BOSTON -- The Washington Capitals have done well in their first-round series against the reigning Stanley Cup champion Bruins, and theyve proven the wise guys wrong by playing hard-nosed, playoff-style hockey.
The Caps and Bruins have battled through six one-goal games with the seventh and deciding matchup on tap Wednesday night the first time in Stanley Cup playoff history that two teams have played six consecutive one-goal games. But Game 7 is what separates the men from the boys, and its something the B's excelled at last year.
Boston players like Zdeno Chara and Tim Thomas had previously struggled in Game 7, but flipped that on its head last season as the Bruins became the only team in NHL history to post three Game 7 victories en route to winning the Cup.
Theres no secret to Game 7 success, as the Bruin players tell anybody who'll listen. It simply comes down to confidence, poise and self-control under the greatest pressure cooker the NHL can concoct.
This is where experience can help; the playoffs are tight regardless, said Thomas, who now stands 3-1 in Game 7s during his Bruins career. If you look back at last year, we played in a lot of tight playoff games in our run. In a majority of those tight games -- even during the regular season weve done a good job of finding and figuring out a way to be the team that comes out on top. Thats where experience comes in.
I actually think being on the bad side of Game 7 losses allows you to know you can fail and that life will go on. Your life wont be ruined. Until youve had that experience its really tough to handle. It actually gave me an advantage going into the Game 7s last year. But having won having won several times in Game 7 -- also gives you confidence that you can get it done again.
The Bruins have 18 players remaining from last years Cup-winning roster, and each one of them has the cool confidence of a player thats been there and done that.
It matters a bit, said Brad Marchand, who scored a pair of goals in Bostons 4-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks in their last Game 7 last June. We know we have to battle for 60 minutes, right down to the last buzzer. But in Game 7 anything can happen and its usually a lucky bounce or a minor mistake that will decide the game. We have to be prepared to play our best game yet of this series.
The best part for the Bruins: They havent come close to playing up to their potential in the first six games of the series, while Boston has brought the best out of the Capitals.
Were evolving here as team, said coach Claude Julien. The one thing I can say is our team has been good in the series, but I dont think its been at its best. Its at best when everybodys playing their best hockey. Last year we had that challenge in the first round. We remember that third line with Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley, and Michael Ryder playing a big role and got us through.
Weve got some guys right now that have carried us through a Game 7 and some of those other guys in the last game the Tyler Seguins, the Patrice Bergerons, the David Krejcis, the Milan Lucics and the Marchands, are picking up their game. When we got everybody going were a really good team. Thats what we have to bring Wednesday night. We need to get the best out of everybody. Hopefully once that happens we get the right result and we carry forward with that group.
The Bruins have managed to push to a Game 7 despite getting zero goals from Milan Lucic; no more than one goal from anybody not named Rich Peverley, and a complete breakdown by Thomas in the third period of the Game 5. Theyre also missing Nathan Horton the guy who clinched the Game 7 victories over Montreal and Tampa Bay during last years playoff run after he was ruled out for the postseason because of a concussion.
All of that is background noise now. All that matters to the B's is the task at hand.
Even though we won last year I still have in the back of my mind all those bad feelings from losing those Game 7s, said David Krejci. Its more intense. Everybody is more involved. Everything gets tight because nobody wants to open up, so youve got to stay patient. Usually the more patient team wins.
Its fun when you win and it sucks when you lose. Ive been on both sides and its a lot more fun when you win. Winning the Cup is one thing, but we have a chance to win it twice in a row. That is something special. We have a chance in Game 7 to get a step closer. Its an exciting time. Weve got to get it done.
It hasnt been easy and its been far from pretty, but there is every reason to believe the Bruins will make it four Game 7 victories in a row when they take the ice against the upstart Capitals on Wednesday night.
They're too experienced and too ready for these big playoff moments, and they have to know theres another possible deep run at hand with the Penguins out of the playoffs and the Rangers on the brink of elimination in the East.
If the Bruins can summon up one more big game, things are once again breaking exactly the right way.