WILMINGTON, MASS. — The Bruins arrive at Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Capitals with a ton of experience playing these excruciating series deciders.
Last year, they won three series in the seventh game on their way to the Stanley Cup, and Tuesday, after their last practice before their last game against the Capitals, they were relishing the moment.
“Obviously, having won Game 6 and having a little bit of momentum on your side, I think a practice like today it’s important to be crisp, and don’t take a step backward,” goalie Tim Thomas said, “and be ready to raise your game to the next level that it’s going to take.”
Selke Award finalist Patrice Bergeron, who has an undisclosed upper-body injury, took the day off, but Coach Claude Julien was adamant that his indispensable center will be in the lineup Wednesday.
“He played the last game and he’s playing the next game,” Julien said.
The injury prevented Bergeron, who had the league’s second-best faceoff percentage in the regular season at 59.3 percent, from taking all but one faceoff in Game 6, a significant loss. Julien isn’t saying but that may be the reason he substituted younger, speedier Jordan Caron for Shawn Thornton on the fourth line in Game 6. It was a move Julien referred to as a “necessity.”
Julien also got more jump out of his top unit, which had been carried along on the scoreboard by the third and fourth lines in the early games of this series. Tyler Seguin, the team’s leading scorer in the regular season but pointless through the first five games of this series, got the winner, his first goal of the playoffs, and called it a “relief.” Linemate David Krejci had a goal and an assist and Milan Lucic had a pair of assists.
“You gain some confidence from coming up and playing a big game,” Lucic said. “Just thinking about going into Game 6, maybe I was putting a little bit too much pressure on myself and was trying to force too much in the first five games. You’ve just got to go out there and play.”
Lucic, like many of his teammates, can call on memories of other win-or-go-home games.
“This is my seventh one [Game 7] in five years,” Lucic said. “From past experiences that we’ve had, we’ve learned a lot from being on both sides of Game 7 so we’re looking forward to this one. The main thing is you’ve just got to go out there and play. You can’t work yourself up too much with thinking about winning or losing.''
Each of the six games in this series has been decided by a single goal. Every Bruin wants to be “that guy,’’ the one who makes the winning play.
“You live for these type of situations,” Lucic said, “and you want to do what you can to be your best when everything is on the line. You want to do whatever you can to relive that feeling and achieve that goal.’’
Lucic also said the team was especially confident in Thomas, last year’s Conn Smythe winner as playoff MVP, because he simply eats up these kind of pressure situations.
“There’s your experience that helps you stay composed and do the right things,’’ Julien said. “But there’s no guarantees in Game 7.”
More on the Capitals:
— Marchand says he’s not a diver
— Caps happy to play Boston on the road
— Wise: Caps fans have been burned, scarred
— Graphic: Caps-Bruins series, shot-by-shot
— Schultz could return to lineup for Game 7
— Beagle’s diary: Thinking nothing but hockey