Wednesday May 13th, 2009

Discipline. It's one of the keys to victory in playoff hockey. Initiate, don't retaliate; right, Bruce? So while everyone expected a rough and perhaps even mean-spirited game from Boston on Tuesday night after the Scott Walker mess from Game 5, the Bruins instead answered by punching pucks to the back of the net. Two quick goals within the first 5:04 of the game sent an early message, and the Bruins forced a do-or-die Game 7 with a 4-2 win (RECAP | BOX) in Raleigh.

It'd be easy to say Walker stirred the sleeping bear with his haymaker on Aaron Ward late in Game 5, but nothing wakes a team up like imminent elimination. And for the last two games, Boston has been the more desperate team and a more focused team. Tape-to-tape passing and smart reads in the offensive zone have been Boston's strengths this entire season, and it's returned after a stretch where they played, according to coach Claude Julien, their worst hockey.

Even though Carolina didn't let up on the physical end, laying 40 hits on Boston, the Bruins were using their bodies a smarter way. Milan Lucic, on the eventual game-winner, skated through a line of red jerseys using his 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame to protect the puck and drive in. While Carolina defensemen became mesmerized by Lucic and his ability to stay strong on the puck, Lucic found Marc Savard wide open at the bottom of the right circle and the goal gave them the 3-1 lead.

By the third period, though, holding a 4-1 lead, the Bruins played like a team trying too hard to cocoon its lead. Realistically, they're a far better team when on the attack; giving the Hurricanes offensive momentum, like they did in the third, won't help them win Game 7 on Thursday. After Carolina came back with a goal early in the third, Boston took back-to-back penalties with plenty of time in the game. That's not timely discipline. And if not for some strong saves by goalie Tim Thomas and effective penalty killing, the win may not have come so easy.

For the Hurricanes, they just couldn't muster up enough to get over the hill. As soon as they started to get something going, it puttered out before reaching its potential, and every time Boston scored a goal, it seemed to deflate the 'Canes and put them back at square one, working to get it going again. Despite five shots, an assist and more ice time than any forward, Eric Staal never quite established himself as a force in this game. It was the Hurricanes' second line of Matt Cullen, Chad LaRose and Walker that seemed to be converting more chances, crashing the net and staying in real tight on Thomas. Carolina, which is 0-6 when Staal doesn't find the back of the net, needs him to stand strong against defenseman Zdeno Chara, who's quieted the star center for the last two games.

In Game 7s, desperation may be the tone, but discipline will win the game.

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