STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
Bruins need a new hero
'Sans Horton, who steps up?'
A lot has been made of the Bruins' playoff experience. They've been here before. They've won in this situation. Game 7. On home ice. They can't lose.
But if using last year's experience is the springboard to a reasoning for which these B's can also accomplish the same feat, then there are questions to be asked to counter such rationale. The biggest being: Who is this year's Nathan Horton?
You remember him, right? The guy who took down the Canadiens in overtime of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. The guy who scored the lone goal against the Lightning, sending the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup appearance since 1990. The guy whose season-ending concussion single-handedly changed the complexion of that Cup final and inspired his team to the franchise's first title in nearly 40 years. The guy who's been on the shelf - with another concussion - since the end of January and won't be available until next season at the earliest.
So, it has to be asked again: Who is this year's Nathan Horton?
Will it be Tyler Seguin? After all, he pushed the Bruins' first-round series with the Washington Capitals to a seventh-and-deciding Game 7 tonight in Beantown. His goal in overtime of Game 6 has Boston in its fourth Game 7 in its last five playoff series.
But it was his first goal of the series, and the second overall pick in 2010 has looked more like a sophomore in a slump than the 20-year-old sparkplug that led the B's in points during the regular season. Then again, maybe Game 6 was just wakeup call he needed.
Will it be Milan Lucic? The wrecking ball leads all Boston forwards with 25 hits, but he has yet to find the back of the net. Looch was third on the team in goals during the regular season and needs to be more effective, especially in the dirty areas in front of Caps goalie Braden Holtby. It isn't usually a highlight-reel goal that wins Game 7s, but instead a gritty, hard-nosed tally that does the trick. That's Lucic.
Will it be Patrice Bergeron or Brad Marchand? These two potted two goals apiece in Game 7 against the Canucks in the Cup final last year, and while the two have combined for just four points in this series, the big stage may be just what they need for a breakout performance. Of course, Bergeron is nursing an upper-body injury, while Marchand has looked a bit softer than the guy who used Daniel Sedin's jaw as a speed bag last June.
Will it be David Krejci? Boston's best player (other than Tim Thomas) in last year's postseason run, Krejci has the ability to turn it on when he feels like it. So far in this series he hasn't felt like it much. His goal in Game 6 was his first of the series and he has had trouble finding consistency with Coach Claude Julien's musical chairs of line combinations.
Will it be Rich Peverley? The B's leading playoff goal scorer (with three), he's been Boston's most consistent forward at both ends of the ice. Problem is, none of Peverley's goals this postseason have been game-deciding, and of his 11 regular season tallies only one was a game-winner.
Will it be a third-liner? Benoit Pouliot, Brian Rolston and Chris Kelley (who won Game 1 with an OT winner) have been the Bruins' most steady unit. And while Julien has jumbled things up a bit over the past few games, putting these three back together might be a perfect recipe for a trip to the next round.
Will it be a fourth-liner? Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille will almost definitely be out there tonight, but who will be the other winger? Jordan Caron was inserted for Shawn Thornton in Game 6, but Thornton has the ability to jumpstart the crowd with a single hit or fight (as rare as they may be in Game 7s). Whoever it is, expect them to see plenty of ice time for Julien, who has never been afraid to throw out his fourth unit late in hockey games.
Will it be a blue-liner? You've got to figure the Bruins will get at least one power play tonight and it will be either Zdeno Chara or Johnny Boychuk unleashing a rocket from the point. Both have lethal slap shots that, as good as Holtby is playing, no one is going to stop if it's put in the right spot. Add Dennis Seidenberg and Andrew Ference - who both have a goal in the series - into the mix and there's no reason to believe a blue-liner can't get the job done.
Truth is, it doesn't matter who it is. Heck, if Thomas can figure out a way to score the winning goal tonight, then so be it. The fact of the matter is someone has to step up tonight. Someone has to take on the role of hero. Someone has to be this year's Nathan Horton.
(Gavin Faretra can be reached at 369-3340 or email@example.com or on Twitter @gavinfaretra.)