BOSTON — Game 7 situations are weird. On the one hand, you know that just about anything is possible in one game with everything on the line. On the other hand, there’s something to be said for having Game 7 experience and knowing what to expect, even if it’s just to know to expect the unexpected.
The Boston Bruins will have the clear advantage in experience Wednesday night when they face the Montreal Canadiens in their second-round Stanley Cup playoff series. Boston actually will set an NHL record by playing in a Game 7 for a seventh consecutive season.
The Bruins have a ridiculous 88 games of Game 7 experience on their roster, including six players who have played in at least six Game 7s in their careers. That’s compared to the Canadiens, who have just 36 games of Game 7 experience under their belts, and only captain Brian Gionta has played in more than four.
There’s also quite a discrepancy behind the bench, too. Boston’s Claude Julien will coach in his 10th career Game 7 (with a 5-4 record), while Montreal’s Michel Therrien will have a taste of the winner-take-all matchup for the first time in his NHL coaching career.
How will this affect Wednesday’s game? No one really knows until the puck drops, but having experience won’t hurt, especially with the game at TD Garden in Boston.
“I embrace it; I think it’s awesome,” Bruins winger Shawn Thornton said Tuesday, ahead of what will be his ninth career Game 7. “This is the best time of the year, and Game 7s are the most exciting games of the playoffs. I like it. Would I prefer to close it out in six? Of course, but we’re here. I’m looking forward to (Wednesday) night.”
Even the younger players have some experience after last year’s Stanley Cup Final run, in which the Bruins had to go seven games in the first round with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Players such as Dougie Hamilton and Matt Bartkowski got their first taste then, and even the handful of Bruins players who’ve yet to play in one of these games have plenty of veterans to lean on.
“We kind of just feed off those (veterans),” defenseman Kevan Miller said. “There are so many veteran guys that have been here before and have gone through these situations. I don’t know if it’s so much about talking but more about following their lead.”
There also isn’t any concern among experienced players such as Thornton in regards to the younger Bruins like Miller, Torey Krug, Reilly Smith, Carl Soderberg and Matt Fraser, who all will make their Game 7 debuts Wednesday.
“We’re pretty fortunate that our young guys are fairly mature individuals,” Thornton said. “Whether they’ve been through it or not, they’ll be fine. They’ll be composed. I think they’re a good bunch. The older guys, us, we’ve been here six or seven years and have been through a bunch. It should help, but it doesn’t mean it’s automatic obviously. We have to come out and do everything we can, but I think the fact that we know how to approach it helps.”
Maybe the experience will make a difference, maybe it won’t. Regardless, the Bruins have no reason not to be ready when the final game of this hard-fought series begins.