The Boston Bruins have been here before — a lot.
The Bruins on Tuesday night (NESN, 6 p.m. ET) will host the Toronto Maple Leafs in a decisive Game 7 for their Stanley Cup playoff first-round series at TD Garden. Not only is it the third time these two teams have squared off in a Game 7 since 2013, but the winner-take-all clash is also the 11th Game 7 for the Bruins since 2008.
The lineups and rosters obviously have changed over the last decade-plus, but the pillars remain very much in place with players like Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara and David Krejci still in the Boston dressing room. And given the Bruins’ success in recent years, players like Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask have played in their share of Game 7s, as have acquired players like David Backes, Jaroslav Halak and Charlie Coyle.
To say the Bruins have the experience edge over Toronto would be an understatement.
Veteran sniper Rick Nash, who formally retired in January, was a member of the Bruins team that beat the Maple Leafs in first-round Game 7 last season. He saw firsthand the type of impact a veteran dressing room can have on a team.
“I was amazed at how calm all of the Bruins were in the room,” Nash recently told The Athletic’s Pierre Le Brun. “And even entering the third period, we were down a goal, I just remember the calmness of the dressing room and all those leaders Boston has. It was one of the impressive things to me; Game 7, facing elimination in the first round, and the leadership of Chara, Backes, Bergeron, Marchand, Krejci — it just really impressed me.”
But Nash also acknowledged last year’s game should help Toronto, and he could have also pointed to additions of playoff-tested veterans like John Tavares and Jake Muzzin, who should help balance Toronto’s youngsters.
“A lot of those guys learned,” Nash added. “I feel like you can learn a lot more lessons from losing than winning. It’s just so hard to say what’s going to happen. But I know the guys in the Boston room and I know they’re going to be prepared. And I know the Leafs are going to be starving for that second round, especially after last year and the exact same situation.”
The Bruins also should benefit from a rowdy home crowd Tuesday night, and while Nash said that helps, he also was quick to mention how unpredictable a Game 7 can be. Boston and Toronto certainly know that, as the Leafs actually led both of those recent Game 7s versus Boston before falling apart in the third period.
Will the same thing happen Tuesday night? It’s impossible to know for sure, but the best bet is that the Bruins’ core will make sure they don’t get too high or too low at any point during the game.
Tuesday night’s Bruins-Leafs Game 7 can be seen on NESN with coverage beginning at 6 p.m. ET