I’ve seen the origins of the maxim applied to various people — Vince Lombardi, Barry Sanders, maybe even Michael Scott on “The Office.”
Act like you’ve been there before.
Maybe it’s trite. Maybe it’s a cliché at this point. Heck, it’s almost certainly a way for grouchy old men (and apparently Madison Bumgarner) to do the back-in-my-day routine when modern athletes enjoy their accomplishments in real time.
But like most clichés, it was a fresh, insightful truth at one point. And it happens to be one now that explains why the Bruins are a great bet to hoist the Stanley Cup Wednesday night.
They have been here before, at least several members of the core, and they prevailed under far more challenging circumstances than these.
Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, and David Krejci were all front and center eight years ago when the Bruins marched into Vancouver and won the franchise’s first Stanley Cup in 39 years. Marchand and Bergeron each had two goals in the Bruins’ 4-0 Game 7 victory.
Tuukka Rask, who should snag the Conn Smythe Trophy this postseason whether or not the Bruins prevail Wednesday, also was on that team, of course, but as the understudy/bystander while Tim Thomas put on a performance for the ages in net.
Rask is matching that performance now, and should he play in Game 7 the way he played in Game 6, there’s an argument to be made that he surpassed it. He was downright extraordinary in Game 6, especially in the first period, when he fended off a supercharged Blues team feeding off the energy of the home crowd.
“We tried to get a good start, but obviously the home team is trying to get a push and get that early lead,” said Rask. “I think that penalty kill was excellent. Killing that penalty was huge.
“The last time we were here [Game 4], they scored, what, 30 seconds in [55, actually], so obviously you don’t want that to happen again. I think we weathered the storm pretty good and got the lead. So that was pretty good.”
The Blues did everything they could to score first. Rask would not allow it, and when Marchand rocketed a one-timer past Blues goalie Jordan Binnington for a 1-0 lead at the 8:40 mark of the first period, the Bruins were on their way to a textbook road victory under the most tense circumstances.
They got a spectacular performance by their goalie, while Marchand, Krejci, and David Pastrnak played their best game of the series, lineup addition Karson Kuhlman made coach Bruce Cassidy’s hunch pay off with a goal, and they came through in every way a Bruins fan would have hoped.
They looked like they had been there before. And of course they have, not just in 2011, but in these playoffs, too. They rallied from a 3-2 deficit in the first round to beat a talented Toronto team, did not get overconfident against the Blue Jackets or Hurricanes when their path to the Final opened up, and save for a frustrating loss here or there (over the long playoff grind, it happens, even to pending champions), they have done everything necessary to get to where they are right now, and one joyous step beyond.
The Bruins will host Game 7 at TD Garden, and it’s amazing given the dozen championships Boston sports teams have hoarded since 2001, but it is the first championship-round Game 7 here since the Celtics hosted the Lakers in the 1984 NBA Finals.
Maybe you require the history lesson, maybe you don’t, but here it is anyway: The Celtics won, 111-104, with Cedric Maxwell posting a 24-8-8 line. If you’re going to make an argument for Andre Iguodala or Chauncey Billups as basketball Hall of Famers, you’d better be making Max’s case first.
I suspect the banner captain Wednesday will be No. 12 from the Patriots wearing a No. 34 Red Sox jersey, and it can’t get much better than that. But Max would be a worthy, if much subtler, choice. The man showed up in Game 7s.
The Blues, who went all goon squad in the final moments of Sunday’s 5-1 loss, have won a Game 7 during this journey (against the Stars in double-overtime in Round 2). But they did not act like they had been here before in Game 6, and with a rookie goalie in Binnington in net against a Bruins core that knows what it takes in these moments, the Blues had better score first in Game 7, or they’ll be finished long before the final horn.
I suspect they are anyway, and that congrats-on-the-Cup letter that popped up on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch website is going to live on as all-time case of premature exultation. I’m not big on jinxes, but that, friends, is a jinx.
The Bruins, of course, are paying that no mind. They’re putting their heads down and getting ready for work.
“We just want to try to focus and do what we’ve done all year, which is prepare and try to play the same game,’’ Marchand said after Game 6. “We’re not going to get caught up on the excitement of it. We’re just going to prepare and focus like we did tonight.”
If they do that with similar results, you’re going to have to set aside a few hours for a parade in the coming days. But you knew that. You’ve seen it a dozen times this decade. We’ve all been here before, again and again, and darned if it never gets old.