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Bruins see opportunity in Game 7

By Shawn P. Roarke - NHL.com Senior Managing Editor

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Bruins see opportunity in Game 7
They'd have preferred not to have to play Game 7, but the Boston Bruins are stressing the opportunity it presents as they head into the deciding game of the Eastern Conference Finals.
BOSTON -- There really is no way to sugarcoat it, so the Bruins aren't even really trying.

They understand that a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is often nothing more than a 50-50 proposition – a coin flip, if you will. They also know that, at least recently, those coin flips have not been kinds to them.

Before beating Montreal in overtime of a win-or-go-home Game 7 in the first round (at TD Garden, no less), Boston had lost four-straight Game 7s -- most in utterly spectacular fashion.

Yet, they have played themselves into another Game 7, this one at TD Garden against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night (8 p.m. ET; Versus, CBC, RDS) to close out an enthralling Eastern Conference Finals series. Boston finds itself here because it could not hold a 2-1 lead in the second period of Game 6, eventually losing 5-4 and allowing the Lightning a chance to be another team to hand the organization  some hockey heartbreak.

But the Bruins have spent the past 24 hours insisting that they are ready to embrace the challenge of a Game 7 that will determine who advances to play Vancouver in the Stanley Cup Final. Before Wednesday's game, the Bruins admitted they wanted no part of a Game 7. After the loss, the tune changed to one that stressed the opportunity that lay before them. After arriving back in Boston on Thursday, the Bruins reinforced Wednesday night's message.

"I don't think we're deterred," coach Claude Julien said moments after his team landed at Hanscom Air Force Base just outside Boston. "We've got a Game 7, it's at home, we're one game away from going to the Stanley Cup Final and the opportunity's in front of us. So, why shouldn't we be excited?

"This is what playoffs is all about. I guess if you had told us at the beginning of the year that we had to win one game to go to the Stanley Cup Finals, we would be excited about it, and that's where we're at right now."

The past, they insist, is just that.

Yes, they remember last season's epic collapse to Philadelphia in the second round. They remember not being able to hold a 3-0 series lead against the Flyers and they remember the searing pain of being unable to hold a 3-0 lead in Game 7, losing 4-3 to become just the third team in Stanley Cup history not to win a series in which it led 3-0.

Some of them even remember the 2009 Game 7 loss to Carolina on an overtime goal by Hurricane villain Scott Walker. Boston led that series 3-2. A few even remember the first-round loss to hated Montreal in a Game 7 in 2008. Everyone has heard the stories of the seven-game loss to Montreal in 2004.

They insist those disappointments are relics of a distant past. But, that is the thing here. Often those defeats live on in the collective memory of an organization -- even after the majority of the players have changed. The only thing that can erase those scars is Game 7 wins.

Boston gets a chance to further the healing process – and advance to the franchise's first Cup Final in 21 years – with a Game 7 victory Friday night.

Earlier this week, defenseman Andrew Ference told NHL.com that his team had learned the lessons of the past well and was ready for whatever challenges the rest of the series threw their way.

" It's a focused group; I don't know how to describe it other than that," Ference told NHL.com. "It's focused on the task at hand and the day at hand. We've never really been up and down, up and down, it's really been constant the whole year. There haven't been emotional swings. It's more constant and more calm this year whether you are winning games or going through a rough patch. We've improved on that this year."

The Bruins will get to prove that Friday night with a winning performance. For now, they can just talk about it – and they have done a good job with that.

"If somebody was going to tell us that we were going to be, before the playoffs or before the season, somebody would tell us we would be one win away from the Finals, for sure we would be all excited," captain Zdeno Chara said Thursday. "So we have to take it that way. We have to embrace it, be excited, and have fun at the same time."

Wednesday night's loss seemed to unnerve David Krejci more than anybody in the Boston room. After his three-goal performance, the No. 1 center talked about how frustrated and angry he was to lose that game. He was clearly still battling his emotions Thursday, although he tried to mask it with a brave face.

"It's not easy, but we woke up today we had a good time on the plane and we are ready to go tomorrow," Krejci said.

For now, all Boston can do is talk the talk about Game 7 lessons learned. On Friday night, the Bruins finally get the chance to try to walk the walk.

Quote of the Day

It's a little different but it feels amazing. A new chapter in my life and I'm excited. It's been amazing. Better than I expected. The weather is great, the place is just amazing. I can't say enough good things about it. I'm glad to get the season going.

— Ryan Kesler on his transition to the Anaheim Ducks