The Montreal Canadiens will face off against the Boston Bruins tonight in a winner take all Game 7 at the TD Garden in Boston.
The Bruins have a well earned reputation for winning big games, and coming through in Game 7 situations, as they did three times on their way to a Stanley Cup just three years ago. The Bruins also mounted an historic comeback in the first round last season against the Toronto Maple Leafs in a storied seventh game.
This will be Boston’s 9th Game 7 since the 2008 postseason when the Canadiens beat them 5-0 at the Bell Centre in the deciding game of the opening round. In fact, the last time the Bruins made the playoffs and did not play in a 7th game, was way back in 2003. Clearly they have lots of experience in must win situations.
After being defeated by the Habs in 2008, the Bruins were similarly knocked out in 2009 and 2010 in Game 7 losses to the Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers. The latter, a game in which they blew a 3-0 lead, after blowing a 3-0 series lead as well.
Since then, Boston has won four of their last 5 seventh games, and bring back nine skaters from the team that defeated the Canucks in Vancouver to win the Stanley Cup in Game 7 of the Finals in 2011.
The Canadiens will have eight players making the Game 7 debut tonight, as Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais, Brendan Gallagher, Michael Bournival, Rene Bourque, Dale Weise, Alexei Emelin and Nathan Beaulieu have never been exposed to this type of atmosphere in the past.
However, many of the Canadiens players have plenty of Game 7 experience, and aside from a loss in overtime to the Bruins in 2011, their experience has been successful. That Nathan Horton goal in 2011 that broke the backs of the Habs snapped a four game, Game 7 winning streak by Montreal, dating back to 1994.
Longtime Canadiens defensemen Josh Gorges and Andrei Markov were both injured in that loss in 2011, and have unblemished records in deciding games. Both veterans came out victorious in 2008 against the Bruins and in 2010 over the Washington Capitals. Markov was injured for the 2010 Game 7 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins, but Gorges was in the lineup, along with P.K. Subban, Tomas Plekanec, Brian Gionta, and Travis Moen.
Only three Canadiens have losing records in their Game 7 history, as Lars Eller, Thomas Vanek and Mike Weaver are all 0-1. Eller was the seldom used fourth line center of the Habs in 2011, while Vanek’s Buffalo Sabres lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in 2011, and Weaver’s Panthers fell in double overtime to the New Jersey Devils in 2012.
Captian Brian Gionta has the most victories of all Habs with four, with two coming in 2010 with the Canadiens, an a pair of victories when he was a member of the New Jersey Devils en route to a Stanley Cup in 2003.
Daniel Briere has been the most productive Habs in past seventh games, scoring two goals and five points in four games. He has won three of those four contests, all while a member of the Flyers, his only loss coming in 2006 with the Buffalo Sabres.
Combined, the Habs entire roster is a very impressive 26-10 in their Game 7’s of past, while the expected lineup for tonight is 20-7.
Both teams have a history of winning these elimination games in their recent past, and it promises to be a very close game tonight. The Bruins home ice advantage may come in to play, as Carey Price has won one Game 7 in his NHL career, coming at the Bell Centre against the Bruins, and he has lost one Game 7, against the Bruins as well, but in Boston in 2011.
Price will have to reverse that trend if the Canadiens are going to move on to the Eastern Conference Finals to take on the New York Rangers.