power play in Game 7, they most likely will have plenty of time to think about it Saturday and for the next two weeks as they watch the Lightning face the Canucks in the Stanley Cup finals. The power play must convert in Game 7 if the Bruins want to move on.
James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. Ask a question for his next Bruins mailbag here.