BOSTON — The day is finally here — Game 7, one of the most exciting scenarios any athlete can be a part of.
“Anytime you get to a Game 7, the excitement of it never goes away,” said Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges after Montreal's optional pregame skate at TD Garden on Wednesday. “This is what we play the game for. Both teams are in a do-or-die situation. You got two teams that are bitter rivals for years, and to be a part of this — it’s going to be a fun game to be a part of.
“I know both teams are going to give everything they got. It’s going to be a tough game, but it’s going to be one that’s going to be a fun one to be a part of.”
The rivalry between the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens has been long, tumultuous and bitter at times. Whatever happens at TD Garden on Wednesday night as this series comes to a close, it promises to add another memorable chapter to the story.
“It’s obviously really exciting,” said Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher, who will be partaking in the first Game 7 of his NHL career. “These are the games that you remember growing up watching, and it’s do or die, so you just got to show up. You got to execute your gameplan, try to keep emotions in check, handle the nerves early and just play a regular game.”
For the Canadiens, that will be one of the keys on Wednesday — treating this critical game as though it is any other game. Finding the balance between feeding off the energy and excitement that comes with a Game 7, but still finding a way to tune out the the pressure.
In a sense, Montreal knows what it takes to come into a Game 7 with the right attitude. Facing a 3-2 series deficit, it treated Monday’s Game 6 as a Game 7. Losing that one would have the same consequences as losing this one.
"It’s a matter of attitude, and I believe we got the right frame of mind and the right mindset for Game 6," said Canadiens Head Coach Michel Therrien. "The attitude was there, and I saw a bunch of guys yesterday — you know what, they got the same attitude, and this morning again.
“So we’re all excited about that challenge. It was a huge challenge for us back home, and it’s another huge challenge for us tonight.”
The Canadiens played desperate hockey on Monday night, and it paid off in the form of a 4-0 victory at the Bell Centre. They skated hard, they played smart and they capitalized on all of the Bruins’ miscues.
Now, it’s about analyzing the things they did well during that game and applying those lessons to the game that will take place at the Garden on Wednesday.
“As a group, we have to understand what we did well and what makes us a successful team, and I think they’re going to do the same thing,” Gallagher said. “They’re going to try to play like the Boston Bruins play, and we’re going to try to play like the Montreal Canadiens play. We have to play our game and do everything we do well that’s made us successful all year, and that’s everyone showing up, being aggressive, winning puck battles. And if we do that, we give ourselves a good chance.”
Though Game 6 played out just about as well as the Canadiens could have hoped, they know there is always room for improvement, just as there is after every single game.
“It was a good game. Obviously, like any [game], we take the good and try to correct the bad,” Gallagher said. “There’s still mistakes that we made. We still feel like we can improve and play a better game, but that was a good game, and that’s the mindset and the attitude you need to have to be successful.
“You have to really play like it’s your last shift and there is no tomorrow. So you go out there and you just work as hard as you can, and it sounds simple, but if you go out there and do that every single shift, you give yourself a good chance to win.”
Another part of that is getting a spectacular performance out of Carey Price, who has gone 3-3 during this series with a 2.20 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage. The goaltender has, at times, stood on his head to keep the Canadiens afloat, and he has to be prepared to do that again in order to help Montreal prolong its season.
Fortunately, his team has all the confidence in the world in him -- and he has just as much confidence in himself.
“Carey Price is a true leader for us,” Therrien said. “He’s calm and makes our team play with confidence, and that goes with maturity. He’s a young veteran, but this year, his experience at the Olympics — I thought he was phenomenal. He was a true leader for that and he ends up winning the gold medal.
“Last game was same thing — it was a huge game for us, and he acted like a true leader. And for sure, when you’re a leader like that, playing with that type of confidence, it gives a lot of confidence to your team.”
As much as they are aware that they must keep their excitement in check for Wednesday’s pivotal game, the Canadiens understand that they would be naive to believe that there won’t be some nerves, some extra emotion.
Therefore, Gorges said, it is critical that he and his teammates keep their emotions in check. No silly penalties, no scrums after the whistles. They need to skate hard, use their speed and continue to bury every chance they get.
“I know it’s a high emotion game, and you have to play with that emotion, but you got to walk that fine line of keeping it in control,” Gorges said. “I think this game is always a game of mistakes, and I think the team that makes fewer mistakes tonight is probably going to be the team that comes out on top.”
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