BOSTON – It’s a massive understatement to say the Bruins have both been there and done that before.
The Bruins have experience on their side headed into Wednesday night’s winner-take-all Game 7 at TD Garden against the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup Final. For some like Zdeno Chara, Brad Marchand, David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron it’s both the experience of having won and lost the Stanley Cup in the Cup Final series.
“Someone has to win and someone has to lose. It’s the best thing in the world for the team that wins and it sucks for the team that loses. Being on both sides of it, you realize how hard it is and how shitty it is to lose,” said Brad Marchand. “It sticks with you forever. Winning and losing. You don’t forget everything that happens when you win and you definitely don’t forget what happens when you lose. Unfortunately, there are going to be both sides of that [in Game 7]. We’ll see how it plays out.”
The experience level is key for the Bruins, and has been a gigantic advantage for the Bruins over the Maple Leafs in the first round, and even more so against inexperienced Blue Jackets and Hurricanes in the latter rounds of the Eastern Conference bracket. Now it’s just as substantial as the Bruins prepare for the first Game 7 title game in Boston since all the way back in the heyday of Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics.
“Since I've got here from day one, I've said it, we’re very fortunate to have those guys,” said Bruce Cassidy of the B’s leadership group. “This is one of those times of year I'm extremely fortunate. Our leadership group has been there. They've been in a Game 7 before, in the Stanley Cup Finals. In fact, the last one, they've lived it.
“Been in a Game 7 at home against Toronto this series. Stanley Cup is not at stake, but if you don't win it, you have no chance at it. I think there's a certain amount of pressure that our guys are used to having. In this situation, I think both teams like the pressure that's on them. Any team would trade the opportunity to be here, so I think we'll be okay.”
The Bruins will be a lot more than “okay” with their established Cup-winning core based on some of the occurrences in Game 6 in St. Louis that are trending the right way for Boston headed into Wednesday’s decisive contest. It was the Blues that finally looked like the moment was getting too oversized for them in the Cup Final. Jordan Binnington allowed soft goals and blew up for three goals allowed in the third period. Dependable veteran Ryan O’Reilly tossed a puck over the glass that gave the Bruins a 5-on-3 power play in the first period, and basically handed the Bruins an extremely important early lead in the elimination game.
Blues players like Roberto Bortuzzo lost their composure late in the game with nasty plays looking to make a statement about Game 7 after losing in their own building. In general, the Blues looked more tentative and less aggressive than they had in any game since Game 3 when Boston blew them out of their own building.
Meanwhile on the other side the B’s opportunistically picked St. Louis apart after the ultimate winner Patrice Bergeron (Stanley Cup, gold medals and World Cup gold) gave a pregame speech for the ages, and 42-year-old captain Zdeno Chara played through a broken jaw in the perfect final chapter to a Hall of Fame, winning career.
That’s ultimately one of the two big advantages that the Black and Gold have over the Blues when it’s all counted at the end of the day.
The Bruins clearly have the goaltending advantage with Tuukka Rask sporting a .938 save percentage over the course of 23 playoff games headed into tonight, and a 5-0 record with a ridiculous .973 save percentage in elimination games. Rask has Stanley Cup Final experience and he has the hunger to avenge the 2013 Cup Final loss to the Chicago Blackhawks when he allowed a pair of goals in 17 seconds to basically fumble away that series.
But they also have everything going for them in terms of Stanley Cup Final experience whether it was shutting out Vancouver in Game 7 to secure their Cup in 2011, or falling short in 2013 against a dynastic Blackhawks bunch that was clearly better than the B’s during that series. When things get hairy as they most certainly will at some point during a decisive Game 7 in a series that’s been as nasty as Bruins/Blues, the poise and composure of the experienced team is a difference-making characteristic.
The Bruins aren’t going to beat themselves in the big moments on Wednesday night, and the moment won’t get bigger than them like it did during St. Louis’ golden chance to win the Cup on home ice last weekend.
It may not lead to the goals scored and it may not even come into play when the game-winning play comes down the pipe in Game 7, but one can be sure that the Bruins hold the ultimate trump over the Blues on Wednesday night having been there before. In a series where the differences are razor-thin between two clubs that have battled it out even in six Cup Final games, that’s a big, big deal headed into Game 7.
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