BOSTON – The Bruins have left the din of Montreal and the Bell Centre behind them but they have not been able to escape the noise surrounding Game 7 of their roller-coaster series with the Canadiens.
Ongoing renovations elsewhere at TD Garden made the Boston locker-room sound like a construction site Tuesday. Perhaps more annoying to the Bruins were the sounds of a cocky P.K. Subban drifting south of the border.
Boston coach Claude Julien and those players available after an optional skate refused to bite on Subban’s post-game comments Monday detailing his eagerness to play—and win—Game 7 on hostile ground.
“It’s going to be great. I can’t wait for the crowd, the noise, the energy in the building. I can’t wait to take that all away from them,” Subban said after Montreal’s dominating 4-0 win.
A Boston reporter read the quote to Julien on Tuesday to get his reaction.
“No reaction,” said Julien during a somewhat curt six-minute meeting with the media. “The game’s going to be played (Wednesday). What’s being said right now doesn’t matter.
“I think it’s all about going out there (Wednesday), playing the game. We’re not going to start the ‘he said, she said’ kind of thing at this point. It’s the winner (Wednesday) who goes on to the next series.”
Bruins forward Shawn Thornton, fined $2,820.52 by the league for squirting water off the bench at Subban in Game 5, also declined to dignify Subban’s boast with a response.
“I’m not too worried about what’s going on in that locker-room, to be completely honest,” said Thornton, no stranger to gamesmanship himself. “I’m more focused on what’s going on in here, what we have to do.”
“I’m not going to comment on that,” added defenceman Matt Bartkowski.
The ignore Subban strategy was clearly in place.
Despite that stick-and-stones approach, not to mention all of the Bruins’ experience and bluster, it’s hard not to feel that Subban and the Canadiens have got under Boston’s skin.
As Montreal’s flamboyant ringmaster, Subban has managed to orchestrate a ‘Bother the Bruins’ campaign with his play and talk. The brash defenceman, who turned 25 on Tuesday, is electric on the ice and fascinating off it.
Subban exudes star quality in a body dwarfed by many of the behemoths trying to catch him on the ice.
Subban’s joy for the game and acceptance of the media spotlight that comes with it is a far cry from dour Boston captain Zdeno Chara, who stomps across the Bruins dressing room like Godzilla before sitting at his corner stall and answering questions as if they were teeth being removed.
In Game 5, the big, bad Bruins finally showed up to boss the Habs and leave them on the brink of playoff extinction. The Canadiens responded with what Max Pacioretty called perhaps the best game he had ever seen his team play.
“We saw how they played when they were desperate,” said Boston defenceman Dougie Hamilton. “And I think in Game 5, we were playing pretty desperate as well. So we have to play that same way.”
Hamilton was asked whether we have seen the best of the Bruins.
“I don’t think so,” he replied.
At times during the season, all four Bruins lines were rolling. During this series, there has been an ebb and flow along the lines in performance. It’s like an engine with an annoying sputter. Something is wrong, but you’re not sure what.
It’s been a series where Bruins players would be well advised not to spend money on a lottery ticket. They have missed open goals, hit posts and seen pucks roll and bounce the wrong way.
Or maybe speedy Montreal is taking them out of their game.
“They’re a good team over there,” Thornton said when asked about Boston’s lack of consistency during the series. “Let’s not take anything away from them. They’re a really good team.
“It’s been a hard-fought series. We said it from the start, it was going to be a good one and a long one. So it hasn’t disappointed.”
The Bruins talked of the need to come out firing Wednesday, while still managing to control their emotions so as not to give Montreal an opening be it via penalty or mistake.
“It’s a group in here that responds well after losses,” said defenceman Torey Krug.
And to a man, the Bruins talked about embracing the challenge of Game 7.
“You can let it tighten you up or you can really feed off the fact that this is what you trained your whole life for, is these situations,” said Thornton.
“You want to be a difference-maker for your team,” said Krug. “The best players rise up for their teams on this occasion. We’ll see what happens, see who steps up for the teams (Wednesday). I know everyone in here would like to be that guy.”
Asked about playing with desperation, Julien said it means leaving the rink with no regrets.
“And if you hold back, and you don’t do the things you know you can do, and you don’t leave it all out on the ice, then you have regrets,” he said. “That’s what desperation’s all about, is leaving it all out on the ice and you can walk away knowing that you gave it your best shot.”
Added Thornton: “You’ve got to be able to look yourself in the mirror at the end of the day.”
The two teams have played each other 10 times in the regular season and playoffs in 2013-14, with five wins apiece. Montreal, which finished 17 points and eight places back of Presidents’ Trophy-winning Boston in the regular season league standings, has outscored Boston 26-24 in those 10 games.
Wednesday’s Game 7 is the 25th for the Bruins and 23rd for the Canadiens.
Boston’s record in seventh-game deciders is 13-11, including 12-7 at home. Montreal is 13-9 overall and 5-6 away from home.
The Bruins have more recent Game 7 experience. This is the seventh straight season they have played in a Game 7, a league record.
Chara is making his 11th career Game 7 appearance, passing Martin Brodeur, Andrew Ference and Scott Gomez (10) for the most among active players. Julien will be behind the bench for his 10th Game 7, tying Mike Keenan for the most in NHL history among head coaches.
Overall, home teams are 91-61 (.599) in the 152 previous Game 7s.
Maybe the most important numbers are 112-40 (.737). That’s the record for teams that score first in a Game 7.
And it’s 6-0 in this series.
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