BOSTON — The first five games of the first round playoff series between the Bruins and Hurricanes have been won by the home team. But Thursday’s game in Boston will have a different feel: The Bruins face elimination, and there are rumblings that captain Patrice Bergeron could hang up his skates after this season.
So not only have the Bruins gotten the best of the Hurricanes in Boston during this series, they will be playing with the desperation of a team that doesn’t want to see their season — and maybe their captain’s career — come to an end.
1. One addition to the Hurricanes’ roster in the offseason knows the playoff grind all too well.
Defenseman Ian Cole has won two Stanley Cups and played in 101 career playoff games, and he called Thursday’s Game 6 a “must-win.”
“In my mind, Game 7s are usually a bit of a coin flip,” he said following the morning skate. “So we’re gonna try to avoid that at all costs. We’re gonna try to win tonight, absolute must-win, and we’re gonna need to match the level of desperation.”
He’s been part of four games in which his team had a chance to eliminate its opponent in a Game 6, and Cole’s teams are 3-1 in those games. The one loss, to Ottawa when he was with Pittsburgh in 2017, was avenged in Game 7.
2. Martin Necas scored in the regular season finale against New Jersey on April 28, but that’s his only goal in his last 21 games. He has two points in the series, a secondary assist in Game 1 and an assist on an empty-net goal in Game 5.
“We expect more, for sure,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said when asked of Necas’ performance through five playoff games. “He’s been fine, but there’s more we gotta get out of him if we’re going to advance. We need everybody to be at their best. You’re not going to beat this team unless you’ve got everyone going. So he’s been OK, but I think there’s another level he can get to.”
Necas wouldn’t be the first player to feel the pressure of an ongoing contract negotiation, especially one in which the sides are likely far apart. Surely Necas and his agent will want to have the season he played in the AHL with Charlotte considered in his new deal — the 23-year-old has essentially played four years on his three-season entry-level contract.
For now, the focus has to be on Game 6.
“Everybody’s got their role in the team,” Necas said, “and if you can help in offense or defense or blocking a shot or kill the PK, make a play. … Everybody’s gotta do these little things that helps the team win. “
The “little thing” Necas is supposed to do is get on the scoresheet, but points have been hard to come by.
“Of course I would like to be there,” Necas said. “Let’s see tonight.”
3. The Hurricanes are getting closer to full health. Brind’Amour said Wednesday that goalie Frederik Andersen was still progressing in the right direction, and Jordan Martinook participated in the morning skate six days after being knocked out of Game 3.
Martinook was not part of the line rushes and was on the ice well after his teammates finished up at TD Garden on Thursday, meaning he’s a likely scratch again for Game 6.
“I haven’t talked to him since he’s come off (the ice), but he’s getting closer,” Brind’Amour said of Martinook.
The fourth line has not yet scored a point in the series. Necas and Max Domi — who have both seen time on the line in the series —have two points through five games, but each got them playing off the fourth line.
Martinook, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Derek Stepan have all been held without a point, and that trio has only combined for 10 shots on goal in about 104 combined minutes of ice time. The Bruins’ fourth-liners have not produced either, but a goal from either team’s depth players could make a big difference in Game 6.
4. Brind’Amour said the hardest part of his job is coming up with new ways to deliver his never-ending message of hard work.
“If you’re not consistent, your guys are going all over the map,” he said. “But if you keep saying the same thing over and over, it goes in one ear and out the other. So that, to me, is the toughest part of the job, just trying to stay consistent in your message but trying to make it fresh.
“So that’s kind of what I do in the afternoon (before games) too, is try to figure out how to do that. But at the end of the day, the guys know what they’re doing. And that’s why consistency is so important.”
5. It looks like the Bruins will get Hampus Lindholm back for Game 6. He was knocked out of Game 2 on a huge check by Andrei Svechnikov, but eight days later he appears ready to go.
Lindholm told the Boston Globe’s Matt Porter he had no issue with the Svechnikov hit, saying, “It’s the playoffs.”
Lindholm and McAvoy will reunite on the top pair — they started the series together but were separated for Game 2. Matt Grzelcyk, who was the target of a Svechnikov body check leading up to Carolina’s first goal in Game 5, will come out of the lineup. Mike Reilly will stay in.
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy won’t start the night with the Perfection Line together, instead opting to have Jake DeBrusk up with Bergeron and Brad Marchand while David Pastrnak plays with Erik Haula and Taylor Hall.
Don’t be surprised if Pastrnak rejoins his running mates if needed.