When Boston takes on Washington in the seventh game of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal on Wednesday, it will be the seventh Game 7 the Bruins have played in 10 playoff series in the five seasons with Claude Julien behind the Bruins bench.
The Bruins roster has played in a combined 87 Game 7s, posting a 56-31 record in those games. The Capitals can only muster 43 Game 7 appearances among its roster, with just a 10-33 record. That experience is something the Bruins hope to use to their advantage on Wednesday.
"How you handle the pressure of those games and how you conduct yourself and everything else is what you gain from playing in those," Julien said. "And that's why I'm hoping our experience from the past is going to help us approach this game the best way possible."
That experience has taught the Bruins two things above all else: There's nothing else in the world like a Game 7, and there's absolutely no way to predict what's going to happen in the seventh game of a series.
"Anything can happen in Game 7s," Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said. "The experience helps us. We've been there a few times, but there are no guarantees this time of year."
That experience is crucial. You never know exactly what will happen when both teams are facing elimination, but having been through it a time or two can help. It's certainly easier than going through it for the first time.
Just ask Dennis Seidenberg. The Bruins blueliner is a grizzled veteran now with a 5-1 record in Game 7s, but his first taste of the pressure-cooker of a seventh game left him more than a little rattled when his third NHL playoff game was a 2-1 loss to Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Final while he was with Philadelphia in 2004.
"It was really overwhelming," Seidenberg said. "I was 22 back then and it was a tough series. It was a lot of high-scoring offense when we played with Tampa and I was in over my head I felt like. It was just a huge buildup and it was tough to play in.
"I just knew it wasn't a good feeling being nervous and just hoping not to be scored on back then, but things have changed," Seidenberg added.
Seidenberg hasn't lost a Game 7 since, but things haven't changed completely. He still struggles with the nerves that come with playing a game with so much at stake.
"You try not to think about it being Game 7," Seidenberg said. "You try to think about the strengths that you have and what makes you successful during any game and go with that. Don't think about that it's actually Game 7, because then you're going to tighten up and think too much, and that's never good."
And how good is Seidenberg at tuning out the pressure these days?
"It depends," he said. "For the most part you're able to do it, but there's always moments where you start thinking too much and you have to snap out of it."
That's a sentiment that Boston's younger players can certainly appreciate. Brad Marchand may not have looked like a nervous wreck while piling up 11 goals and 19 points as a rookie in last year's playoffs, but the butterflies were ever present. And Game 7s only intensifies those feelings.
"Every game, Game 7 or not, I was nervous," Marchand said. "It's a do-or-die situation. You're always nervous for the outcome, but there's so much preparation and work that goes into it. Especially the further you get in the playoffs, you've worked so hard to get that far and it all could be over like that. It just makes you want it that much more."
Some players enjoy the heightened intensity though, thriving on the pressure of an entire season on the line in the outcome of a single game.
"It's fun," Bruins center David Krejci said. "It's fun when you win. It sucks when you lose. I've been on both sides in past years. It's definitely more enjoyable being on the winning side, so hopefully we can get it done tomorrow."
It was certainly fun for Krejci and the Bruins last year when they beat Montreal, Tampa Bay and Vancouver in Game 7 showdowns. But even in those high points, the devastating Game 7 losses to Montreal in 2008, Carolina in 2009 and Philadelphia in 2010 remain vivid memories.
"It's always there, Game 7 if you lose it ends your season so it's a bad feeling," Krejci said. "Even when we won last year I still remembered the years before when we lost in Game 7. It's a bad feeling. You don't want to have that. So I'm going to do everything I can tomorrow to not have that feeling.
"You take something from each of those games, whether we lost or we won," Krejci added. "If you lose it sucks and you try to make sure it doesn't happen again. If you win, it's awesome. You enjoy it, but you also have to forget about it and move on. There's another round."
On Wednesday, the Bruins will try to use the wisdom and experience gained from all those Game 7s to make sure they will be around to see another round, and maybe even another seventh game.
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