Game 7. Get the dagger ready.
The money is on the line for Boston.
They are the six highest-paid players on this hockey team. Combined, they earned $34.666 million this season, making up 51 percent of Boston's payroll. Each is signed for next year, as well. They have yet to cash in against Montreal in this series.
These five players and Rask are at the core of Peter Chiarelli's master plan, which is supervised by Cam Neely and put into play by Claude Julien. Each player has experienced a Game 7 before, the most-recent coming last May against Toronto. Then there were those three Game 7s won by this bunch [save for Rask] in 2011. That gives the Bruins a level of comfort and familiarity with all the pressures at hand and the finality of what's at stake Wednesday night when the Bruins and Canadiens meet to decide their Eastern Conference semifinal series in Game 7 at T.D. Garden. [7 p.m., NBC Sports Network.]
[Sadly, there won't be a repeat of the drama surrounding Boston's Game 7 win against the Maple Leafs last year because Jack Edwards and his dagger will be confined to Twitter during the game.]
The Bruins admit Montreal's desperation was unmatched in Game 6. The Bruins will be plenty desperate in Game 7. But Boston's fate will not be determined by desperation, crowd noise or anything posted on Twitter.
Even if it's from the Canadiens themselves.
The success or failure of the Bruins against Montreal will be determined by the players. The officiating, especially for a Bruins-Canadiens series, has been surprisingly benign. There have not been any moral equivalents of "Too Many Men on The Ice." But the problems that occur after those penalties are called against Montreal. continue to dog Boston. Yes, the Bruins ended their 0-for-39 power-play playoff scoring streak against Montreal in Game 5. During Game 6, it was back to the bad old days, as Boston failed to score on three power-play attempts.
The players cited above have all struggled at times against Montreal. None has performed to past postseason standards. Here's a breakdown of some key numbers against Montreal from each player, ranked by salary:
Rask: $7 million. In this series against the Canadiens, Rask has taken Julien's "Jekyll and Hyde" moniker to an extreme, going 3-3. His GAA is a pedestrian 2.51 in six games. He has a .910 save percentage. Rask delivered a shutout in Game 4, but was badly beaten on critical breakaways in Game 2 and Game 6.
He has been outplayed by Carey Price, who has a 2.20 GAA and a .931 save percentage. In Rask's defense, his defense hasn't shown a willingness to absorb shots like the Canadiens. Montreal blocked 20 shots in Game 6 to Boston's 17. At one time, Montreal led Boston in that category 19-12.
Chara: $6,916,667. Chara is 37, a few months older than Tom Brady. He appears to have aged about 12 years in this series. [Yes, that was a Brady reference.] Chara was badly beaten on Montreal's second goal Monday night when Max Pacioretty broke free from the plodding Chara and froze Rask long enough to score Montreal's second and most-decisive goal.
The sluggish Chara didn't take a shot on goal during the first two periods Monday and finished the night with one shot taken and one shot blocked.
In the waning moments of Game 6 and Montreal firmly in command up 4-0, Andrei Markov hooked Chara in the corner and later planted his stick in Chara's crotch, which helped precipitate the game-ending melee. Despite his on-ice proctology exam, Markov was not penalized.
That was nuts.
Chara responded with a slash and missed the final 29 seconds of the game thanks to a pair of penalties.
Certainly there is anger and motivation aplenty for Chara Wednesday night. Fire away with that 108 MPH slapshot anytime, Big Guy. He was a plus-5 in Game 2, But in Boston's last four games he has been a minus-1, net zero, net zero, and minus-1, while averaging 25:45 minutes of play throughout the series.
If the 6-foot-9 future Hall of Famer is injured or suffering from an undisclosed ailment, he should not be playing. Once a player consents to take the ice, he should be held to his normal high standard, not a lower one, especially in the playoffs.
Lucic: $6 million. Lucic was "trashed" in Montreal in Game 6, by both the Canadiens and the fans at Centre Bell. With the Canadiens ahead 4-0, the Bruins tried to goon-it-up and intimidate Montreal heading into Game 7. The much-smaller Canadiens appeared to hold their collective frozen turf. Lucic slipped in a couple of shots on Mike Weaver while the two were being restrained as all hell broke loose at the end of the game. When Lucic exited the ice, he was greeted with a cascade of trash from the not-so-cheap seats.
Bruins fans may have wanted to fire a few projectiles at Lucic Monday, too. Yelling multiple profanities at the TV, computer or iPad probably wasn't satisfying enough. He missed a couple of wide-open nets early. Lucic had 24 goals in the regular season and three more against the Red Wings. His lone goal in this series sailed into an open net at the end of Game 2. He is a net-zero in terms of plus/minus and has taken just 12 shots in six games against Montreal.
