April 24, 2012

Bruins hope experience gives them edge in Game 7

By Jesse Connolly

So often -- perhaps too often -- we’re all guilty of being quick to favor the team that has the edge in experience. It seems as though if a squad has “been there before” and “knows what it takes to win,” they’re simply bound to do it again. 

Bruins winger Brad Marchand (Getty Images)

In the case of Wednesday’s battle between the Bruins and Capitals, a winner-take-all affair at TD Garden, it’s no secret that the Black and Gold hold an advantage in the experience department. Boston became the first team to win three Game 7s en route to capturing the Stanley Cup last spring.

But will last year, last week or literally anything prior to Game 7 have any bearing on what happens Wednesday? Are trials and tribulations from seasons past going to be beneficial once the puck drops?

“It matters a bit,” winger Brad Marchand said. “We know we have to battle for sixty minutes right down to the last buzzer. In Game 7 anything can happen and it’s usually a lucky bounce or a minor mistake that will decide the game. So, we have to be prepared to play our best game yet of this series.”

The B’s, of course, aren’t strangers to being on the losing side of seventh games. In 2010, they jumped out to a 3-0 series lead over the Flyers and led Game 7 by a score of 3-0 before falling 4-3. In 2009, the Bruins erased a 3-1 series deficit in the second round against the Hurricanes before losing 3-2 in overtime on a goal by Carolina’s Scott Walker. Boston also erased a 3-1 series deficit in 2008 against their arch-rival, the Canadiens, before losing 5-0 in Game 7.

Add it all up and this will be the Black and Gold’s seventh Game 7 under Claude Julien. Boston’s coach believes – win or lose – you learn from all of them.

“Yes, you learn from all Game 7s,” said Julien. “I think it’s experience and how much you learn when it gets down to Game 7. We’ve seen it go either way. I’ve said before, there’s no guarantees in Game 7s. The only thing you can hope for is that your experience of playing through them will help you stay composed and do the right things.”

Whether or not Boston’s recent playoff history has any effect on Wednesday’s tilt remains to be seen, but you can guarantee that emotions will be running high for both squads.

“Every (series) – especially in series like these when they go seven games – you hate your opponent so much more than you did at the start of the series,” said Marchand. “You have to realize that everything everyone’s doing out there is to win and give their team an opportunity to win. Things that happen out there obviously you don’t like and you want to kill the other guy for it, but that’s how it is. We do it, they do it, and at the end of the day we all know that we’re playing the game to win and it’s nothing personal.”

When all is said and done between the Bruins and Capitals and it’s time to line up and shake hands, Julien certainly hopes to go through the same experience he’s had in his team’s last three decisive playoff tilts.

“Well,” the coach said, “I plan on being the happy one tomorrow.”

Jesse Connolly can be reached at jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseNEHJ.