After 18 years in the league and 13 trips to the postseason, Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron has played in more Game 7s than he can remember.
When he takes the ice Saturday at PNC Arena for the Bruins’ winner-take-all matchup against the Carolina Hurricanes, it will be the 14th time he’s stared down a Game 7.
“You enjoy it,” Bergeron said. “That’s why you play the game. That’s the biggest thing. Make sure you relish the moment and you make the most of it honestly. Obviously, the adrenaline and the energy and everything is always increased. That being said, it’s still a game of hockey.”
“Game 7′s always like that,” Bergeron said. “It’s always a game of inches and a bounce here or there can make the difference. What I’ve learned most is to stick with it, stay the course from the first minute until the end. It’s not always easy to do but I think it’s the biggest thing you have to concentrate on.”
The Bruins have been in 28 Game 7s in franchise history. They’re 15-13 in those games, but 1-4 in Game 7s on the road.
Bergeron’s experienced many of the highs and heartbreaks.
“Obviously, you try to remember the good ones,” he said. “But that means obviously the ones that stick the most are the not-so-good ones ... I think it’s a little bit of both. We try to see the glass half full, try to remember some of the good ones. But obviously it makes you hungrier when you think about the other ones.”
Bruce Cassidy counting on composure
It hasn’t been lost on Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy that before Game 6, nearly two-thirds of the Hurricanes’ power play opportunities came at PNC Arena.
“Is that an oddity, you think?” Cassidy said.
But instead of dwelling on the calls (the Bruins have only been on the power play 11 times on the road in this series), he’s driven the point home to his team about the importance of not overreacting.
“That’s where we got to keep our composure,” Cassidy said. “We can’t control what’s called for or against us. But if we do get called, we’ve got to make sure our kill is solid and structured and taking away what they’re trying to do.”
Game 6 was the first time the Hurricanes didn’t have a first-period power-play opportunity. Cassidy said part of keeping it that way in Game 7 is staying disciplined.
“We’ve got to help ourselves,” he said. “Stay away from the stick fouls. Anything after the whistle, those type of things have not gone our way. So we’ve got to get out of there after the whistles. That’s the message to the guys. I thought we did a better job up there last time with that.”
Inevitably, breaks won’t go the Bruins’ way, but Cassidy said they’ll have to stay the course.
“There’s going to be times where both teams are going to get tested,” Cassidy said. “That’s just the nature. It’s a high-intensity game. There’s a lot of emotion. Things are going to go our way at times. Things are going to go their way. And typically the team that gets back to their game quickly and doesn’t let it get away, they’re the ones that that do well.”
The 4:30 p.m. puck drop is an oddity for both teams. It will be the first time either team’s played a 4:30 game this season.
“I don’t think it’ll affect much in a Game 7,” Cassidy said. “Guys are going to find a way to be ready on both sides.”
Typically, that’s the time the Bruins board the team bus to get to the arena.
“It’s the same for both teams though, right?” Cassidy said. “They’ve got to go through it.”
A team might be able to handle a schedule shakeup better when they’re on the road, Cassidy said. At home, the slightest change — for instance a player trying to take his pregame nap at a different time but can’t because his children still want to play — can throw off a routine.
“You laugh, but that’s what happens with some of the older guys,” Cassidy said. “They’re so routine that their kids get routine. So sometimes when you’re on the road, it’s a little easier because you don’t have that.”
Of course, there can always be situations like last year when the Bruins were on Long Island and there was a tailgate outside their hotel.
“Fire alarms and everything,” Cassidy said. “So sometimes it’s an advantage to be on the road because you’re just by yourself.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.