BOSTON — Game 7s just happen to the Bruins in the Claude Julien era.
Whether they lead early, or trail late, most of the time over the past five seasons, Boston ends up playing a Game 7 to decide its playoff fate.
In Julien’s first three years, the Bruins’ postseason run ended in Game 7 losses to Montreal (2008), Carolina (2009) and Philadelphia (2010). But that all changed last season, when Boston won three Game 7s en route to a Stanley Cup championship.
So, it’s hardly a surprise to the Bruins — and their fans — that Boston is on the cusp of another Game 7. This time, Washington is the opponent and a thrilling series that has already had six one-goal differential decisions in the first six games — something that’s never happened before in the NHL — will come to an end on Wednesday.
One way or the other.
“Last year’s last year. I think we quickly realized that in October, when we went 3-7,” said Boston center Chris Kelly, one of numerous returnees from last season. “In the same breath, it’s nice to have played in Game 7s before to have that to reflect upon and look back on. But this is a whole new year and a whole new challenge, and one of those things that we’re all looking forward to.”
Aside from a four-game sweep of Philadelphia in Round 2 last season, the Bruins defeated Montreal, Tampa Bay and Vancouver in seven games to secure the Cup.
But the focus now, is on the Capitals, a team that led this series, 3-2, just two days ago.
“I think for Game 7s, what I’ve learned so far in my short playoff career, is that it’s got to be a balance,” Boston center Gregory Campbell said. “You’ve got to be ready. Game 7s are usually the most intense games because everything’s on the line.
“But I think you’ve got to control your emotions and you have to walk that line where you’re ready to go, your energy and enthusiasm is high, but you can make plays under pressure. Obviously it’s a pressure-packed situation and usually, the team that can make those plays and perform under pressure is the team that wins.”
While they might be short on actual Game 7 experience, the Capitals ended the regular season in must-win mode just to make the postseason. And that was just two weeks ago.
“The players, we’ve been grinding it out every night down the stretch,” Washington coach Dale Hunter said. “Game 7 is a grinding kind of game. We’re used to playing it. Every game here has been tough. There have been six games. Both sides are, I imagine, a little bit banged up. But little bruises, they’ll forget about them come Game 7.”
Washington never led in Game 6 on Sunday at home, and rallied three times from one-goal deficits before Boston’s Tyler Seguin ended the 4-3 decision in overtime, with assists from Milan Lucic and David Krejci.
“It’s a war. I think every game in the series is pretty much the same,” Washington defenseman John Carlson said. “We’ve all played in games where your back’s against the wall, so to speak. It’s a big game for us. It’s a good day to regroup and we’ll get back at them.
“We’re just worried about ourselves right now.”
Indeed, two days off between Game 6 and Game 7 will provide both teams with a chance to nurse injuries, particularly Boston center Patrice Bergeron. He was named as a finalist for the Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward on Monday. But he’s also battling through an upper-body injury that prevented him from taking faceoffs in Game 6. Keep in mind, he finished second in the league in faceoff percentage during the regular season.
But he should be ready Wednesday, and two relatively healthy teams could provide the league with great theater.
“For the fans, it’ll certainly make for a much better Game 7,” Julien said. “With all the energy and everything else that was executed in the last two games, back-to-back games, those are tough, especially with travel in between.
“It’s not two games in the same building, you go back and go to sleep. (Then), you’ve got to travel … and I think these two days here will be beneficial for both.”