There’s no bigger stage or more pressure-filled moment than game seven of the Stanley Cup Final. On Wednesday night Boston will host its first-ever, as the Bruins battle the St. Louis Blues for the championship.
Keeping the players’ emotions in check will be a top priority for both teams, knowing the gravity and importance of the moment.
“I think the emotions are going to happen: nerves, stress and all that, but after you get that first shift under your belt then it’s just settling in and getting back to playing hockey,” Bruins forward Karson Kuhlman said.
His coach Bruce Cassidy thinks that his team won’t be overwhelmed by the situation due to experience.
“Our team has been through these moments. I’m not going to speak to their team; I don’t know how they’re going to react. I assume they’ll play their same game and play hard,” Cassidy said. ‘Our composure I’m sure will be there. I think it’s dealing with the adversity, as well. Who scores first and how do you react to that? I think that’s one of the areas you need to be able to deal with if it’s not your team.”
Boston’s veteran leadership has been leaned on the entire playoff run. Whether it’s Zdeno Chara playing through a broken jaw or Patrice Bergeron delivering a pregame speech that had players ready to run through walls, the older guys have always set the example of how to compete at the highest level.
“The culture has been here. Credit the veteran guys that have established that. We’ve built off that,” the head coach said. “I think Z [Chara] said it best: there are no rookies. Everyone’s treated the same; you’re a part of the group. Family. It’s the older guys and the way they’ve run their dressing room that has helped the most.”
The veterans’ willingness to teach and guide the younger players has been well-received and greatly appreciated.
“Whatever they say and do, we all kind of follow,” Kuhlman said. “To have those guys share their knowledge with us, it really helps in the long run.”
Marcus Johansson agrees that he felt like he was a part of something unique from the moment he joined the Bruins organization.
“Even the way we got through last night [Game 6] shows the leadership and character that we have in that room. It’s something special,” he said. “I’ve said that a long time and I truly believe that. We play for each other, we pick each other up and we move forward together.”
The group of players that have experienced both victory and defeat in the Stanley Cup Final are not only helping to guide the younger guys through this experience, but also their coach.
“To me it matters a lot because I haven’t been through it in a Stanley Cup Final. The core from Vancouver knows what it takes and the core from Chicago for that matter, they didn’t want to go through that again last night. It showed – who are the guys that stepped up? Tuukka [Rask] is one of them, March [Brad Marchand], they’ve been through it,” Cassidy said.
“I just think in the preparation if you’re not ready to go, that’s when the leadership helps a lot to settle you down an hour and a half before the game, they day before the game, sometimes in-game.”
On Wednesday night, the Bruins will try to gain the edge from the advantage of having more skaters who have been successful in this exact situation. But it’s going to take more than experience to earn the Cup.
Cassidy cites “discipline” as being an extremely important aspect of a game with stakes this high.
“Especially in those little battles, discipline in your forecheck routes. There’s discipline all over the ice, not just the physical part of it, but how you play the game. How you approach it. I think we have a good group in there,” he said.
TD Garden will host the game seven for the first time in the organization’s 95 year history. There’s no question that the fans of Boston will be itching for their first championship in an agonizing 129 days.
“I expect it will be loud in Boston,” Cassidy said. “I think every building we’ve been in has been loud in the playoffs. It’s part of the beauty and reward of playing this time of year – great environments.”