By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — Game 7. Again.

Again!

In a past life, Bruins fans must have committed some heinous acts against society, because no fan base deserves this level of heart-wrenching, gut-busting pain on such a regular basis.

On Wednesday evening at the TD Garden, the Boston Bruins will host the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. The winner will fly to Tampa to face the Lightning in the second round. The loser will head home dispirited, with the prospect of a long summer lying ahead.

Those are the only guarantees for the evening. Everything else is sure to be a chaotic mess. It could be a lopsided laugher for one team, or it could be a double-overtime nail-biter. You never can know until the puck drops (after the linesman kicks out both centers and delays the game a solid 78 seconds).

Bruins fans know this all too well. In the “new era” — so to speak — of Bruins hockey, the Bruins have played in nine Game 7’s. They have won four and lost five. Four have gone to overtime, and six have been decided by just one goal.

(If you’re interested, the Leafs have played in just one Game 7 during that same timespan.)

Wednesday will make it a clean 10. But before the puck drops for Boston-Toronto Game 7 Part Deux, here’s a look back at the season-defining games the Bruins have played in the past decade. That history won’t have much to do with the future, but it’s an exercise that explores the exhilaration and the agony that Bruins fans have endured and will once more have to experience this week.

2008: Bruins at Canadiens
Result:
Montreal 5, Boston 0

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Andrei Markov celebrates a goal against Tim Thomas in Game 7 of the 2008 NHL Eastern Conference quarterfinals. (Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

Current Bruins Active In This Game:
Zdeno Chara
David Krejci
(Patrice Bergeron didn’t play in this game, as he had been out since late October due to the concussion suffered on the hit from Philadelphia’s Randy Jones.)

The Bruins ended up getting smoked in this one, but it was a close game for much of the night. Mike Komisarek scored early, but the score remained 1-0 through the game’s midway point. The Habs scored a couple on Tim Thomas before the end of the second period and then scored twice in the game’s final minutes to make the scoreboard look so lopsided. Carey Price stopped all 25 shots he saw, and the Canadiens advanced to the second round, where they were eliminated in five games by Philadelphia.

It was a tough loss — Game 7’s against bitter rivals always are — but the series was nevertheless a building block for the success that was to come. In Claude Julien’s first year at the helm after the disastrous Dave Lewis experiment, the Bruins revived hockey in Boston. Marco Sturm electrified the city with his “This Building Is Vibrating” game-winner in the series’ sixth game, and legitimate hope for Bruins postseason success was instilled in Boston hockey fans.

2009: Hurricanes at Bruins
Result: Carolina 3, Boston 2 (OT)

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Scott Walker and Ray Whitney celebrate Walker’s game winning goal in OT in Game 7 of the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinals against the Bruins. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Current Bruins Active In This Game:
Patrice Bergeron
Zdeno Chara
David Krejci

This one hurt.

The Bruins followed up that promising 2007-08 season with a fantastic 2008-09 campaign, finishing with a 53-19-10 record, just one point shy of San Jose for the Presidents’ Trophy. And after buzzing through the Canadiens in a first-round sweep, some Stanley Cup thoughts began creeping into the minds of championship-starved Bruins fans. Those feelings intensified after the Bruins easily dispatched the Hurricanes with a 4-1 win in Game 1.

But the Hurricanes then rattled off three straight wins, outscoring the Bruins 10-3. Boston responded well, winning Game 5 by a 4-0 score and Game 6 by a 4-2, and it set the table for a Game 7 which the Bruins should have won.

Alas, they did not. Milan Lucic tied the game at 2-2 early in the third period before it headed to overtime. All 17,000-plus fans in attendance stood for the entirety of overtime, chanting “We Want It” for much of it. The game looked destined for double overtime until the final minutes. Tim Thomas coughed up a rebound in front. Scott Walker — who should have been suspended at the time for sucker-punching Aaron Ward in Game 5 — pounced on the puck and chipped it past Thomas for the game-winning goal.

And just like that, a promising season ended in an instant.

2010: Flyers at Bruins
Result: Philadelphia 4, Boston 3

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The Bruins bench reacts as the Flyers celebrate their Game 7 win in 2010.. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Current Bruins Active In This Game:
Patrice Bergeron
Zdeno Chara
Tuukka Rask
(David Krejci did not play in this game after suffering a broken wrist on a Mike Richards hit in Game 3.)

*Current Maple Leafs Active In This Game For The Flyers:
James van Riemsdyk

This one hurt even worse. Arguably, the worst.

Providing the ultimate lesson for what can happen when you take certain series and games for granted, the Boston Bruins blew a 3-0 series lead and a 3-0 lead in Game 7 to lose in heart-breaking fashion on home ice. It was a real mess, one that nobody in Boston has really cared much for reliving in the eight years that have since passed.

(It was so bad though. Too many men on the ice? Good gravy.)

