Experience can make all the difference in Game 7, and Boston has plenty of it. It was only eight years ago that the Bruins were in this exact scenario, and the veteran leaders can draw on that as they prepare for the Stanley Cup-deciding game.
Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron|Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
BOSTON – Anyone who has ever picked up a hockey stick has dreamed of scoring a goal in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. Almost all of us have done it thousands of times on outdoor rinks and driveways and in our imaginations. Of the 36 skaters who will play in Game 7 Wednesday night, two of them actually know what it’s like to do it.
Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand each scored twice in the Boston Bruins 4-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup final. That game sparked a full-on riot in the streets of downtown Vancouver and assured Bergeron’s and Marchand’s places in Stanley Cup lore. And now they have a chance to do it all over again, along with teammates Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask and David Krejci.
Actually, both Marchand and Bergeron have a chance to further cement their reputations as big-game players. Red Kelly is the all-time leader in scoring in Cup final Game 7s with two goals and four points. Including Marchand, there are nine other players in NHL history who have three career points in Stanley Cup final Game 7s, of which there have been 16 in NHL history. They range from Hall of Famers such as Henri Richard, Mark Messier and Jean Beliveau to lesser lights such as Tony Leswick and Mike Rupp. (Richard is the only player in NHL history with three goals in Cup final Game 7s.) Marchand, who had two goals and an assist in 2011, could time Kelly as the all-time leading scorer in that scenario with a point in Game 7 and Bergeron could join him with two.
“I think you want to share that with the other guys and use that as much as possible,” Bergeron said of the 2011 experience. “But that being said, you have to go and play the game and be ready for it. You can’t really live in the past and it’s about the game (Wednesday).”
The thing is, experience matters in these situations. As the Bruins spent the two days after their win in Game 6, they did so with five players who have real-life experience knowing exactly what every moment leading up to and including that game is like. And they also have the experience of having been successful in that situation. Rupp, who scored a goal and added two assists in the New Jersey Devils’ 3-0 win over the Anaheim Ducks in 2003, said he thinks it could be a difference maker. When he played that game, he had the likes of Scott Niedermayer, Scott Stevens, Martin Brodeur, Sergei Brylin, Patrik Elias and Scott Gomez.
“There are no guarantees in a Game 7, but it’s a huge advantage, just a huge advantage,” said Rupp, who is here serving as an analyst for the NHL Network. “When I played in that game, one of the reasons I was able to perform the way I did was because we had so many of those players. It’s a cliché that you treat it like just another game, but that’s hard to do when people are acting differently. When we were there, the veterans just acted normal, like it was any other day.”
Rupp actually had an interesting anecdote to back his words up. There was a point during the media availability Tuesday when Rask was being interviewed by a television crew and Marchand had to get by in order to get to another TV interview. Instead of waiting until Rask was finished, Marchand got down on his hands and knees and crawled under the cameras and went on his way.
“How relaxed is he to do something like that?” Rupp said. “Maybe if he hasn’t been in that situation before he’s not relaxed enough to do that. If you’re one of the younger guys on the Bruins and you see that, you’re probably saying, ‘This is good.’ ”
The circumstances are a little different this time around, however. In 2011, the Bruins were the road team and the underdogs, with the Canucks having finished first overall in the NHL, 14 points ahead of the Bruins. This time, the Bruins are both the home team and the favorite to win. On top of the 2011 win, the Bruins also have the experience of having lost in the final, in an excruciating way, giving up two goals in 17 seconds in the dying minutes of Game 6 in 2013.
“Unfortunately, that’s the way it goes,” Marchand said. “Someone has to win, 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. Winning and losing sticks with you forever. You don’t forget what happens when you win and you definitely don’t forget what happens when you lose.”
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