By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Experience matters. How significantly it matters is up for debate, but there’s no doubt that when the hockey season stretches into June, you’d prefer to be a part of the team that’s been tested many times over the years.
And, as it relates to Wednesday night’s Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, it will the Boston Bruins who will carry a significant amount of experience when playing in such winner-take-all games.
Shortly after the conclusion of Game 6 on Sunday, the NHL shared Game 7 stats for players on both the Bruins and the Blues. Here’s the raw look:
Looking just at games played, the disparity is clear.
NUMBER OF GAME 7’S PLAYED (TEAM LEADERS)
Zdeno Chara, 13
Patrice Bergeron, 11
David Krejci, 10
Brad Marchand, 8
Marcus Johansson, 7
John Moore, 4
Carl Gunarsson, 4
Pat Maroon, 4
Colton Parayko, 3
Jay Bouwmeester, 3
Alex Pietrangelo, 3
Jaden Schwartz, 3
Alexander Steen, 3
Vladimir Tarasenko, 3
Joel Edmundson: 3
Combined, the 18 Blues skaters who played in Game 6 have played 39 Game 7’s. The quartet of Chara, Bergeron, Krejci and Marchand has combined to play 42 Game 7’s.
Simply playing in a Game 7 is one thing; actually performing in a Game 7 is another. Here’s a look at how each team’s most-experienced players have fared in such games.
Game 7 Stats, Career
Zdeno Chara: 6-7 record, 0-4-4
Patrice Bergeron: 6-5 record, 6-4-10
David Krejci: 6-4 record, 0-9-9
Brad Marchand: 6-2 record, 3-4-7
Marcus Johansson: 3-4 record, 1-1-2
John Moore: 4-0 record, 0-0-0
Carl Gunnarsson: 3-1 record, 0-0-0
Pat Maroon: 1-3 record, 1-1-2
Colton Parayko: 3-0 record, 1-1-2
Alex Pietrangelo: 3-0 record, 0-1-1
Jaden Schwartz: 3-0 record, 0-2-2
Alexander Steen: 3-0 record, 0-1-1
Vladimir Tarasenko: 3-0 record, 1-0-1
Jay Bouwmeester: 3-0 record, 0-1-1
Joel Edmundson: 3-0 record, 0-0-0
Obviously, the Bruins have some big-time performers in big games. But what stands out on the Blues’ side is that perfect 3-0 record up and down the roster. That includes basically everyone who’s been on the Blues for several years, as they won a pair of Game 7’s in the 2016 playoffs before winning a Game 7 over Dallas this year.
But in terms of showing up, you’d be hard-pressed to find big-game players with better resumes than those of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Krejci, a trio with a combined 26 points in 29 games (9-17-26). That’s included, of course, a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final, back in 2011. In that game, on the road, Bergeron had a pair of goals — including a short-handed goal to really put the game out of reach — while Marchand scored Boston’s second goal of the night before burying the empty-netter to seal the Cup victory.
In another famous Game 7, Bergeron scored the game-tying and game-winning goal to complete a comeback from a 4-1 deficit against Toronto in 2013.
In terms of Game 7 performances thus far in this postseason …
2019 Game 7 Stats
Sean Kuraly: 1-1-2
Joakim Nordstrom: 1-1-2
Noel Acciari: 0-1-1
Patrice Bergeron: 1-0-1 (empty net)
Charlie COyle: 1-0-1 (empty net)
Matt Grzelcyk (injured): 0-1-1
Marcus Johansson: 1-0-1
David Krejci: 0-1-1
Robert Thomas: 0-2-2
Tyler Bozak: 0-1-1
Vince Dunn: 1-0-1
Pat Maroon: 1-0-1
Alex Pietrangelo: 0-1-1
Clearly, the fourth line of Boston should not be ignored heading into Wednesday night, given the way it stepped up to seal that first-round victory over the Maple Leafs.
And of course, there is goaltending. Tuukka Rask has played in five Game 7’s, and the stats … are not sparkling
GAME 7 EXPERIENCE, GOALTENDERS
Tuukka Rask: 3-2 record, .877 save percentage, 3.18 GAA
Jordan Binnington: 1-0 record, .967 save percentage, 0.70 GAA
Looking strictly at the numbers — albeit in a very small sample size — Binnington would look like the much better option for this Game 7. The rookie stopped 29 of 30 Dallas shots in St. Louis’ double-overtime win in Game 7 in the second round, on a night when his own team generated 54 shots on net en route to the 2-1 win.
Rask, though, had himself an outstanding Game 7 in this postseason as well, as he turned aside 32 of 33 shots in that first-round victory over Toronto. A year earlier, Rask struggled in Game 7 against Toronto, allowing four goals on 24 shots in a 7-4 win. Rask’s previous Game 7 start came four years prior to that, a loss at home against Montreal. He also backstopped the Bruins in their wild comeback victory over the Leafs in 2013, and lost that infamous Game 7 to Philadelphia way back in 2010.
Rask, though, is on a Conn Smythe-type of run, which might help negate some of that bad history in Game 7’s.
And in terms of the men behind the bench, both head coaches have led the charge to a pair of Game 7’s. Bruce Cassidy is 2-0, with both wins coming against Toronto over the last two years. Craig Berube is 1-1, with the win coming this year against the Stars and the loss coming back in 2014 when he was Philadelphia’s head coach, in a loss to the Rangers.
Of course, all of this history and information matters … until it doesn’t. Having experience won’t help anyone once the puck drops. Still, there’s no doubt that the Bruins at the very least have the experience to be ready for the moment when it arrives.