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Coaches Room

Bruins have important edge in experience heading into Game 7 of Cup Final

MacLean believes key advantage could be difference in series against Blues

by Paul MacLean / Special to NHL.com

The Coaches Room is a regular feature throughout the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs by one of four former NHL coaches and assistants who will turn their critical gaze to the game and explain it through the lens of a teacher. Gord Murphy, David Marcoux, Paul MacLean and Don Nachbaur will take turns providing insight.

In this edition, Paul MacLean, former coach of the Ottawa Senators, breaks down why experience played a big factor in the Boston Bruins' 5-1 win in Game 6 against the St. Louis Blues and how it could be the decisive factor in Game 7.

Experience.

When I did my breakdown of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final for NHL.com several weeks ago, I concluded that might be the decisive factor between two teams that are almost mirror images of each other.

 

[RELATED: Complete Stanley Cup Final coverage]

 

Experience certainly proved to be the difference in Game 6, a 5-1 victory by the Boston Bruins over the St. Louis Blues on Sunday. And it might prove to be that again in Game 7 at TD Garden on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).

Only one thing is for sure, however: one of these teams will be hoisting the Cup after that game.

If the Blues want to be successful, their power play must be much better. We've been saying that for much of the postseason, but it is now truer than ever. 

For that to happen, their puck movement must be much quicker and more accurate. They play far too deliberate and without flow. It's too static, too predictable. There is never that type of tic-tac-toe passing that keeps defenders on their respective toes. A player receives a pass and stops it rather than redirecting it. Defenders have time to clog the passing lanes and force shooters to become indecisive. 

I think that's the best word to describe the Blues power play: Indecisive. And the Bruins know it. 

Boston did such a great job of taking care of business in Game 6. The Blues had an early power play and were plagued by the same malaise we just discussed. Minutes later the Bruins were on a 5-on-3 and took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Brad Marchand.

Video: BOS@STL, Gm6: Marchand goes top shelf for PPG

From there on, Boston methodically kept the Blues to the outside and took the crowd out of the game. That's what you get when you have veteran players who understand how to silence both home teams and their fans. From goalie Tuukka Rask making big saves early, to Zdeno Chara diligently cleaning out the area in front of the net, to Marchand scoring, Patrice Bergeron being, well, Patrice Bergeron, the Bruins - led by their veterans -- never wavered, never wobbled, always kept their collective eyes on the prize.

Eventually it resulted in a win, forcing a Game 7.

The overwhelming school of thought is that Boston has the momentum because they won the last game. That's a double-edged sword. Sometimes at home you must deal with the intangible is that there is an expectation that you'll win.

That expectation can weigh heavily. It certainly did for St. Louis in Game 6, with a full arena and another 40,000 plus in a viewing party outside ready to see the Blues win their first Stanley Cup. It becomes a big burden for the home team. 

Experience allows you to put those intangibles aside and go out and win the game. In Bergeron, Chara, Rask, Marchand and David Krejci, the Bruins have that. All five of those players were on the Bruins team that won the 2011 Stanley Cup. Don't think that doesn't matter. It does.

Video: How Game 7 affects players, coaches of Bruins, Blues

I played in St. Louis and have a soft place in my heart for the Blues. I think the first goal in Game 7 is going to be huge because it means you're not chasing the game. But I think that, again, experience trumps everything.

One interesting offshoot of what happens Wednesday: If the Blues win the Cup, I think they'll establish a trend of hard-playing grinding physical play that other teams will try to adapt. It is, after all, a copycat league. To use a term that's become popular in the modern-day NHL, they play "heavy." We saw that a little bit last year in the way the Washington Capitals used wing Tom Wilson en route to winning the Stanley Cup. 

In the end, however, when all factors are compared, I keep coming back to the same point. The Bruins have been here before. They won't let the moment get too big for them. 

It doesn't guarantee them winning the Cup. St. Louis is too good a team for that.

But it does give the Bruins an edge,

Enjoy the game. This will be fun.

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Listen: Game 7 preview from NHL Fantasy on Ice podcast

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