2011: Canadiens at Bruins
Result: Boston 4, Montreal 3 (OT)

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The Bruins swarm Nathan Horton after his Game 7 goal in OT against Montreal in 2011. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Current Bruins Active In This Game:
Patrice Bergeron
Zdeno Chara
David Krejci
Brad Marchand
Adam McQuaid
Tuukka Rask (backup)

*Current Maple Leafs Active In This Game For The Canadiens:
Tomas Plekanec

**Current Bruins Healthy Scratches Active In This Game For The Canadiens:
Brian Gionta

Everybody remembers 2011 for the Stanley Cup run, but it very nearly came to a screeching halt in the first round. Chris Kelly scored midway through the third period to break a 2-2 tie, but P.K. Subban knotted things up with just 1:57 remaining in regulation. A sense of “no … NOT AGAIN” filled the TD Garden.

But fortunately for the Bruins, they employed Nathan Horton, who thrived like a madman in such situations. He fired a shot toward Carey Price, and with the benefit of a lucky bounce off the body of a downed Jeff Halpern, managed to get it to the back of the net to give the Bruins their first Game 7 playoff victory since 1994 (also against the Canadiens).

2011: Lightning at Bruins
Result: Boston 1, Tampa Bay 0

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Nathan Horton scores the lone goal in a 1-0 win for the Bruins over the Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals in 2011. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Current Bruins Active In This Game:
Patrice Bergeron
Zdeno Chara
David Krejci
Brad Marchand
Adam McQuaid
Tuukka Rask (backup)

Many people in Boston will tell you that this was the greatest hockey game ever played. They’re probably not right … but they may be.

Guy Boucher’s 1-3-1 neutral zone alignment was perhaps mentioned 11 million too many times by the broadcast crew during this series, but it nevertheless did prove problematic for Boston’s offense to crack in this Game 7. But Boston had its own unbeatable defensive system — his name was Tim Thomas. The goaltender stopped all 24 of Tampa’s shots, which kept the Bruins in position to strike with a perfectly executed goal from one end of the ice to the other.

Words can’t do it justice. The thing was pure beauty:

That goal ruled. And it was at that moment that people in Boston really began believing in the Bruins.

This game had everything, though. Steven Stamkos took a Johnny Boychuk missile to the face … and came back. Dwayne Roloson was in the midst of an unreal run at age 41. Martin St. Louis was up against his old UVM teammate in Tim Thomas. Guy Boucher looked like a Bond villain. Thomas and Boychuk were pure chuckle monsters after winning.

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Tim Thomas and Johnny Boychuk celebrate the Bruins’ Game 7 win ove the Lightning in the 2011 conference finals. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

It was the best.

2011: Bruins at Canucks
Result: Boston 4, Vancouver 0

116730365 Bruins Recent History In Game 7 Has Provided Ecstatic Bliss, Agonizing Heartache For Boston

Bruins captain Zdeno Chara lifts the Stanley Cup in 2011. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Current Bruins Active In This Game:
Patrice Bergeron
Zdeno Chara
David Krejci
Brad Marchand
Adam McQuaid
Tuukka Rask (backup)

The story of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final was that the home team always won. That at least held true through six games. Yet while the Canucks had gone 3-0 on home ice in the series, all three victories were by a single goal. Meanwhile the Bruins had won in absolute romps in Boston, where they outscored Vancouver 17-3.

Clearly, something had to give. And in Game 7, it did.

Brad Marchand fed Patrice Bergeron in the slot, and Bergeron of course scored from there to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead late in the first period. In the second, Marchand scored a goal of his own on a wraparound (would have been an easy save for Roberto Luongo if he had stayed in the paint) to double that lead. Later in the period, Bergeron scored a short-handed goal that essentially put a bow on the Bruins’ first Stanley Cup win in 39 years. Marchand added an empty-netter for good measure, while Tim Thomas turned away 37 shots to record the first-ever road shutout in Game 7 of a Cup Final.

That made it three Game 7’s for the 2011 Bruins, and of course, three wins. They have their names etched on the Cup as a result.

2012: Capitals at Bruins
Result: Washington 2, Boston 1 (OT)

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The Capitals swarm Joel Ward after he scored the OT goal against the Bruins in Game 7 of the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Current Bruins Active In This Game:
Patrice Bergeron
Zdeno Chara
David Krejci
Brad Marchand
Tuukka Rask (backup)

This wasn’t supposed to happen. The defending champs — albeit without Game 7 stud Nathan Horton — against the perennial underachievers? Piece of cake.

But unfortunately for Boston, Braden Holtby happened. The 22-year-old netminder with 18 NHL starts to his name came out of nowhere to shut down the Bruins in this series, posting a .940 save percentage and a 2.00 GAA. That was capped off with a 31-save effort in Game 7.

