Amid Controversy, Bruins And Hurricanes Return To RBC Center For Game 6

Scott Walker is going to play. Aaron Ward is going to play.

So can we just play the game already?

The Carolina Hurricanes host Game 6 of their Eastern Conference semifinals series with the Boston Bruins tonight, up 3-2 in the series after failing to convert on their first match point Sunday.

 

The Bruins were able to drum up enough emotion from their home crowd to easily win Game 5, a dominant performance that has been overshadowed by Walker's late-game, one-punch takedown of Ward that resulted in an NHL review to determine if the Carolina winger would be suspended.

He wasn't and, contrary to what Boston's camp wanted everyone to believe following the incident, Ward will be fine to play. 

In order to extend the series to a deciding seventh game, the B's will need to get past the incident and try to duplicate Sunday's effort, when they surged to a two-goal lead in the first period and never looked back. That starts with captain Zdeno Chara, who finally showed up for the series after being victimized several times by the Canes throughout the the past four games.

On top of that, Boston's stars have struggled on the road this postseason. Marc Savard has nine points and a plus-3 in five home games, but just two points and a minus-3 on the road. Phil Kessel? Eight at home, two on the road, with a plus-5 vs. even home-to-road plus/minus advantage.

For Carolina, there's no place like home. The Canes are 4-1 this postseason at the RBC Center, their only loss coming in overtime in Game 3 vs. New Jersey. They have outscored their opponents 17-9 in Raleigh, compared to a 17-11 deficit on the road.

Jussi Jokinen has been a man possessed throughout the playoffs, particularly on home ice. He has a Carolina-best eight points (four goals, four assists) in five home games. Fellow Finn Joni Pitkanen has also stood tall at the RBC Center, going plus-5 at home compared to minus-2 on the road.

Carolina's power play also receives a boost at home, producing at a 18.2 percent clip at home compared to 4.8 percent on the road. The same holds true for Boston: they've converted just 8.3 percent of their man advantages on the road, but 19.2 at home. The B's perfect home penalty kill also takes a hit, dropping to 75 percent on the road. The Canes have allowed just one man-down goal (13 of 14 killed, 92.9 percent).

So all signs point to Carolina having the edge. But Boston will be looking to carry momentum and force Game 7. Tim Thomas, coming off his first career playoff shutout, will need to set an early tone and not get rattled by the Canes. Cam Ward is yet to be off his game this postseason — it's hard to find fault in his play in any moment of any game, and if the team in front of him shows up tonight, the Bruins will be hard-pressed to come away with a victory.

But more than anything, everyone — I hope — is ready to move past the violence, posturing and constant chatter following Game 5 and let the teams decide the game on the ice. 

Game time is 7 p.m. at the RBC Center and can be seen locally on FS Carolinas (available in HD) and nationally on Versus (also in HD), and heard on 99.9 The Fan.

 

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