Hockey fans are truly being treated to something special.
This weekend will feature five Game 7s, starting off with an afternoon matchup between the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes. Carolina has led the series on multiple occasions, taking a 2-0 advantage to start and forcing elimination in Game 6 before Boston’s big outing on Thursday.
Boston has been the underdog all series long, but they’ve been in this situation before. They’re one of the most experienced playoff teams, even if there’s been quite a bit of change over the years.
Every team that scored first in a Game 7 last year won. The team that scores first is 138-46 all-time in Game 7s, so scoring first will be so important.
Let’s break down afternoon’s contest:
1. Bruins Have Experience, but Can’t Seem to Win in Carolina
The Boston Bruins have played four games in Carolina this season and has lost all of them, with their three playoff wins coming at TD Garden.
So, naturally, heading back to PNC Arena in a winner-takes-all match puts Boston in a tough spot. It’s just another game to them, and they’re coming off a big win, but the numbers don’t lie: they’ve had a tough time in Raleigh.
Boston needs to score early and control the momentum and force the Hurricanes to chase. When he’s on his game, Jeremy Swayman is a tough goalie to beat and plays well under pressure. If Boston can get the proper goal support they need, they’ll be tough to play against. But so far, finding success in Carolina has eluded them this season.
2. Goaltending Could be the Difference
This is the case across the board, but might be just as important in this series. Swayman has been great, and Antti Raanta has had some nice moments after coming back from injury.
Carolina, who was one of the best teams all tournament, has gotten to this point without starter Frederik Andersen, but Raanta needs a big bounce-back effort in Game 7 – something he’s very capable of.
Raanta’s .929 save percentage at 5-on-5 is good for fourth in the playoffs, while Swayman is 11th with a .915. Raanta has looked great for the most part and has the advantage here, but Swayman has this ability to take over when the going gets tough.
3. Game 7 History Plays Into Carolina’s Favor
In a somewhat crazy stat, the Hurricanes have never lost a Game 7 in franchise history. The one asterisk? They’ve only played five.
The Bruins, who lost their last Game 7 during the 2019 Stanley Cup final, has played the most Game 7s in NHL history with 28 of them, posting a 15-13 record.
Those previous results don’t matter that much, but much of that same core that saw the Hurricanes top the Washington Capitals in 2019 is still here. Same with Boston, to an extent.
Will the teams care about these stats? No, but they’ll be aware of it. Games like this require a clear, strong mindset and you can’t let anything get in the way of playing your game. Boston got into penalty trouble in the games in Raleigh, while Carolina has thrived.
Again, it’s just a building. It’s just another game. But statistically, Game 7s – and playing at home in these playoffs – have worked out well in Carolina’s favor.