BostonBruins.com - The Bruins are about to experience another Game Seven.
The players making up the Black & Gold roster have already been through the experience a combined 105 times. And they've been on both sides.
Eight of the winner-takes-all tilts, including tonight, have come since 2008 for Boston.
Two current Bruins, Captain Zdeno Chara, and Milan Lucic, have played in all previous seven, and are both expected to appear in their eighth tonight at TD Garden, after Toronto fought back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the series at three.
Talk that existed at the beginning of this series centered around the "inexperienced" Toronto group against the "experienced" Bruins. When the Bruins took a 4-3 overtime win in Game 4 on the road, to take the 3-1 series lead, "experience" in overtime was framed as a good enough reason for the B's coming away with the 'W.'
And then, the Leafs - like the 2008 underdog Bruins who rallied back to force a Game Seven against the overpowering Habs - found ways to kill Boston's first two chances to clinch.
"We've always said they're a very good team. We never said it was going to be an easy series," Bruins alternate captain Patrice Bergeron told reporters following Sunday night's Game Six defeat. "Here we are now and it's all about one game. Whatever happened in the first six games doesn't really matter. It's about us showing up [tonight]."
Bergeron has been part of the Game Seven sequence since 2009.
"Being frustrated right now is not going to help," said Bergeron. "It's about being determined to find ways to put it in, and it's all about [tonight] now."
Just before the 2013 series with Toronto began, Tyler Seguin knew what to expect.
"I think playing with experience can definitely be huge, but that being said, they say the first round is the hardest to get out of," Seguin had told reporters prior to Game One. "So, we know that. I think experience or no experience, it’s going to be a great series and they’re still going to be coming flying, so, we've got to be ready for that."
Now, the Bruins are staring at yet another Game Seven to add to their repertoire. Shawn Thornton, the pulse of the B's, has played in six of their past seven, with two of his three Game Sevens coming in 2011, when the Bruins took the all-or-nothing game from Montreal, Tampa Bay and Vancouver en route to the Cup.
But, don't start pointing to that season as the comparison for this evening.
Just before the series began, Thornton put any similarities to rest with his ususal candor.
"A little sick of talking about two years ago. That was a long time ago," Thornton had said. "It’s a new team. It’s a new chapter. Just because we accomplished something two years ago doesn’t mean it’s going to be automatic. We should have that anger and hunger that we haven’t been as good as we were, so I’m more focused on trying to prove it again."
"Nobody really cares what happened a year ago, or two years ago," Nathan Horton was also heard saying around the locker room, just before the series began. "That was nice, but…"
"Two years ago it’s a different team in here. We have a core group, but there’s still a couple changes," Johnny Boychuk had said, also dismissing the "same team" notion.
"And I think with our team here there’s a very good chance that we could do it again."
Doing it again means it's been done before - and as much as the Bruins want to focus on the here and now, in tonight's game, and not think about 2011, there are remnants there. Even if you can't see them on the surface, they're integrated into the B's hockey DNA.
You can make your own assessments on whether experience will play a factor or not tonight. Throughout the series, maybe it didn't matter. Maybe it will take the most pressurized situation of them all, more than overtime, or a flurry with an extra attacker late in the game. Maybe it will take Game Seven for it to showcase it at its highest level.
"I think experience helps in situations where you're on the ice with pressure," defenseman Andrew Ference told reporters earlier in the series, before the Leafs had stormed back to tie it a three games apiece.
"But, if anything, we've learned both sides of the coin; when you don't close out a series and give a team life, how it can be a pretty dangerous fire to play with. I don't know, I think it gets tossed around a lot that the fourth win is the hardest, but I don't think it's any harder than the first or second or third. Every win is tough."
"In playoffs the victories are earned. There's no freebies. Regardless of the game or situation, I think that you have to have respect for your opponent and respect the fact that if you don't come out and play extremely hard and do all the right things, there's a chance you'll lose."
"Like I said, being there, you see that seventh game or first game, there's not a whole lot of difference. If you make mistakes and don't prepare, things aren't going to go your way."
Ference, of course, has been - literally - on both sides, first in 2007 with Calgary as he watched the Tampa Bay Lightning steal away his Cup. In 2011, it was much sweeter for the blueliner, knowing the scar that the other side leaves.
"Experience is always something that you want to take and you want to use whenever you can," Rich Peverley said earlier in the series, of the veteran factor. "I think we’ve had that experience in this room. I think we look like we’re a pretty determined group right now."
With the season on the line, it's up to the Bruins to show that determination.
"You just know that they’re going to be putting everything on the line no matter what and you have to do the same thing because if you don’t, there’s going to be a bad outcome," Boychuk said of how a Game Seven plays out, drawing on his experience from 2011.
"You have to stay positive and just keep pressuring them, keep going, be hitting - be doing anything - to win this game."
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