BOSTON -- The Bruins and Washington Capitals have played what amounts to the closest, tightest series in NHL Stanley Cup history.
No two teams had ever started a series off with six straight games decided by one goal as the margin of difference in each contest, and its been dead-even with things tied at 3-3 headed into Wednesday nights Game 7 winner-take-all at TD Garden.
So what will the difference come to in the end?
One overriding factor in the Bruins favor: they havent played close to a perfect game in their series against the Washington Capitals while the No. 7 seed team has blocked shots with agonizing desire and played Dale Hunters defensive system to frustrating perfection.But the Bruins have suffered the odd defensive breakdown, they watched Tim Thomas sag during the third period of Game 5 in front of the TD Garden crowd and they received next-to-nothing offensively from their top forward line (Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Tyler Seguin) until midway through Game 6 in Washington DC.
I think weve seen spurts, but I dont know that weve put an entire 60-minute game together that wed like to see. The last game we had that four-minute power play. We didnt capitalize, and that really swung things in the direction of the Caps. Thats what we dont like to so were obviously looking to put together full 60. Were looking to lay it all on the line.
That means the Black and Gold, who became the first team in Stanley Cup playoff history to win three Game 7s en route to a Cup last season, still have another gear they can shift up to against an upstart bunch from Washington. Its the kind of effort that Boston put forward in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 1-0 victory where neither team blinked until the Bolts made one critical defensive error late in the third period.
Were obviously always chasing after perfection or for as close to perfection as we can. Youre foolish to think youre ever going to get perfection. Even if you think to past years that might have only been mentioned in one gamemaybe in that Game 7 against Tampa, said Andrew Ference. I dont think that was even mentioned during any of the Vancouver games. Its a pretty high standard to say we need to play our best hockey when its happened only once in five years.
The one thing thats fair to ask is for every player in this room to play at or close to the level that theyve played at all season long. It would be great if everybody could play beyond that, but its not realistic and thats inviting trouble if guys start to try doing too much. We havent a game in this series where weve had all 20 guys playing at or close to the level that theyre normally capable of getting to, and if we can do that then well get a pretty good result.
Thats the same style two careful hockey coaches could adopt for Wednesday nights tilt with hockey lives on the line: the club that doesnt allow their opponent to capitalize on their mistakes, or doesnt make any mistakes, will be the one advancing toward the next round.
Its tough. Every game is kinda funny. There are games were bounces went it, there are games were teams made big defensive mistakes and there were ones where one guy had a monster game. They all take on their own personality, said Ference, who will be playing in his team-high 10thGame 7 of his career on Wednesday. But generally speaking its the team that can recover the fastest between shifts, keep their heart rates down and not overreact to situations be they positive or negative. Its like everything we talk about in the playoffs except its amplified higher for one game.
The Bruins have been battling through frustration and a surprising Washington Capitals while fighting to find the full scope of their game. They grasped it in the final few periods of Game 6 in Washington, and now its time to finally tap into their considerable Game 7 potential with everything waiting for them.