BOSTON – So far in this first-round series between the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes, the home team has held serve. But on Saturday afternoon, the Black & Gold would love nothing more than to flip that script when it matters most.
As they aim to advance to Round 2 for the fifth straight season, the Bruins need to break the trend with a Game 7 victory at the PNC Arena, hostile territory that has been anything but kind to Boston so far this series.
“We expected it. They’re two good teams getting into it,” said the Bruins captain. Patrice Bergeronwho will be suitable for his 13and Career game 7. “Obviously Carolina is a really good team that has a lot of depth and so are we. I think we did a good job of focusing on the next game from game to game. and even being down 2-0, we worried about Game 3 and then Game 4.
“Now we are there. Everything is in the past and we have to focus on tomorrow’s game.”
Given his vast experience in the deciding seventh games, Bergeron has a lot of knowledge to impart to his teammates. The 36-year-old played his first Game 7 as a rookie in 2004 when the Bruins faced rival Montreal Canadiens in the first round and has since played in 11 other win-win games, most recently at Stanley 2019. Cup final against Saint-Louis.
“It also sends reminders to the guys throughout the game or today – take advantage of that today as well,” Bergeron said. “Enjoy the training, enjoy everything that’s going to happen throughout all of this. It’s also good memories. That’s what I think we’re trying to do – not just me, but the group of leadership. When you get on the ice, it’s all about that moment and it doesn’t matter what happened in the first six games.
“It’s a thumbs up game and a rebound here or there could make the difference, but I think what I learned the most was to stick with it and stay the course from the first minute until the end. It’s not always easy to do but I think it’s the most important thing to focus on.”
Bergeron also knows that every series is different and although comparisons can be made – especially with the 2011 Stanley Cup Final against the Canucks when home teams won the first six games before Boston won Game 7 in Vancouver. – the Bruins must approach Game 7 on Saturday as its own challenge.
“I don’t want to compare one series to another – each one is unique,” Bergeron said. “We’re in a battle right now, it’s a battle of the trenches. But you want to use past experiences to guide you. That being said, we worry about the present. Something we’ve been saying all year is stay in the moment and be in the moment, this is where you are at your best. [Saturday].”
Video: Bergeron speaks to the media Friday at WIA
Players won’t be the only ones to rely on Bergeron’s experience. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, despite having been behind the bench for three Game 7s with the Black & Gold, will be in constant conversation with his captain over the next 24 hours.
“A lot,” Cassidy said when asked how long he would speak with Bergeron. “We talked today about practice, meetings [on Saturday]. Just how we plan our next two days because players are creatures of habit. The 4:30 game is a bit different for us. We talked about it. As coaches you want to go through what we go through in terms of preparation and they would like to have their routine.
“Then once the puck drops, you rely on him on the bench to say the right things between periods. Again, the motivational part is pretty much gone now. Guys know what’s at stake. it’s about keeping guys in a good place, keep calm, there’s gonna be ups and downs [Saturday]there are going to be bad shifts and good shifts.
“I think last night was a great example. When they scored and made it 2-1 I thought we got back on the horse and left and that was a good sign for me that those guys are fine, things are happening, put it behind you, and let’s go.”
Cassidy, who added that he was “lucky to have Bergy and [Brad Marchand] who walked through it on the grandest of stages,” said the Bruins will do their best to approach Saturday’s game-winning or home game like they would any other game this season.
“We have to win a game on the road,” Cassidy said. “We need to have the level of urgency but you try not to talk about the do or die mentality. What do we need to do to win the game, what did we do well [Thursday night] to help us win the game, and that’s how we’re going to approach it [Saturday]. A lot of guys have gone through different levels of hockey. I don’t need to bring it to their attention.”
One thing, however, that Cassidy will most definitely bring to his team’s attention is avoiding the penalty box. In the three games at the PNC Arena this series, the Hurricanes had 17 power plays and converted on four of them.
“Well, we can’t afford it,” Cassidy said. “We just have to make sure we get the eliminations… we have to stay away from stick fouls, whatever after the whistle – that kind of stuff didn’t work our way. We have to get out from there after the whistles, that I thought we needed a better job there last time… that’s where we have to keep our composure.
“We can’t control what’s called for or against us, but if we’re called we have to make sure, again, that our offense is solid and that we’re structured. They’re trying to get the pucks to the net a little faster than they were at the start and we have to make sure we’re ready for that. That’s the challenge for you.
The other goal for the Bruins will be, once again, to get off to a good start. Despite coming off the jump strong in each of the series’ three away games, Boston has yet to score for the first base. The Black & Gold have finally – for the first time in nine total meetings, regular season and playoffs – in 2021-22 clinched the first count of Game 6.
“Scoring first would help – in fact, there were better starts there than at home,” Cassidy said. “It’s a bit of luck and determination. So don’t be shaken no matter what. If they score first, we can’t be bothered; the game isn’t over. I don’t ‘m not trying to be negative, but if certain things happen, it shouldn’t matter.
“We can’t change the way we play. At the end of the day, everyone pulled the rope…[in Game 6], everyone is doing their part – and that’s usually what it takes. The players who play better will determine the outcome and we are preparing for it to be our guys.”
Video: Cassidy speaks to the media Friday at WIA