It was a tense one, too. Tyler Seguin scored to tie the game at 1-1 with 5:33 left to play in the second period, the score stayed that way into overtime. That OT was short, though, as Mike Knuble carried the puck into the Boston zone on a 2-on-1 with Joel Ward. Knuble’s backhand attempt was turned away by Thomas, but Knuble then planted his buttocks right in Thomas’ face as Ward jumped on the rebound to bury it for the series-winning goal.

Tim Thomas never played another game for Boston, and hopes of back-to-back Cups were dashed in Boston.

2013: Maple Leafs at Bruins
Result: Boston 5, Toronto 4 (OT)

brad marchand patrice bergeron and tyler seguin3 Bruins Recent History In Game 7 Has Provided Ecstatic Bliss, Agonizing Heartache For Boston

Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Current Bruins Active In This Game:
Patrice Bergeron
Zdeno Chara
David Krejci
Brad Marchand
Adam McQuaid
Tuukka Rask
Anton Khudobin (backup)

Current Maple Leafs Active In This Game:
Jake Gardiner
Nazem Kadri
Leo Komarov
James van Riemsdyk

If the people who say the 2011 Tampa game was the best hockey game of all time are wrong, it might be because this one was truly the greatest. In a span of about 35 minutes, the Leafs scored four straight goals to take a 4-1 lead and absolutely stun the Bruins and the home crowd. In this lockout-shortened season, the Bruins were good. And they were definitely going far in the playoffs. Yet here they were, losers of two straight 2-1 decisions, staring elimination in the face on their home ice. It was real bad.

Nathan Horton scored with 9:18 left in the game, which felt at the time sort of like a “big whoop” type of moment. But then Milan Lucic scored with less than 90 seconds to play … and people started to believe. If the Bruins could pull the goalie, maybe they’d get a miracle.

They got it, and it didn’t even take long. Patrice Bergeron sent a shot from the middle of the blue line through a sea of bodies. It managed to weave its way through the mass of humans and to the back of the net — and with 50 seconds to spare. The announcement for Lucic’s goal hadn’t even concluded.

The place, as you might imagine, went bananas. But don’t take my word for it:

Rich Peverley actually ended up getting a chance to win the game in regulation but whiffed on an attempt to put in a rebound, so the game went to OT. At that point, there was simply no way the Bruins were going to lose. Tuukka Rask stopped the two shots he saw in overtime, before this happened:

What a moment. What a game.

2014: Canadiens at Bruins
Result: Montreal 3, Boston 1

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The Montreal Canadiens celebrate after beating the Bruins in Game 7 of the 2014 Eastern Conference semifinals. (Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)

Current Bruins Active In This Game:
Patrice Bergeron
Zdeno Chara
David Krejci
Torey Krug
Brad Marchand
Kevan Miller
Tuukka Rask

*Current Maple Leafs Active In This Game For The Canadiens:
Tomas Plekanec

**Current Bruins Healthy Scratches Active In This Game For The Canadiens:
Brian Gionta

The most recent Game 7 in Bruins history is coincidentally the least memorable. It was a heated series, one that came after a first-round five-game win over the Red Wings and one that came after the Bruins won the Presidents’ Trophy. They probably should have been able to win this series, but a 4-3 win by Montreal in double overtime of Game 1 set a tone that the Canadiens were not about to get run over by their rival. (The Bruins had gone 1-2-1 against Montreal during the regular season, too.) The Bruins took a 3-2 series lead but lost 4-0 in Game 6 in Montreal, setting the stage for Game 7 in Boston.

Just two minutes into the game, Matt Bartkowksi left Dale Weiss completely unaccounted for in the crease, and Montreal took a 1-0 lead. The Bruins turned the puck over multiple times in failing to clear the zone in the second, leaving David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty set up for a quick 2-on-1 to double the lead.

Jarome Iginla did tip a Torey Krug shot past Carey Price late in the second, but Johnny Boychuk took a penalty late in the third, when the Bruins would have preferred to be fighting for the tying goal instead of killing a penalty. On the ensuing power play, a Danny Briere pass redirected off Zdeno Chara’s skate and past Rask, effectively ending the series and the Bruins’ season.

And that is that. Really, the 2011 season provided almost all of the fun in these Game 7 showdowns, while the Bruins have managed to go just 1-5 in Game 7’s outside of that fateful year.

The Bruins will now add one more Game 7 to the history books, and it will be the 26th Game 7 in Bruins history. That’s the most of all time for any franchise, one more than the Red Wings. None of the 25 previous Game 7’s will matter on Wednesday, but clearly, plenty of current Bruins players have quite a bit of experience playing in such circumstances — though not all of that has been great experience.

Whatever might happen, it’s wise to be prepared for anything. Whether it’s a 1-0 defensive struggle or a wide-open 5-4 overtime game, there’s just no easy way for a hockey fan to get through a Game 7.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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