Krejci: $5.25 million. Krejci's disappearance in this series has been both painful to watch and a credit to the Canadiens' discipline and defense. In six games against Montreal, he has zero goals, one assist and stands at minus-2 on 13 shots. Those are numbers that would have gotten the likes of Tyler Seguin hung in effigy at the Four's pub on Canal St., never mind a dive bar on Rue Ste. Catherine.
Krejci hasn't scored since Boston's regular-season finale on April 12. In 2013, he won the playoff-scoring title with nine goals and 26 points in 22 games. In 2011, he tallied 23 points during Boston's Stanley Cup run.
No one has confused Krejci with Joe Namath or Mark Messier when it comes to prognosticating. "I believe my time is about to come and I'm going to be big for my team," he said with confidence before Game 6. "I owe it to these guys."
Krejci followed those words with three shots and no points in 20:49 of ice time.
Bergeron: $5 million. Save for a couple of fine defensive plays, Bergeron was another humongous non-factor in Game 6. He managed just three shots in 17:47 of playing time in Game 6 and was a minus-2 while on the ice. In Boston's previous three playoff games, he wasn't much better. He scored just one goal on 15 shots and was a minus-1, net zero and net zero while averaging about 18 minutes of ice time.
Marchand: $4.5 million. The Little Ball of Hate has hung a Gigantic Ball of Nothing when it comes to scoring in the playoffs - going back to Game 2 against Pittsburgh last season. He, too, has missed multiple open-nets in this postseason. Marchand was a plus-2 in the first three games against Montreal, but fell to a net-zero, net-zero and minus-1 since. He's taken only 15 shots in the six games against Montreal.
Overall, Boston has clanged, clinked or dinged the post or crossbar 12 times in this series. That accounts for some of the first-line frustrations. It is plain to see, however, that the big-name, big-money players on the Bruins have yet to cash in against Montreal.
The underdog and undersized Canadiens have clearly over-achieved against Boston. P.K. Subban has been the No. 1 star of this series.
No one can with any sobriety accuse Rask, Chara, Lucic, Krejci, Bergeron or Marchand of overachieving anything against Montreal. It may been mercenary or punitive to single out just five players and a goalie for the faults of an entire team. They are, however, the players being paid the most to perform at the most important time.
No one blames the collapse of the 2011 Red Sox on players like Darnell McDonald, Scott Atchison or Felix Doubront, who combined made about $1.3 million that season. Nope, besides chicken and beer, the villains were players like Josh Beckett [$17 million], John Lackey [$15.9 million] and Carl Crawford [$14.857 million.]
The money, expectations and credit/blame are all one package.
The Bruins likely to play Wednesday have played in a combined 70 Game 7s. Bergeron, especially, has made Game 7 his personal shootout. He's got four goals, including two game-winners, and two assists in his eight Game 7 appearances. Lucic has added four goals in his eight Game 7s, while Marchand has two goals and five points in his five Game 7s. The two goals helped close out Vancouver three years ago.
All that gives hope to the Bruins and their fans. But hope means nothing once play begins. Winning then becomes all about execution, hustle, delivering hits, avoiding stupidity, making a pass, blocking a shot so your goalie doesn't have to, finding the corner hole and not the crossbar, making the save no one expects you to make, and shooting the puck, shooting the puck and shooting the puck some more.
Now, it's time for Game 7. This is when the biggest stars either shine their brightest or begin working on their golf game in earnest. All The President's Cup Men found worth in the regular season and earned the right to have this game in Boston. A victory over Montreal would be wondrous for this team and those who follow it, for so many reasons, some of which actually have to do with hockey.
There has been so much crap surrounding this series. The hockey has been lost in the hokum. Seeing the Bruins prevail on the ice would be oh, so, sweet, for all who are fond of the spoked "B" and the city and region which embraces it with such unconditional vigor.
"I hope it gets nasty. I hope it gets dirty," Subban said about Game 7 the other night.
If the Bruins' biggest stars show up, remain within themselves and contribute actual goals and assists, Game 7 should be that, and then some.
The OBF Blog is written by award-winning journalist, Bay State native and Boston.Com columnist Bill Speros. Got a news tip, want to let him know directly what you think, have a complaint or compliment about his "aggressively relevant" content or hate people who speak about themselves in the third person, hit him up on his Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or hit him on at his
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