By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The veteran core of the Boston Bruins has played in some magnificently memorable and important games over the better part of the past decade. With two runs to the Stanley Cup Final under their belt, as well as several more playoff appearances, the longest-tenured Bruins have as much postseason experience as any players in the entire NHL.
Even still, rallying to win an emotional Game 7 on home ice never gets old.
“That was one of the most incredible games I’ve ever been a part of,” Brad Marchand said after his Bruins beat the Maple Leafs 7-4 in Wednesday night’s Game 7 win at the TD Garden. “It was so back and forth. The intensity from the crowd and the emotion was a lot of fun to be part of.”
Of course, the experience is remembered more favorably after a win, and it was only after a dominant third period which erased a 4-3 deficit that the Bruins were able to earn that victory. That 4-3 deficit, though, was a mere blip on what was otherwise a historic night in Boston.
“It was insane. You could barely hear yourself think out there the whole game,” Marchand said. “I mean, there might have been a little bit of a lull there when they got their fourth goal, but it was an incredible atmosphere to be part of and, again, you could barely hear yourself think out there, you could barely hear the coaches and the guys on the bench talk, but we really fed off that energy and it really pushed us to be a little bit better than we needed to be.”
Not everyone on the Bruins enjoyed the game thoroughly. Goaltender Tuukka Rask allowed four goals on just 16 shots through two periods. Though two of those goals came off deflections and one came on a shorthanded breakaway, the goals certainly put the Bruins in a tough spot.
Despite the circumstances, Rask said he understood the type of game he was in while it was happening.
“For entertainment value that was probably one of the better Game 7’s you’ll see,” Rask said. “It was
offense going both ways, goalie’s kind of nightmare there – only scoring chances coming at you. … The building was crazy, it was very loud. As I said, the entertainment value was probably through the roof, but from a goalie standpoint not the best scenario.”
As one might imagine, the younger players on the Bruins roster who are getting their first taste of moments like this one were left almost speechless.
“It was unbelievable,” said Danton Heinen, who scored a first-period goal. “It was the best atmosphere I’ve ever played in. The place was buzzing.”
“It was special,” said Jake DeBrusk, who scored twice, including the game-winner. “Something I’ll never forget.”
But even the players who have been in this moment time and time again in their careers were beaming after the win.
“There’s nothing like Game 7,” said David Krejci, who was playing in his 103rd career postseason game. “You could just feel that energy. It was just so much fun playing for all these fans tonight.”
“It was electric in the building tonight,” said Patrice Bergeron, who was in his 107th career playoff game on Wednesday. “We fed off of that all along. … I’ve been here for a while now and it’s … it’s up there in the loudest it’s been for a game. It was great.”
And even the captain, Zdeno Chara, who was playing in his 154th postseason game and his 12th career Game 7, couldn’t hide his smile when talking after the game. And he explained that gaining that type of experience — even for a player who’s been in the NHL since the 1997-98 season, ranks eighth among active players in postseason games played and fifth among active players in regular-season games played — is always beneficial.
“It’s great for everybody. I can’t really say it’s only good for young players to experience this kind of atmosphere, this kind of game situation, Game 7,” Chara said. “They are all different, they are all special, they are all battles. A lot of emotion, a lot of physical demand. You have to go through different challenges throughout the whole game. Sometimes it takes 60-plus. It’s great to experience that kind of atmosphere, those kind of situations for everybody. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing your first Game 7 or your 15th.”
Of course, it would have also been beneficial for the Bruins if they had been able to close out the series in five games. Rest at this time of year is invaluable. But the Maple Leafs played hard and pushed the Bruins to the brink. It may not have been an ideal situation, but coming away with a victory sends the Bruins into the next round of the postseason with a level of confidence that can only be gained from situations like the one they played in on Wednesday night.