BOSTON - It has been 223 days and 93 games since the 2013-14 season began for the Bruins. Everything now rests on Game No. 94.
It's do-or-die, as the Black & Gold host the Montreal Canadiens in Game 7 amidst the TD Garden faithful.
On Wednesday morning, the Garden was quiet and calm, as the Bruins methodically took to the ice for their all-business pregame skate. It was a "do what you need to do" to be ready for tonight kind of atmosphere.
The locker room was fairly light, as media filtered through. Why feel buried under the weight of the Game 7 pressure, when you can embrace the challenge ahead?
They know the game plan. They know what works. They know what it will take to win.
They have confidence that the previous 223 days of this season, and the experience far beyond that, has prepared them. Now, it's about trusting the group that has gotten them this far.
"Everyone here is focused on playing for each other," said Daniel Paille.
"Everyone is kind of taking this in a good stride, and just itching to get started. I think that's what great about these types of games, that everyone wants to give it their best game they can."
"I think it’s pretty simple, we have to go out there and play our best game and play our game," Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said from the press conference podium at TD Garden, emphasis on the 'our.'
"Not just our best game, but the way we play. If you followed our team all year, you’ll know what that is. It’s what I told the players so I am not saying anything different here today."
"It's about going out there and playing the best game you can."
The Captain, Zdeno Chara, mirrored those remarks in the locker room.
'What do you need to do tonight to have success?' he was asked.
"Play the best game," said Chara.
"I'm excited. This is the biggest game of the season," he smiled. "For sure, you have to be very motivated and playing with a lot of energy - those games are exciting to play."
The gravity of the situation is not lost on the Black & Gold.
"It’s do or die right? I think everybody knows that," said Julien. "To me, it’s exciting, I was ready to play last night."
Carrying that excitement into the game will be easy. There, they'll let the rest take care of itself.
"We do trust each other, so it's going to be fun to be playing in this situation with each other again," said Johnny Boychuk.
They know it's about having that trust, and staying confident, no matter what they encounter. When the night is over, they'll know that they gave it their all.
"It's hockey, it's going out there, leaving everything on the line, and having no regrets when you step off the ice," said Patrice Bergeron.
"I expect us to win, simple as that," said Julien. "Our team has been resilient at rebounds with losses, it’s done that all year. So it’s about having confidence in your group - and that I have lots of."
That resiliency will come to light, if the Bruins find themselves in a pinch. After all, anything can happen in Game 7. But, here are how they could turn the odds in their favor...
Scoring the first goal is always a key to success, and the stats don't lie when it comes to teams scoring first in the postseason. In this series alone, the team that scores first is 6-0.
Playing with the backing of the Garden crowd, in a Game 7 atmosphere, both teams will have jump to start, but the Bruins must find a way to use their home building to their advantage, get on the board first, and keep pushing the pace.
"You work all year to get into this situation, so you can be at home," said Boychuk, of the home-ice advantage. "It's going to help, being in our hometown, and it's going to be fun, that's for sure."
Sharp saves from Tuukka Rask, stingy defense, strong breakouts and an aggressive forecheck to start will help the cause.
"I mean, the way it's gone, it's been mostly the team that comes out right off the bat playing with speed and playing with physicality," said Paille, of the team that has found success on a given night in the series.
"I think when we've done that, we've been successful."
Making Their Own Breaks
The Bruins need to work to get luck on their side. They can do that by outworking the Habs and being relentless, especially in front of Carey Price and along the boards, winning battles and fighting for every puck.
"When you win the Stanley Cup, you have played some of your best hockey, but you have also had the breaks," said Julien. "I’ll be the first one to tell you, if we don’t have a little bit of luck when we want it, then we don’t win the Cup. So it all comes with the package here."
"So we have to play our best, we have to get some breaks and a little bit of luck. If you get all of those things, your chances are good but, most importantly, is control what you can control."
"I think our effort and our game tonight is something that is in our own hands and then you just have to hope that the other things follow."
Drawing on Game 7 Experience
This will be the ninth Game 7 for the Bruins under Head Coach Claude Julien (the first coming in 2008.
Johnny Boychuk had a simple, pointed response when asked if their Game 7 experience helps. "I mean, it doesn't hurt," he said. "You have to take your experience and use it to your advantage."
"You can kind of learn to stay calm in crucial situations and not get too frustrated, so in that way, it's a positive," said Paille.
Faced with high pressure moments, and momentum shifts during a Game 7, they've learned how to play with composure.
"[Discipline's] been important all playoffs, but even more so in a Game 7 and it's definitely something we need to make sure we put an emphasis on," said Bergeron. "And that being said, we've got to - everything in between the whistles - play really hard, and find ways to come up with the win."
"We've been in these situations before, but every Game 7 is special and maybe different - but we have to approach it like it's something that we've faced before," said Chara, who has been in the Spoked-B for all nine of the Game 7s this group has faced.
Having been on both the winning and losing end, Big Zee is confident the team will draw on that experience, knowing what it takes to get the job done.
'What's your favorite Game 7 memory?' a reporter asked, as Chara's pregame media availability was wrapping up.
"Every one with every win," he smiled.
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