Bruins-Maple Leafs. Game 7. An inevitability from the time the two teams drop the puck on their postseason history.
The two historic franchises are hours away from their third Game 7 in the last seven years. Many of the players from both squads remain a year after heir last Game 7 encounter.
A small handful of players in this year’s, like third-year defenseman Brandon Carlo, never skated in a Game 7 before. He’ll get to witness that first hand when he touches the choppy TD Garden ice surface whenever he gets his first shift.
“Just excitement,” Carlo said in his first words heading into his first career Game 7. “You know, I think watching Game 7 in the past in the years that I’ve been out has been a lot of fun. The intensity in the building is pretty cool, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
Who can blame Carlo for his excitement of playing in a Game 7 for the first time. After all, the Colorado Springs native is fresh off his best game of the series during Boston’s season-saving Game 6 win in Toronto two days ago.
The Bruins need that same desperation from Game 6 to carry over into Game 7. The Maple Leafs will certainly have that as they hope to finally get over the Game 7 hurdle against their Original Six rivals.
But the Bruins have the Game 7 experience factor in their favor. Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron, for one, will be playing in their 13th and 11th career Game 7’s, respectively. Boston’s roster has a combined 70 games of Game 7 experience compared to Toronto’s 35 heading into this year’s decisive showdown.
Carlo and Karson Kuhlman are the only two Bruins who haven’t skated in a Game 7 before. But they have plenty of teammates to lean on for advice.
“I’ve asked certain guys how many Game 7’s they’ve been in,” Carlo said about the Game 7 wisdom bestowed upon him from his veteran teammates. “It’s interesting to hear the experiences that they’ve had. But overall I think just the same playoff hockey that we’ve been playing should do us justice tonight.”
The Bruins played their way to home ice advantage against the Maple Leafs. They’ll have a raucous Causeway Street crowd behind them in hopes of finally breaking the recent trend of home ice disadvantage.
Every player will have their jitters come puck drop. It comes with the Game 7 territory. The Bruins hope to manage the emotions early and play like they did Sunday afternoon in Game 6 from the get-go.
“It’s about managing that stress and using it to your advantage,” Bergeron said. “The place is going to be electric…with fans and everything, so you have to use that the right way and not overthink stuff. Go out the way we’ve been playing — especially in Game 6 — and duplicate that, and like I said, use your instincts.”
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